Samurai Mask and Helmet On the battlefield they inspired terror, harvesting heads and glory with their swords. Their leaders wore fierce masks and horned helmets. All lived by a code that valued death over defeat. They were the samurai, the elite warrior class who ruled Japan for nearly 700 years from 1185 to 1867, leaving an indelible mark on a land still making peace with its violent heroes. Pictured here are a samurai mask and helmet on display at the Osaka Castle Museum.