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Around the eighth and ninth century in Japan, soldiers slowly became known as samurais. Contrary to popular belief, samurai was a class of highly-respected people, not just fighters. Thus, girls and women were also samurais and learned sword fighting and martial arts to defend their homes and their lord.

Japan isolated itself from foreigners until Commander Matthew Perry from the United States sailed to Japan on his mighty “black” steamship on July 8, 1853. By demonstrating his strength by destroying buildings with his great cannons and sailing without the help of wind, he forced Japan to open its doors to foreign trade.

Some samurais wanted to keep foreigners out. They clashed with those who supported the Emperor and the Shogun (the head of the military) in letting foreigners in, but they eventually lost. After seeing how modern other countries were, the Emperor equalized the classes, abolished the samurai class, and forced the painful process of samurai warriors cutting off their hair and giving up the right to bear swords.

In my book, Accidental Samurai Spy, Aritomo was caught in the time when traditionally-thinking samurais wanted to maintain the way things had been for hundreds of years. Living with his enemies introduced him to a new way of thinking.

Even though samurais no longer exist, they are still revered by the Japanese as powerful, brave, disciplined, and honest warriors.

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