Star Wars and Samurai: A Galactic Blast from the Past

It’s Star Wars Day! Nothing beats watching a good lightsaber battle and unwinding with a big bowl of popcorn in your favorite recliner. Have you ever noticed that there’s something vaguely familiar about Star Wars? As most fans know, George Lucas drew inspiration from the samurai and embedded it into the beloved franchise. From Vader’s helmet to your classic kimono-style tops sported by your favorite Jedi, and even its famous storyline, the movies have the familiar air of Japanese culture and history.  Don’t believe me? See for yourself!

The initial storyline of Star Wars can also be loosely compared to the end of the Edo era in Japanese history. As Star Wars fans will recall from the prequels, the Republic and the Trade Federation experience a trade dispute that leads to a great divide in the world, as we see in the original trilogy. In Japan, the country fell into civil war, commonly known as the Bakumatsu period, after the end of the Edo period. For over 300 years Japan lived in a state of peace under the military rule of the Tokugawa clan, this was due in part to the fact that there was a strict policy on allowing foreigners into the country.

However, not everyone was happy with this arrangement and opportunity arose with the arrival of Commodore Matthew Perry and his “black ships” (made of iron) from America. At the time, Japan was still using wooden ships and were shocked to see ships made of iron. America was determined to open trade with Japan, leaving them little option but to comply or see the destruction of their capitol. This led to a great divide in the country as the Ishin Shishi, a group of political activists, began their rise to power. In Star Wars terms, the Ishin Shishi were like the Rebels, fighting for power against the evil Empire.

It’s clear that Lucas also drew from Japanese aesthetics in terms of designs in Star Wars.


Photo credits: Top: Darth Vader the from Star Wars franchise, Bottom Left: Samurai Mask and Helmet from National Geographic Bottom Right: Samurai Darth Vader figure from Kotobukiya

The top picture is, of course the man we all know and love, Darth Vader. The bottom left is a real samurai helmet and mask that’s on display at the Osaka Castle Museum. Finally, the picture on the bottom right is a full-fledged samurai version of Darth Vader designed by the figure company, Kotobukiya.


Photo credits: Left: Sakamoto Ryoma and Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker promo picture

As for Jedi attire, Mark Hamill is sporting his iconic Luke Skywalker attire and the legendary man next to him is the famous Sakamoto Ryoma, one of the greatest heroes in Japanese history.


Photo Credits: Katana and Lightsaber

Lastly, it’s hard to ignore that the Jedi’s weapon of choice, the lightsaber, is similar to its Japanese counterpart, the katana. Both miraculous weapons are meticulously crafted and take years of practice and discipline to master.

May the 4th be with you all!

Follow me on and on Twitter @sweetsandgeeks1

Featured Image Photo Credit: Star Wars 40th Anniversary Logo


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