In medieval Japan, life for ordinary citizens was precarious enough, with disease, hunger, flood and regular regional wars, but also there was an ever present danger from the local samurai warriors. What was this?

Answer: A samurai warrior could approach and with one warning whoop, lop off the head of a citizen with the sharpest of swords. This was done ‘for killing practice’. The samurai ran no risk of prosecution, and in the 16th century the samurai’s ‘licence to kill’ became enshrined in law. A samurai was supposed to hold death in contempt, and warriors killed themselves in battle to avoid the shame of surrender.

Source: Everyday Life Through the Ages published by Reader’s Digest

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