The Feudal Ages in Japan and Europe

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  • Topic: Japanese tea ceremony, Tea, Feudalism
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  • Published : June 3, 2007
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The Feudal Ages in Japan and Europe

In the past, feudalism has been used successfully as a political system for governing a country. Two of the largest and most well known Feudal Ages have been that of Europe (1150-1600) and Japan (800-1350). Although both civilizations were quite similar during these periods of time, Japan's civilization clearly is superior in many ways. When compared, the role of religion, the weaponry and armor, and the warrior codes of conducts of both countries can easily prove this point. The roles which religion played in each culture prove how Europe was inferior to Japan in feudal times. During Europe's feudal period, the Catholic Church had an obscene amount of power. Its beliefs and doctrines affected every aspect of European society for every social class. Kings bowed down and submitted before popes, lest they be excommunicated. They became nothing more than puppets for the Catholic Church's power and were used to further its control. Governing decisions were no longer made in the best interest of the people, or even the state, but in the best interest of the Church. State and religion became so intertwined during this period that they were practically synonymous. The influence of the Church caused the prejudice and persecution of those of different religions, along with horrors such as the Spanish Inquisition and the Crusades. Hundreds of thousands died because of the greed and cruelty of the Catholic Church. In feudal Japan, state and religion were kept separate for the most part. Buddhism came to Japan 300 years before feudalism came into practice. It was the country's official religion throughout feudal Japan, but religious leaders did not try to control politics or society. This non-interference allowed the Shogun and Daimyos to rule successfully with only the best interest of their territory in mind. Buddhism, especially Zen Buddhism, which stressed meditation, simplicity and discipline, gradually influenced Japanese society. The beliefs of Zen Buddhism were very popular among samurai since they followed the basic beliefs of their code of honor, Bushido. Zen Buddhism also helped create Japanese cultural arts such as tea ceremonies, simplistic arrangements of Japanese gardens, and landscapes painted with few brushstrokes. Buddhism also taught its followers to be more accepting towards others, and not to persecute without reason. Thus, tragedies such as the Inquisition were avoided.

The weapons and armor of Japan were incredibly superior to those of Europe during the Feudal Ages. The most elite and famous of the Japanese warriors were the samurai. These fearsome and highly efficient solders were some of the most effective in history. Their armor weighed less than 50 pounds yet it protected them from the powerful short bows of mounted archers. It was primarily was made of copper plates, bamboo, woven horsehair, and cloth. These materials were laced together in protective layers, providing safety and allowing mobility. Suits of armor took years to create and were works of art. The samurai's basic weapon was a sword called the kitana. This deadly weapon was usually between three and four feet in length and very thin. It had a slight curve to it and was both a slicing and stabbing weapon. The sword was amazingly light, usually less than 15 pounds, allowing the user speed, control, and mobility. The kitana is considered one of the most ingenious swords ever designed. In Europe, knights were the most famous soldiers. Knights in that period were also armored in layers, but each layer covered the entire body. First was a layer of cloth padding to protect against the weight of the armor. Next came chain mail, and finally, steel plate armor. Covering the knight from head to toe, his armor was bulky, clumsy, restricted mobility and vision, and weighed between 150-300 pounds. This impractical armor only worked for knights because their opponents were also restricted in it. The knight's primary...
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