Feudalism in medieval Japan (1185-1603 CE) defines the relationship between lords and also vassals whereby land ownership and also its usage was exchanged for military service and loyalty. Although current earlier to some degree, the feudal mechanism in Japan to be really created from the start of the Kamakura duration in the so late 12th century CE as soon as shoguns or armed forces dictators replaced the emperor and also imperial court as the country"s main source of government. The shogunates spread land to loyal followers and also these mansions (shoen) to be then looked after by public official such as the jito (stewards) and shugo (constables). Unlike in european feudalism, these often hereditary officials, at the very least initially, go not own land themselves. However, over time, the jito and shugo, operating much from the main government, gained much more and much more powers with many of lock becoming big landowners (daimyo) in their very own right and, with their own private armies, they tested the authority of the shogunate governments. Feudalism together a nation-wide system thus broke down, even if the lord-vassal connection did proceed after the medieval period in the kind of samurai providing their solutions to estate owners.


Origins & Structure

Feudalism (hoken seido), that is the arrangement between lords and vassals where the former gave favour or on (e.g. Land, titles, or prestigious offices) in exchange for military organization (giri) from the latter, began to be prevalent in Japan from the start of the Kamakura period (1185-1333 CE). The key instigator to be Minamoto no Yoritomo (1147-1199 CE) who had created himself as the armed forces dictator or shogun the Japan in 1192 CE. Instead of the dominance of the Japanese Emperor and the imperial court, the brand-new system experienced Yoritomo distribution land (which was regularly confiscated from beat rivals) come his loyal followers and also allies in return because that their military service and also continued support. Yoritomo was an especially adept at enticing members that the competitor Taira clan come his, the Minamoto cause by giving them land and also positions if they 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 lack of formal institutions of government would it is in a lasting weakness.

Unlike in Europe, the feudal mechanism of Japan was less contractually based and also a much much more personal affair in between lords and vassals with a solid paternalistic affect coming from the former, that were often referred come as oya or "parent." This "family" feeling was further strengthened by the fact that countless lord-vassal relationships were inherited. The system permitted the shogun to have actually direct manage of most of his territory, but the absence of formal institutions of government would be a lasting weakness of the shogunates as an individual loyalties were seldom passed ~ above to successive generations.


Some the the faithful followers of the shogun received many estates (shoen), i beg your pardon were regularly geographically different or remote from their classic family homes, and also so, quite than regulate them directly themselves, they employed the services of an appointed steward (jito) for the purpose. Jito (and shugo - watch below) was not a new position yet had been supplied on a smaller range in the Heian period (794-1185 CE) and, appointed by the shogunate government, they ended up being a helpful tool for controlling land, taxes and also produce far from the capital. Here, too, is one more difference with European feudalism as stewards never (officially) own land themselves, the is until the wheels started to come off the feudal system.

Jito literally method "head of the land", and also the place was open to men and women in the early medieval period. Their major responsibility to be to manage the peasants who worked their employer"s land and collect the relevant regional taxes. The steward was entitled come fees (about 10% of the land"s produce) and also tenure however was frequently bound by local customs and likewise held accountable to together national legislation codes together the Goseibai Shikimoku (1232 CE). In addition, aggrieved landowners and also vassals could, indigenous 1184 CE, turn to the Monchujo (Board the Inquiry) i m sorry looked after all legal matters consisting of lawsuits, appeals, and also disputes over land rights and loans. In 1249 CE a High Court, the Hikitsukeshu, was formed which was especially involved with any type of disputes pertained to land and taxes.


Many jito eventually became powerful in their very own right, and also their descendants came to be daimyo or prominent feudal landowners from the 14th century CE onwards. This daimyo ruled v a large degree of autonomy, also if they did have to follow particular rules laid down by the government such as whereby to build a castle.


Another great of estate supervisors was the shugo or military governor or constable who had policing and also administrative duties in their particular province. In the 14th century CE, there to be 57 such provinces and so a shugo was associated in several mansions at once, unlike the jito who only had actually one to worry around one. A shugo, literally definition "protector", made decisions according to regional customs and also military legislations and, favor the jito, they gathered regular counting in sort for the shogunate government, a portion of i m sorry they to be entitled to keep for themselves. Castle were also charged with collecting one-of-a-kind taxes (tansen) for one-off events like coronations and also temple-building projects and organising work for state projects like building roads and also guesthouses along the routes. Various other responsibilities included capturing pirates, punishing traitors, and calling up warrior for use by the state - not only in wartime but likewise as part of the constant rotation system where provinces supplied guards because that the capital Heiankyo (Kyoto).

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

Over time the position of shugo became, in effect, among a regional governor. The shugo became ever more powerful, through taxes gift directed into their very own pockets and such legal rights as collecting the tansen regularly being given to subordinates as a method to produce an different lord-vassal partnership without any type of land exchange being involved. The giving out that titles and organising exclusive arrangements with samurai also enabled the shugo to develop up their own personal armies. Following the failed Mongol intrusions of Japan in 1274 and 1281 CE, shugo were legally obliged to reside in the district which they administered for better state security, but whether this was always carried out in exercise is unclear. By the 14th century CE, the shugo had likewise assumed the duties of those jito who had actually not end up being daimyo, and also by the 15th century CE, many shugo inherited the position.

Weaknesses that the System

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

An extr weakness in the mechanism was that jito and shugo depended completely on regional sources for their income, no the central government and also this supposed that they often made completely self-interested arrangements. Thus, the shogunate itself came to be a largely irrelevant and invisible college at a regional level. Farmers regularly made private deals with officials, giving, because that example, a tiny parcel of soil in exchange for a delay in payment of taxes or a negotiated portion in bespeak to pay their meant fees annually. Together a consequence, the whole setup of land property in Japan came to be very complex indeed v multiple possible landowners for any kind of stretch of land: private people (vassal and non-vassals), federal government officials, religious institutions, the shogunate, and the Crown.

Yet an additional problem was the when jito inherited from your fathers over there was often not enough money to make a life if the civil liberties of income had to be distributed amongst several siblings. This case led to countless jito getting into debt together they mortgaged their right of earnings from a offered estate. Over there were added weaknesses to the feudal mechanism as time wore on, too, specific the challenge in finding brand-new land and titles to compensation vassals in an era of secure government.

In the Sengoku period or Warring States period (1467-1568 CE) Japan experienced from constant civil wars between the competitor daimyo warlords v their very own private armies who knew they can ignore the shugo and other officials of the government which was currently impotent come enforce its will certainly in the provinces. Soil was likewise ending increase in fewer and also fewer hands as the daimyo with many military might swallowed up their smaller sized rivals. Through the Edo duration (1603-1868 CE) there would be a just 250 daimyo across the entirety of Japan. The phenomenon of brand-new rulers overthrowing the established order and of branch households taking the estates of the traditional major clans ended up being known together gekokujo or "those below overthrowing those above."

The consequence of this social and administrative vary was the Japan to be no longer a unified state yet had come to be a patchwork the feudal manors centred roughly individual castles and also fortified mansions as loyalties came to be highly localised. Villages and little towns, greatly abandoned through the government, to be obliged to kind their own councils (so) and also leagues the mutual help (ikki). Not until Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582 CE), who defeated his rival warlords in the central part of the archipelago in the 1560s CE, walk Japan begin to look like a unified nation again.


With the come of the much stronger Tokugawa Shogunate (1603-1868 CE) the daimyo were ultimately put in their place and severe restrictions applied on them. These had a ban on relocating their troops outside of your area and also not gift able to make political alliances in their very own name, build more than one castle, or marry without the shogun"s approval. The feudal mechanism did, nevertheless, continue in the guise the samurai swearing commitment to their details daimyo approximately the Meiji period (1868-1912 CE), even if over there was currently a an extensive period of family member peace and military business was less needed 보다 in middle ages times.

From the 17th century CE, then, the Japanese feudal system was, instead of gift a nation-wide pyramid structure of land distribution, greatly one of neighborhood samurai warriors providing their services to a big estate owner or warlord in exchange for usage of land, rice, or cash. It is for this reason that the bushido or samurai warrior code was developed which aimed come ensure samurai continued to be disciplined and also loyal to their employers. Meanwhile, boosting urbanisation as world moved native rural life into the cities v their higher employment opportunities, and the ever-rising variety of those affiliated in trade and also commerce meant that the old feudal mechanism was applicable come fewer and fewer people as Japan moved right into the modern-day era.

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

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Mark is a background writer based in Italy. His unique interests encompass pottery, architecture, world mythology and also discovering the principles that all civilizations share in common. He holds one MA in politics Philosophy and also is the publishing Director in ~ WHE.