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Feudal Japan. Himeji Castle, Hyogo Prefecture. Historical Periods of Japan. Heian Period 794 – 1185 Kamakura Period 1185 – 1333 Kemmu Restoration 1333–1336 Muromachi Period 1336–1573 Azuchi-Momoyama period 1568–1603 Edo Period 1603–1868. Review: What is feudalism?.

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Feudal japan

Feudal Japan

Himeji Castle, Hyogo Prefecture

Historical periods of japan
Historical Periods of Japan

  • Heian Period 794 – 1185

  • Kamakura Period 1185 – 1333

  • Kemmu Restoration 1333–1336

  • Muromachi Period 1336–1573

  • Azuchi-Momoyama period 1568–1603

  • Edo Period 1603–1868

Review what is feudalism
Review: What is feudalism?

  • A political and economic system in which a lord required services from a vassal, and in return granted the vassal certain privileges such as control over a castle and the surrounding territory

  • Feudalism developed in Europe in the 9th century and in Japan in the 12th century.

  • The late development in Japan is due to Japans geographical and cultural isolation.

The daimyo class
The Daimyo Class

  • The wealthy, landowning provincial lords were called daimyo

  • Daimyo became wealthy through land taxation and used their wealth to employ Samurai

  • The land upon which the daimyo’s servants yield crop is called a fief in Europe and a shoen in Japan

Sankin kotai
Sankin Kotai

  • Sankin Kotai or the “alternate residence duty” demanded that a daimyo alternate residence at the Tokugawa castle at Edo and his own castle. When the daimyo was at home he had to leave his family in Edo

  • This system of obligations was designed to ensure the vassal’s allegiance in periods of constant warfare

  • Special lodgings, the honjin (本陣), were available to daimyo during their travels to and from Edo

The heian period 794 1185
The Heian Period 794 - 1185

  • is considered a high point in Japanese culture

  • Is the period when the Tale of Genji was written by Murasaki Shikibu

  • is also noted for the rise of the samurai class, which would eventually take power and start the feudal period of Japan

Murasaki Shikibu, illustration by Tosa Mitsuoki

The genpei war 1180 1185
The Genpei War 1180 - 1185

  • The Genpei War (1180 – 1185) occurred at the end of the Heian Period between the two most powerful clans in Japan the Minamoto and Taira

  • The Minamoto clan finally destroyed the Taira clan completely in the naval battle of Dannoura, ending the Genpei war

  • The Minamoto were subsequently named as the first ruling shogun family.

Minamoto no Yoritomo1147— 1199) was the

founder and the first shogun of the Kamakura

Shogunate of Japan. He ruled from 1192 until 1199

The samurai
The Samurai

  • The Samurai Class emerged at the end of the Heian Period

  • A Samurai is a Japanese warrior and member of the feudal military aristocracy who practices the code of conduct of Bushido

  • The Seven Codes of Bushido: Justice (Gi), Bravery (Yuu), Benevolence (Jin), Politeness (Rei), Loyalty (Chuugi), Honor (Meiyo), Veracity (Makoto)


How do these qualities of bushido compare with those

espoused by the knightly code of chivalry?

Feudal japan

Samurai of the Satsuma clan, fighting for the

Imperial side during the Boshin War period


  • Were identifiable by the two swords they would carry; a short wakizashi and a long katana

  • A samurai’s sword was a very important symbol of their place in society and was passed down through generations of the same family

  • Swordsmiths took great pride in their workmanship and would often times leave their signature on the tang of a blade they had created

  • Samurai were paid for their services in rice

  • Samurai had the right to kill any commoner who offended them


  • Samurai were often used as mercenaries or hired soldiers working simply for pay

  • Wandering Samurai whose loyalty was determined by whomever paid them were called Ronin

What is a shogun
What is a Shogun?

  • The hereditary commander of the Japanese army who exercised absolute rule under the nominal leadership of the Emperor.

  • It was the rank to which all Daimyo’s aspired.

  • The Shogun was responsible for maintaining discipline over the samurai class, resolving disputes over claims to landownership and ensuring that taxes and rent moved from the countryside into the state bursary.

  • The Bakufu became the name for the military government or “shogunate”. “Bakufu” meant “tent government” because all the soldiers were housed in tents.

The shogunates
The Shogunates

  • Between 1192 and 1868 Japan had three different ruling Shogun families.

    FamilyHeadquartersDates of Rule

  • Minamoto Kamakura 1192 – 1333

  • Ashikaga Kyoto 1338 – 1573

  • Tokugawa Edo 1603 – 1868

The kamakura period 1185 1333
The Kamakura Period 1185 - 1333

  • Marked the beginning of Shogun rule under the Minamoto clan

  • During this time power was consolidated under the Shogun and the Emperor became a figure head

  • Zen Buddhism was also introduced to Japan during this period

  • The Genko War 1331-1333) was a civil war in Japan which marked the fall of the Kamakura shogunate

A Japanese wooden kongorikishi

(guardian of the Buddha) statue from

the 14th century, Kamakura period

Kublai khan and the kamikaze
Kublai Khan and the Kamikaze

  • In 1274 and 1281 during the Kamakura Shogun, Kublai Khan and his Mongols attempted to invade Japan, only to have his fleets destroyed by a “kamikaze”, or “divine wind”

  • Japanese shinto priests believed they were created by protective deities

  • This term was used again to describe the suicide pilots of the Japanese forces in the closing stages of World War II

A World War II Kamikaze Pilot

The kemmu restoration 1333 1336
The Kemmu Restoration 1333–1336

  • This marks the three year period between the fall of the Kamakura shogunate and the rise of the Ashikaga shogunate, when Emperor Go-Daigo attempted to re-establish Imperial control by overthrowing the bakufu (or Shogun)

The muromachi period 1336 1573
The Muromachi Period 1336–1573

  • The period marks the governance of the Ashikaga shogunate

  • During this period there was a renewed interest in Shinto, which had quietly coexisted with Buddhism

  • The incredible destructive Onin War was fought from 1467 to 1477 resulting in political decentralization and the multiplication of Daimyo estates.

    • Also considered the beginning of the Warring States Period, or “Sengoku Period” it marked the decline and eventual demise of the Ashikaga shogunate

  • The period ended in 1573 when the 15th and last shogun Ashikaga Yoshiaki was driven out of the capital in Kyoto by Oda Nobunaga

Oda nobunaga and toyotomi hideyoshi
Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi

  • Oda Nobunaga was a major daimyo during the Warring States period who started the process of reunification of Japan by conquering most of the empire

  • When Nobunaga died in 1582 he didn’t have any legitimate sons to succeed him

  • One of Nobunaga’s generals Toyotomi Hideyoshi took the opportunity to establish himself as Nobunaga's successor.

  • Hideyoshi eventually consolidated his control over the remaining daimyo

  • During Hideyoshi’s reign from 1585 to 1598 Japan attempted twice to invade the Korean peninsula unsuccessfully

Oda Nobunaga

Toyotomi Hideyoshi

Death of hideyoshi and the battle of sekigahara
Death of Hideyoshi and the Battle of Sekigahara

  • Even though Toyotomi Hideyoshi unified Japan and consolidated his power, his ill-fated invasion of Korea significantly weakened the Toyotomi clan's power as well as the loyalists and bureaucrats that continued to serve and support the Toyotomi clan after Hideyoshi's death in 1598

  • The Battle of Sekigahara was a decisive battle in 1600 between the forces vying for control of Japan after Hideyoshi’s death

  • Tokugawa Ieyasu’s victoriy cleared the path to the Shogunate for his clan

  • Though it would take three more years for Ieyasu to consolidate his position of power over the Toyotomi clan and the daimyo, Sekigahara is widely considered to be the unofficial beginning of the Tokugawa bakufu, the last shogunate to control Japan.

The tokugawa or edo period 1603 1868
The Tokugawa or Edo Period 1603 - 1868

  • The Tokugawa Shogunate was important for many reasons, including the lengthy 200 year period of relative isolation which contributed to the development of Japan’s traditional society

  • Only China, the Dutch East India Company, and for a short period, the English, enjoyed the right to visit Japan during this period, for commercial purposes only, and they were restricted to the Dejima port in Nagasaki.

  • Other Europeans who landed on Japanese shores were put to death without trial.

  • The Tokugawa shogunate ruled from Edo Castle in Tokyo from 1603 until 1868, when it was abolished during the Meiji Restoration

Tokugawa Ieyasu, the

first Tokugawa Shogun

The closing of japan 1639 1853
The Closing of Japan, 1639 -1853

  • The shogun closed Japan to the rest of the world in the effort to remain powerful. In 1639 all foreigners (European and Asian traders) were expelled; Christianity was banned and all missionaries were expelled.

  • The people of Japan were forbidden to have contact with foreigners and were not allowed to travel outside of the country.

  • Foreign trade was banned.

  • The consequences of this isolation from the rest of the world included:

    • A unique culture developed that combined the ideas from previously visiting cultures and traditional ideas. The people developed the distinct arts of haiku, kabuki, bunraku (puppet theatre) and ukiyoe (woodblock prints).

    • The Japanese people did not hear about the Industrial Revolution that took place in Europe during this time period. They did not learn about the new inventions such as steam-driven machines that changed the products and the way in which those products were made.

    • Japan remained an agricultural society, which depended upon the peasants and the artisans to produce goods in small quantities at slow rates.

Opening of japan 1853 1867
Opening of Japan, 1853-1867

  • In 1853, Commodore Perry and his “Black Ships” sailed into Tokyo Harbour, demanding that the shogun open Japan to foreign trade and interaction.

  • Commodore Perry's fleet overpowered the small Japanese fleet, and the shogun was forced to agree to his demands with the signing of the Convention of Kanagawa

  • The turmoil resulting from this would strongly contribute to the demise of the Tokugawa shogunate in 1867 and the subsequent Meiji Restoration of the Emperor

Matthew Perry (1794-1858),

photographed in 1852.

Zen buddhism
Zen Buddhism

  • Buddhism is a major religion based on the teachings of the Buddha or “enlightened one,” who lived in Northern India at the foot of the Himalayas in the 6th century BCE.

  • Japanese samurai followed a particular sect of Buddhism called Zen Buddhism

  • Zen Buddhism is a unique form of Buddhism that reached its peak in China and was later developed in Japan. Its name traces its roots to Sanskrit, and means “meditation.” In early China, the central idea of Zen Buddhism was meditation rather than adherence to a particular scripture. In this regard, Zen Buddhists can also be good Christians, Muslims, etc.

  • Zen Buddhism was particularly attractive to the Samurai class because it provided them with discipline and tranquility for total concentration during battle. It also offered the attractive belief that people could continue to exist in an afterlife

  • A puzzling, often paradoxical statement or story, used in Zen Buddhism as an aid to meditation and a means of gaining spiritual awakening are known in Chinese as “gong-ans”, or in Japanese as “koans”

    • Example: “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”


  • Shinto is the indigenous religion of Japan and consisted of the belief in deities of natural forces and the reverence of the Emperor as a descendant of the sun goddess

  • The “Kami” are the Shinto deities. The word “Kami” is generally translated as “god” or “gods.” The Kami were conceptualized in many different forms which bear little resemblance to the gods of monotheistic religions

  • Shinto did not believe in an afterlife, but rather emphasized tradition, family, nature, physical cleanliness and the worship of the Kami

  • Origami, or “paper of the spirits” is an example of a Shinto Japanese art form

Origami Cranes


  • Haiku is an unrhymed verse form of Japanese Zen poetry having three lines usually containing 5, 7 and 5 syllables respectively

  • Examples:

    The noise of others

    Caught up in the race to be

    Drowns out importance

    Tiny green inchworm

    Climbs on branches and wonders

    How tall are the trees

    I hate Sunday night

    Because, once I sleep at night,

    It will be Monday.

A Japanese Haiku

Questions to think about
Questions to think about…

  • Why was Japan’s feudal era so long?

  • What effect did the closing of Japan to foreigners during the Tokugawa Shogunate have on Japanese culture?

  • What impact do you think that may have on Japanese culture today?

A JapaneseGeisha