Feudalism was a type of regulated government consisting of multiple relationships between many classes in a society. It consisted of many strict military as well as legal customs and flourished in the 15th century. Feudalism was present and thriving in Japan and Europe prior to 1500. The feudal systems in Europe and Japan were similar as a result of their synonymous systems of mutual obligation, their corresponding social class organization, and their powerless “rulers”. European and Japanese feudal systems differ regarding social mobility, developmental beginnings regarding land and power dispersion, and land ownership rights for fighting classes.
The feudal system of both Japan and Europe relied on the method of mutual obligation. These civilizations both had higher classes provide land and protection to the lower classes in return for taxes and loyalty. The system of mutual obligation provided incentives for all classes to perform their duties thus making it very efficient. The classes in both civilizations held almost identical roles in society. The knights and the samurais both had strict codes of conduct. Shoguns and Lords equally held the job of distributing land. The Damyos and Vassals were both in charge of putting the military together. Due to this similarity in class roles, the word “feudalism” can be used to describe both Japan and European class systems. Emperors of Japan and Kings of Europe were essentially powerless and served as figureheads. Figures in power tended to give out land rights in order to avoid heavy workload. Because the kings and emperors distributed their power through mutual obligation, it was the duty of lesser classes to provide protection for the citizens.
One difference between these two geographic locations regarding the feudal system is that the lower classes in Japan had social mobility while the lower classes in Europe did not. In the Japanese feudal system, peasants possessed the ability to upgrade to the Samurai class. While in the European feudal system, the option of changing classes, regardless of intelligence or skill, was fundamentally impossible. As a result of this difference in class flexibility, the Japanese population’s Knight Class had much more willing defenders. Another difference is that the aristocrats of Japan and the nobles of Europe attained land from their Emperor and King in differing ways. Aristocrats in Japan forcibly took land and power from the emperor as an act of protest. The nobles of Europe were given land and power by the king in return for taxes and loyalty. Due to the differing methods of land acquirement, the King in Europe remained while the Emperor of Japan fell. An additional difference is that the Knights and Samurais had separate rights regarding land ownership. Samurais were permitted to land ownership while Knights were not allowed to have land under their names. Due to this lack of land ownership, the Knights felt less motivated to protect Europe, a land that did not seem to be theirs at all. While at the same time, Samurais felt much more passionate about protecting the land that was under their name.
European and Japanese feudal systems are similar regarding their mutual obligation systems, social class roles and amount of power possessed by their leaders. Japanese and European feudal systems are different because of their social mobility, distribution of power and land, and land ownership in fighting classes. It is these similarities and differences that shaped these two societies into the coming renaissance time period. Feudalism was a very important and prominent chunk of history that is still relevant to modern day society.