The Extent Feudalism Difference In Shogunate Japan Compared To Medieval Europe

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During the Middle Ages, both Shogunate Japan and Medieval Europe developed a feudal system in each of their respective societies, which helped them to maintain order and let everyone know of their place. From 1192-1867 CE lasted a time period in Japanese history where the shogun was essentially the ruler of Japan (Augustyn et al, 2019). Medieval Europe covered the period from 800-1400 CE at the end of the Roman civilisation (Stearns, n.d.). Both Shogunate Japan and Medieval Europe had feudal structures, and while there were some similarities between both of them, there were also some obvious differences, particularly between the higher classes and warrior classes.

The pope in Europe and the emperor in Japan were consider anomalies within the feudal structure of both societies. Both were viewed as divine representatives sent down to the mortal plane, through which the gods do their bidding. While in theory they should have the same amount of political power, in reality in was anything but. The pope often was at the king’s right hand, and had much influence over the working of the country. In comparison, however, the emperor was nothing more than a figurehead, with the shogun being the one actually ruling the country. The majority of the emperor’s decision are controlled by the shogun, unlike Medieval Europe, where the opposite was true. Another significant difference between the two is that while the pope had people who followed him and believed in his words, almost no one looked up to the emperor and acknowledged his status.

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The king of Europe ruled Medieval Europe, with its corresponding class of Shogun ruling the entirety of Japan. While there were some similarities between both classes, there were also some notable differences. One of the most evident differences is how the classes came to power. While the title of king had always been hereditary, the shogun had to come to power before the Tokugawa Shogunate. The Tokugawa Shogunate started in 1603 when a daimyo lord took control of Japan (Augustyn et al, 2019). Ever since then, the title has been hereditary. Another difference is level of control each allowed over each of their subjects. While the king let the nobles in Europe have some amount of freedom, the shogun would keep the daimyos in Japan under a tighter leash for fear of rebellion. This meant the daimyos had to ask the shogun for permission when doing many things, such as forming alliances or renovating their castles.

The next class below the king in Medieval Europe were the nobles, whose corresponding class in Japanese society were the daimyos. The noble class ruled smaller plots of land and commanded large armies; however, there were some differences between those in Japan compared to those in Europe. While both the nobles and daimyos sent their children to other nobles or daimyos, the reasons behind them varied. The nobles would send their child to other households to be trained as a knight, as it was vital for the child to be able to understand the Code of Chivalry. The daimyos would send their child to other households in order to form an alliance with another lord. This action insured that there would be peace between the lords. While the child was at the other lord’s house, they would be trained in the way of a samurai and treated as a guest.

The knights of Europe and the samurai of Japan were considered the warrior class of the population, and were typically owned by the noble class. One of the major differences evident when studying knights and samurai were the different codes they followed. Knights followed the Code of Chivalry, which was developed in 1066, the time of the Norman conquest (Gershon, 2019). Samurai, on the other hand, followed the Code of Bushido, which finished developing between 1600 and 1868 (Szczepanski, 2019). While both codes were particularly focused on honour, the Code of Bushido took it much more seriously to the point where samurai carried around a second, smaller sword to commit suicide, for death was preferable to dishonour. Another difference is that while the armour knights had were made of metal, samurai had leather armour linked together with silk, which would allow them freer movement. However, whatever the knights sacrificed in speed, they made up for in protection.

In conclusion, while the feudal systems in Europe and Japan were quite similar, there were some obvious differences. The most significant differences were evident amongst the upper classes, while the lower classes remained quite similar in both feudal societies.

Reference List

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