Topics: Tokugawa shogunate, Shogun, Japan Pages: 6 (1514 words) Published: November 30, 2014
Brad Fitzenreiter

HIST 483

November 9th, 2014

History of Japan

Essay 1

The Tokugawa period, which lasted from about 1603 to 1867, was the last era of

traditional Japanese government, culture and society prior to the Meji Restoration in

1868 which conquered over the Tokugawa shoguns and moved the country forward into

the modern era. This era provided many strengths and weaknesses to the traditional

Japanese people in terms of economy, society and political authority. Because of the

challenges faced during this time, the Tokugawa failed due to Japan’s mindset to restrict

Westernized ideologies, the attempt to restrict wealth within society and create a ‘back

to the soil’ policy in which the farmer was the ideal person in society. Through foreign

encroachment, Tokugawa political and economic instability, and the role changes and

actions of Japan's samurais all were factors that led to the downfall of the

Tokugawa dynasty. Foreign encroachment was the main cause for the fall, and was

also a main factor for Tokugawa political and economic instability and the converting of

roles and actions of Japan's samurais. In addition, without foreign encroachment, the

other factors would have been weaker and not powerful enough to bring down the

Tokugawa dynasty.

During the Tokugawa era there were many strengths that helped benefit society

and the government that kept it afloat for two plus centuries. Tokugawa government at

the time had belonged to the Shoguns and was very good in creating and preserving an

affordable system that had lasted almost two and a half centuries. Tokugawa

government’s goal was to maintain centralized power in the ideas of a

feudal system, in which the lords could keep their autonomy.

Tokugawa Shogun had his fortress in Edo and had also established the Shogun

government within Edo. The Edo government of the

Tokugawa was known as bakfu. The Tokugawa policy depended heavily on keeping the

status quo. The status quo reflected Confucian’s ideologies which

were made to suit the need of a traditional Japanese society. These Tokugawa bakfu

laws had given a rise to the culture within traditional Japan through the roles of samurai,

the merchants and the courtesans.

The Tokugawa bakfu had established a control system called alternate

attendance, in which the Daimyo had to be within Edo. Edo was also mostly made up of

males. The Daimyo’s job was to keep their wives and children within Edo as hostages.

In addition, Tokugawa society was divided into four quadrants: the samurai, the

peasants, the artisans and the merchants. The samurai were the masters of

agriculturalists, artisans and merchants and were required to display good character.

The official merchants job was to supply goods to the Samurai in which changed into

Edo a consumer capital. The power of these merchants had created most of the profit

for their feudal masters. The Tokugawa merchant officials contrasted from the rising

middle class of the West because they rejected their economic powers into political

rights. In Yoshiwara, which is the center of Edo social life had given the merchants the

chance to do more business by meeting wealthy customers such as the daimyo.

Daimyo and other high ranking officials had to change their lifestyle such as food,

housing and clothing since it was based on ancient warrior style practices. The warriors

participated in leisure activities such as farming, and had given a rise to the culture

within Japan. For example, the samurai worked in calligraphy, painting, the tea

ceremony, flower arranging, and even created poetry. According to Yamaga Soko, he

believed that the most important duty for the Samurai warrior was to above all else be

dedicated to duty. Soko also states that the samurai should also be extremely moral and


Bibliography: Soko, Y. (n.d.). Excerpts From The Way of the Samuai. Retrieved November 8, 2014, from
Yamaga Soko. Excerpts From The Testament of Shimai Soshitsu. In “Codes of Merchant Houses: The Testament of Shimai Soshitsu”.SourcesofJapaneseTradition,editedbyWm.TheodoredeBary,CarolGluck,andArthurL.Tiedemann,2nded.,vol.2(NewYork:ColumbiaUniversityPress,2005),310‐313
Library of Congress. “Decline of the Tokugawa” In Japan: Country Studies - Federal Research Division, Library of Congress. 2010. Accessed October 24, 2014.
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