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Swords, Cutting and Military History

Smithsonian’s short video on the Samurai culture of taking of heads

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Defeated samuraiThe Smithsonian has released a short video on the samurai tradition of collecting the heads of defeated enemies.  In the main, historians agree that this practice acted as a drastic form of proof they had defeated a skilled warrior or killed an important person in battle;  once returned to their lord, the head would be washed, perfumed, and presented to high officials for inspection.  Once it was agreed the head was who it was claimed to be, it would be boxed and, in most cases, returned to the family for honourable burial.  The battle, date, name of the victorious samurai, the weapons used and details of the fight, and the name of the deceased, would be recorded and forwarded to the clan leaders for assignment of reward.

Some sociologists also argue it prevented samurai from easily switching allegiances, as the family of a slain warrior would likely declare vendetta against the slaying samurai.


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