Japan’s original capital city, Nara (also known as Tokyo), was modelled after Chang’an in Tang. Nara accounted for approximately 20,000 of Japan’s 5-6million inhabitants. Between 710 and 784 C.E., Nara was the center of about 20,000 people. During this time (710-784 C.E.), the land was nationalized and distributed equally to peasants. In return, the government paid a labor tax and a land tax. Nara leaders advocated a mixture of Japanese and Chinese cultures. They led ceremonies and rituals in the imperial courts, which were based on Tang Chinese models. But, they also used orchestral music and dances to accompany Japanese versions Chinese instruments. The zither, flute, lute, and other musical instruments were all used. Nara was hit hard by economic ruin and many residents had to leave their homes in search of new land. Japan decided to move its capital from Nara, Japan, to Heian (or Kyoto).
The samurai, or the warrior class, is a high-ranking military officer of Japan’s imperial court. They are descendants from rural lords and military retainers. Although they made up a small portion of the population, they were the most important members of the social hierarchy. The samurai were descendants of nobility. They admired a feudal ideal called Bushido. Because they could provide their own horse and armor, this role attracted more wealthy people. Samurai are known for their loyalty to the leader and indifference towards physical hardship. Samurai vowed to see their missions through. They would commit suicide if they were unable to accomplish their goals or perform their duties. Suicide was viewed as an honorable, respectable act of courage and loyalty to Bushido. While women could become samurai too, few were actually involved in combat. Samurai women were usually devoted to protecting and running the family estates.The first Kamakura Shogun, Minamoto-no-Yoritomo, was commissioned by the emperor of Japan in the 12th century. The shogun was a military dictator who ruled the country under the command of the emperor. They were responsible to the empire’s defense, both internal and exterior. They could also choose who would succeed. While the Kamakura Shingo was nominally under the emperors, it had real power. The Shogunate was overthrown by conspiracies and civil warfare in 1333. They were replaced officially by the Ashikaga family, based in Kyoto (1228-1568).
Ashikaga Shogun was a period when political power was much more decentralized. There were internal conflicts over the claims of local authorities to additional land. Many hundred landowner territorial magnates emerged to help the cause. They were known as daimyo which means “great names”. Each daimyo was able to have his own samurai, which he used to support his welfare and interests, as well as his monopoly over local power.