Tokugawa Japan

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Tokugawa Japan

The Tokugawa Shogunate ruled Japan from 1603 until the Meji Restoration (1603 – 1868). During the Tokugawa period, Japan was governed by a feudal system to create a stable state known as the Bakufu.

The Shogun was the military ruler of Japan and governed over ¼ of Japan. The Daimyo, feudal landlords, controlled various parts of Japan and to impede their increasing power, various restrictions were placed among them such as where they lived and how they dress. The Daimyo were forced to go and live in Edo every second year. This left their families as hostages and cause income problems.

The privileged classes in Japanese feudal society were the Imperial family, the court nobles and the Samurai. Samurai were fighters of feudal Japan who served and protected the Daimyo and followed the Bushido – a code of conduct expecting them to be loyal and brave. The rest of the social structure consisted of peasants who were farms who lived off the land, artisans, who were artists and sculptors who were generally admired for their work even though they were considered to be low on the social order, merchants who were despised among the classes because they did produced anything and made money by selling items others had produced and lastly, the outcasts who were beggars, garbage workers.

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to arrive in Japan in 1543. The Portuguese were welcomed by the Daimyo and established commercial relations, purchasing guns and goods. The Japanese were immediately fascinated with the European lifestyle, especially their physical appearance. Catholic missionaries quickly followed the Portuguese and began to preaching and converting the Japanese to Christianity. In the beginning, the missionaries received no quarrel from the leaders of Japan. As soon as Toyotomi Hideyoshi came into power in 1582, he issued an edict, which ordered all Jesuit missionaries to leave Japan.

After the death of Hideyoshi in 1598, the first...
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