Feudalism in middle ages Japan (1185-1603 CE) describes the relationship between lords and also vassals whereby land ownership and also its usage was exchanged for military service and loyalty. Although present earlier to some degree, the feudal device in Japan was really created from the start of the Kamakura period in the so late 12th century CE once shoguns or army dictators replaced the emperor and also imperial court as the country"s main resource of government. The shogunates dispersed land to loyal followers and these manors (shoen) to be then managed by officials such as the jito (stewards) and also shugo (constables). Unequal in europe feudalism, these often hereditary officials, at least initially, walk not own land themselves. However, end time, the jito and shugo, operating far from the central government, gained an ext and much more powers with numerous of them becoming large landowners (daimyo) in their own right and, with their own private armies, they tested the authority of the shogunate governments. Feudalism together a nation-wide device thus broke down, also if the lord-vassal relationship did continue after the medieval period in the form of samurai supplying their services to heritage owners.


Origins & Structure

Feudalism (hoken seido), that is the plan between lords and vassals whereby the previous gave favour or on (e.g. Land, titles, or reputation offices) in exchange for military service (giri) from the latter, began to be prevalent in Japan from the beginning of the Kamakura period (1185-1333 CE). The main instigator was Minamoto no Yoritomo (1147-1199 CE) that had established himself together the armed forces dictator or shogun of Japan in 1192 CE. Instead of the dominance of the Japanese Emperor and the imperial court, the new system experienced Yoritomo distribute land (which was often confiscated from beat rivals) come his loyal followers and also allies in return for their army service and also continued support. Yoritomo was an especially adept at enticing members that the rival Taira clan come his, the Minamoto cause by supplying them land and also positions if lock agreed to be his vassals in the new order.

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The system allowed the shogun to have direct manage of many of his territory, however the absence of formal establishments of federal government would it is in a lasting weakness.

Unlike in Europe, the feudal mechanism of Japan was much less contractually based and a much much more personal affair between lords and vassals with a solid paternalistic affect coming indigenous the former, that were often referred to as oya or "parent." This "family" feel was more strengthened by the reality that many lord-vassal relationships were inherited. The system allowed the shogun to have direct manage of most of his territory, however the lack of formal establishments of government would be a lasting weak of the shogunates as personal loyalties were hardly ever passed top top to succeeding generations.


Some of the loyal followers the the shogun received countless estates (shoen), i beg your pardon were frequently geographically disparate or far-off from their timeless family homes, and so, quite than regulate them directly themselves, lock employed the services of an appointed steward (jito) for the purpose. Jito (and shugo - view below) was not a new position but had been supplied on a smaller range in the Heian duration (794-1185 CE) and, appointed by the shogunate government, they ended up being a advantageous tool for managing land, taxes and produce much from the capital. Here, too, is one more difference v European feudalism as stewards never (officially) owned land themselves, that is until the wheels started to come turn off the feudal system.

Jito literally method "head of the land", and also the position was open to men and also women in the early on medieval period. Their principal responsibility was to manage the peasants who functioned their employer"s land and collect the relevant local taxes. The steward was entitled come fees (about 10% of the land"s produce) and also tenure but was often bound by local customizeds and additionally held accountable to such national legislation codes as the Goseibai Shikimoku (1232 CE). In addition, aggrieved landowners and also vassals could, indigenous 1184 CE, rotate to the Monchujo (Board the Inquiry) i m sorry looked after all legal matters consisting of lawsuits, appeals, and disputes end land rights and loans. In 1249 CE a High Court, the Hikitsukeshu, was developed which to be especially came to with any type of disputes related to land and taxes.


Many jito eventually became powerful in their own right, and their descendants became daimyo or significant feudal landowners native the 14th century CE onwards. This daimyo ruled v a big degree of autonomy, also if lock did need to follow certain rules laid under by the government such as whereby to develop a castle.


Another class of estate managers was the shugo or army governor or constable who had policing and administrative responsibilities in their specific province. In the 14th century CE, there were 57 such provinces and so a shugo was affiliated in several mansions at once, uneven the jito who only had one to worry around one. A shugo, literally meaning "protector", made decisions according to neighborhood customs and also military laws and, favor the jito, they collected regular count in sort for the shogunate government, a portion of which they to be entitled to keep for themselves. They were additionally charged with collecting distinct taxes (tansen) because that one-off events like coronations and temple-building projects and organising work for state jobs like building roads and also guesthouses along the routes. Various other responsibilities included capturing pirates, punishing traitors, and calling up warriors for use by the state - not just in wartime but likewise as component of the continuous rotation mechanism where provinces offered guards because that the funding Heiankyo (Kyoto).

By the 14th century CE, the shugo had also assumed the obligations of those jito who had not become daimyo.

Over time the position of shugo became, in effect, among a local governor. The shugo became ever an ext powerful, v taxes gift directed right into their own pockets and also such rights as collecting the tansen frequently being offered to subordinates together a method to create an alternate lord-vassal relationship without any kind of land exchange gift involved. The providing out that titles and also organising private arrangements through samurai also allowed the shugo to construct up their own personal armies. Adhering to the failure Mongol intrusions of Japan in 1274 and also 1281 CE, shugo to be legally obliged come reside in the province which castle administered for greater state security, but whether this was always carried out in practice is unclear. Through the 14th century CE, the shugo had also assumed the responsibilities of those jito who had not become daimyo, and also by the 15th century CE, many shugo inherited the position.

Weaknesses that the System

One the the troubles for the jito and shugo was the their authority the end in the provinces, much from the central government, often relied on the goodwill the the locals, and also when the shogunate federal government was weak - as it often was - samurai warriors and also ambitious landowners frequently ignored needs for counting or even took matters into their own hands and also overturned the developed arrangements that lord and vassal to rise their own power and wealth.

An extr weakness in the system was that jito and shugo depended entirely on regional sources for your income, no the central government and this meant that they frequently made entirely self-interested arrangements. Thus, the shogunate itself ended up being a largely irrelevant and also invisible school at a regional level. Farmers often made private encounters officials, giving, for example, a small parcel of soil in exchange because that a delay in payment of taxes or a negotiated portion in order to pay their supposed fees annually. Together a consequence, the entirety setup the land ownership in Japan came to be very facility indeed through multiple possible landowners for any type of stretch that land: private people (vassal and non-vassals), federal government officials, religious institutions, the shogunate, and the Crown.

Yet one more problem was that when jito inherited from your fathers over there was often not sufficient money to make a life if the legal rights of income had to be distributed among several siblings. This instance led to many jito obtaining into debt as they mortgaged their ideal of earnings from a given estate. There were added weaknesses to the feudal device as time wore on, too, namely the an obstacle in finding new land and also titles to compensation vassals in an era of secure government.

In the Sengoku duration or Warring States duration (1467-1568 CE) Japan suffered from constant civil wars between the rival daimyo warlords through their very own private militaries who knew they could ignore the shugo and also other public official of the government which was currently impotent to enforce its will certainly in the provinces. Soil was additionally ending up in fewer and fewer hands together the daimyo with most military might swallowed increase their smaller rivals. Through the Edo duration (1603-1868 CE) there would be a just 250 daimyo across the whole of Japan. The phenomenon of brand-new rulers overthrowing the established order and also of branch families taking the chateaus of the traditional significant clans ended up being known as gekokujo or "those listed below overthrowing those above."

The an effect of this social and administrative fluctuate was the Japan was no longer a merged state yet had become a patchwork the feudal mansions centred roughly individual castles and fortified mansions together loyalties became highly localised. Villages and little towns, mainly abandoned by the government, were obliged to kind their very own councils (so) and also leagues that mutual help (ikki). Not till Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582 CE), who beat his rival warlords in the main part that the archipelago in the 1560s CE, walk Japan start to look choose a unified nation again.


With the come of the lot stronger Tokugawa Shogunate (1603-1868 CE) the daimyo were ultimately put in your place and severe restrictions enforced on them. These had a ban on moving their troops exterior of your area and also not gift able to do political partnerships in their own name, build more than one castle, or marry without the shogun"s approval. The feudal system did, nevertheless, continue in the guise the samurai swearing loyalty to their details daimyo approximately the Meiji duration (1868-1912 CE), even if over there was currently a lengthy period of relative peace and military organization was much less needed than in middle ages times.

From the 17th century CE, then, the Japanese feudal device was, instead of gift a nation-wide pyramid structure of soil distribution, mostly one of neighborhood samurai warriors providing their solutions to a large estate owner or warlord in exchange for usage of land, rice, or cash. It is thus that the bushido or samurai warrior code was developed which aimed come ensure samurai remained disciplined and also loyal to your employers. Meanwhile, enhancing urbanisation as human being moved from rural life into the cities through their greater employment opportunities, and also the ever-rising variety of those involved in trade and commerce meant that the old feudal mechanism was applicable come fewer and fewer people as Japan moved right into the modern era.

This contents was made possible with generous assistance from the great Britain Sasakawa Foundation.

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Mark is a background writer based in Italy. His special interests encompass pottery, architecture, human being mythology and discovering the ideas that all human beings share in common. The holds one MA in politics Philosophy and is the posting Director at WHE.