JAPAN Journey from the Earliest Days through Feudal Japan GEOGRAPHY OF JAPAN Japan consists of four main islands (archipelago) off the coast of mainland Asia Relatively isolated for thousands of years
Ideas, religions, and material goods traveled between Japan and the rest of Asia, especially China, but the rate of exchange was relatively limited Mountainous but not separating cities and towns Rather little arable land YAMATO CLAN Little is known of early cultures in
Japan prior to 400 C.E., except that they were influenced by Korea and China The first important ruling family was the Yamato clan, who emerged as leaders in the fifth century One of the unique things about Japan is that the Yamato clan was both the first and the only dynasty to rule it The current emperor is a descendent of this same clan THE SHINTO RELIGION
Shinto means the way of the gods The Japanese worshipped the kami, which refers to nature and all of the forces of nature, both seen and unseen The goal under Shinto is to become part of the kami by following certain rituals and customs The religion also encourages obedience and proper behavior
The Yamato clan claimed that the emperor was a direct descendent of the sun goddess, one of the main forces in the Shinto religion This claim helped the Yamato stay in power INFLUENCE OF CHINA In 522, Buddhist missionaries went to Japan and brought with them Chinese culture
Buddhism spread quickly but did not replace Shinto Instead, most Japanese adopted Buddhism while still practicing and accepting Shinto beliefs PRINCE SHOTOKU By the early seventh century,
Chinese influence increased Prince Shotoku borrowed bureaucratic and legal reforms, which were modeled on the successes of the Tang Dynasty in China These reforms were enacted after his death as the Taika Reforms (645 C.E.) In the eighth century, when the Japanese built their new capital, they modeled it on the Tang capital
However, the Japanese largely rejected Confucianism, as well as the idea of the civil service examination In Japan, education wasnt nearly as important as birth The noble classes were hereditary, not earned But Confucianism and the civil service examination emphasized the importance of education It was, however, birth and social class that were more important in Japan
SELECTIVE BORROWING Even though China influenced Japan enormously, it didnt penetrate Japanese identity Birth was more important than outside influence or education The aristocracy remained strong Even at the height of Tang influence, the Japanese selectively borrowed Chinese cultural ideas and objects while still retaining
THE FUJIWARA In 794, the capital was moved to Heian, and a new era of Japanese history began The Chinese influence abated, while the power of aristocratic families increased One of the most important families, the Fujiwara, intermarried over several generations with the emperors family
and soon ran the affairs of the country The emperor remained as a figurehead, but the real power had shifted to members of the Fujiwara family Under the Fujiwara, Japanese society experienced somewhat of a golden age, especially in terms of literature Japanese noblewomen were
particularly prolific, especially when compared to women of other cultures But by the twelfth century, power in Japan spread among a larger and larger pool of noble families, and soon they were fighting with each other for control over their small territories Japan had devolved a feudal system not unlike the one in Europe FEUDAL JAPAN
Feudalism in Japan developed at around the same time as feudalism in western Europe, but it developed independently In 1192, Yoritomo Minamoto was given the title of chief general, or shogun, by the emperor As with the Fujiwara family, the emperor was the figurehead but he didnt hold the real power The real power was in the hands of the shogun
The title of shogun was a permanent title that could be passed on in the Minamoto family Yoritomo did not want to live in Heian-Kyo, with its beguiling luxury, but made his residence in Kamakura, a town just south of modern Tokyo Japanese soldiers, the samurai, became a special class of people during the Kamakura Shogunate The samurai had only one purpose in life, to fight for his lord THE FEUDAL HIERARCHY
The shogun was the most powerful lord in feudal Japan Below the shogun were the daimyo, huge landowners, or the counterparts of the lords in medieval Europe The daimyo were powerful samurai, which were like knights Daimyo were part warrior, part nobility They, in turn, divided up their lands to lesser samurai (vassals), who in turn
split their land up again Just as in European feudalism, the hierarchy was bound together in a landfor-loyalty exchange THE LOW STATUS OF MERCHANTS Merchants were probably seen as an unpleasant necessity by the samurai
class They dealt in commerce - a disreputable sector in most feudal societies They did not fit neatly into the feudal hierarchy, which was based on landownership and locations Merchants had to travel to trade, and so did not clearly fall into the service of a particular daimyo But over time, the merchant class grew richer, and the samurai class grew poorer THE RONIN
The ronin were samurai without masters Traditionally, it was a dishonor to find oneself in such a position, as it implied a failure in some facet of the samurai's duty: a failure to protect the master; a failure to commit seppuku on his death; or an abandonment of your loyalty The ronin were a paradox in terms of the feudal system, much as the merchants were - being masterless wanderers, they did not fit into the neat feudal hierarchy The ronin, alone or in groups, were hard to control, and by defiance might
weaken the grip of the bakufu (the military government of the shogun) on the middle classes and peasants SAMURAI The samurai followed a strict code of conduct known as the Code of Bushido The Code of Bushido was very similar to the code of chivalry in Europe The code stressed loyalty, courage, and honor; so much so that if a samurai failed to meet his obligations under the code, he was expected to commit
suicide WOMEN IN FEUDAL JAPAN Unlike under European feudalism, women in Japan were not held in high esteem In Europe, noblewomen were given few rights, but they were adored, at least to the extent that they were beautiful and possessed feminine traits In contrast, Japanese women lost any freedom they had during the Fujiwara period and were forced to live harsher,
more demeaning lives Only men inherited, and adultery was defined as a wife sleeping with another man; a husband could only commit adultery with another man's wife A samurai wife was expected to show the same loyalty to her husband as he did to his daimyo; as phrased in Nitobe Inazo's 1905 study of Bushido, she would annihilate herself for him, that he might annihilate himself for the daimyo Still, a wife's lot was better than that of
a concubine, who would be held to the same degree of loyalty, but treated little better than a servant; an unmarried daughter might expect little less In the event of a samurai's death, the women of his household might also be expected to commit ojigi, a form of Sepuku ritual suicide for a woman, in which she would thrust a knife through her throat COMPARISON
European and Japanese Feudalism were similar in terms of political structure, social structure, and honor code They were different in terms of treatment of women and legal arrangement In Europe, the feudal contract was just that, a contract It was an arrangement of obligations enforced in law In Japan, on the other hand, the feudal arrangement was based solely on group identity and loyalty.
The Kamakura Shogunate prospered for many years The Mongols tried to conquer Japan twice but failed A typhoon destroyed the Mongol fleets The Japanese credited the victory to their gods They believed that they had sent divine winds, kamikaze, to help them
But the victory won, the shoguns of the early fourteenth century grew lax THE ASHIKAGA SHOGUNS The Kamakura shoguns were soon jolted by a General Ashikaga who overran Kamakura
The Ashikaga shoguns moved back to Heian-Kyo During the 260 years of their rule, Japan entered a new phase of feudalism The Askikaga were content to govern the region about the capital They let the rest of the country go its own way As a result, the daimyo became even more powerful But because only the samurai were allowed to fight, battles did not affect anyone other than these soldiers and their lords
Japanese peasants continued to work in rice paddies, and townspeople built up their trade AFTER THE POSTCLASSICAL PERIOD During the sixteenth century in Japan, a series of shoguns continued to rule while the emperor remained merely as a figurehead But as the century went on,
Japanese feudalism began to wane and centralized power began to emerge The shogun still ruled but the power of the feudal lords was reduced In 1600, Tokugawa Ieyasu THE TOKUGAWA SHOGUNATE A strict and rigid government that ruled
Japan until 1868 The shogun further consolidated power away from the emperor and at the expense of the daimyo (feudal lords) Ieyasu claimed personal ownership to all lands within Japan and instituted a rigid social class model Four classes (warrior, farmer, artisan, and merchant) were established and movement among the classes was forbidden
The Tokugawa period also known as the Edo period because Tokugawa moved the capital to Edo (modern-day Tokyo) was marked by a reversal in attitudes towards Western influences Within two decades, Christians were persecuted By 1635, a National Seclusion Policy prohibited Japanese from traveling abroad, and prohibited most foreigners from visiting Japan (limited relations were kept with China, Korea, and the Netherlands) Japan became increasingly secluded and this policy of isolationism would remain for nearly 200 years
Tokugawa was worried that Japan would be overrun by foreign influences It is important to remember that Spain had claimed the nearby Philippines and that the English and Portuguese kept trying to make their way into China So, in 1640, when a group of Portuguese diplomats and traders sailed to Japan to try to negotiate with the emperor and convince him to open up a dialogue, the shogun had every member of the Portuguese delegation executed on the spot
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