Feudalism first appeared in Europe during the 800s CE. However, it was not until the 1100s that feudalism made its appearance in Japan. European feudalism ended with the formation of stronger states in 16th century. Japanese feudalism, however, lasted until 1868. The feudal societies of Japan and Europe were based on hierarchies. The warriors and the farmers were below. Social mobility was minimal; peasants’ children became peasants. Lords’ children became lords.
The king ruled the entire country and owned all its land. The king controlled everything and decided on how much land he would give the barons. Barons must swear an oath in order to stay loyal to the king. As all judicial powers were in the hands the monarch/king, the king could still withdraw the land from the barons and give it another member of their class. In Japan, their leader is called an Emperor. The emperor is the highest authority amongst all classes. The emperor was the highest ranking of the nobles. The shogun was the most powerful person in Japan during its feudal era, while the emperor held a small amount of power. The shogun’s sword, or nihonto (in Japanese), played a major role in his outfit.
The barons/nobles held the most power after the king. The barons/nobles in Europe and Japan were similar. The blood relationship of these people gave them powers and priviledges. Nobles were responsible for overseeing the provinces as well as arranging skilled knights to fight for the King during wars. The nobles were responsible for designing the currency, creating the legal hierarchy and establishing tax regulations for the classes below them. The barons leased the land of the kings. In the feudal hierarchy, the barons ranked second. The lords of manor were known as barons.
They created their own legal systems and tax regulations. The Barons were required to pay taxes and rents in return for the land they had leased from the King. They also had to provide knights who could fight any war. Both feudal Japan & Europe made warriors more important than nobles. These warriors were known as knights or samurai, depending on where they lived. Knights had to adhere to chivalry and samurai to bushido. In feudal Japan there was a class of daimyo warriors called samurai. But samurai also worked under this daimyo. Samurais were required to hold certain privileges, including a family name, a crest and the ability to carry two swords. Even today, people with samurai names are treated with respect. Bushido is the Japanese term for the strict code of honor or “way of the fighter” that samurai followed, even though they were not very well educated. Seppuku is expected of samurai who break the bushido code or bring disgrace to themselves. Women could also serve as a Samurai, but they had to be under the leadership of a man.
They were also known by the name vassal in feudal Europe. In feudal Europe, they were also called vassals. The barons’ families and themselves were also protected by these people. As a reward for their service, they would distribute the land that nobles had given them to lower-level members of society. The feuds and lands they distributed were subject to the guidelines of rent and taxation. European knights received land in return for their military service. They had control over the serfs working that land. Japanese samurai on the other had no land. Instead, they used some of the money that was earned by taxing peasants as a way to pay the samurai.
This class included peasants in Japan who were farmers, artisans, or merchants. In feudal japan the farmers were very important, especially to the shoguns. The Japanese farmers were the main source of food for them. They were able to avoid importing a lot of foreign food. In feudal Japanese society, merchants were the lowest-ranking class. People looked down on merchants because they were dishonestly selling things made by others, and taking their credit. They were rich and were considered one of the most benefited classes in feudal Japan, even though they weren’t popular and were the lowest class. In the Middle Ages, the European peasants had the same social status as the Japanese peasants.
Slaves were sold and bought, as well as serfs who did not have any rights. They were required to feed the upper classes of the society, so they mainly engaged in agriculture. They did not own land, so they had to pay taxes both in cash and kind to those who provided them with land.
Conclusion Even though feudalism ended in Japan, it still persists in certain European countries. Japan and Europe both had feudal societies that shared many similarities, as well as some differences. European feudalism had been around for a little longer than Japanese, being established between the 9th-12th centuries.