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Tokugawa Shogunate in Japan’s History

Jonathan Mendez Global Civilization II Professor Michael Efthimiades March 6, 2009 Tokugawa Shogunate in Japan’s History The Tokugawa shogunate, also known as the Tokugawa bakufu, and the Edo bakufu was a feudal regime of Japan established by Tokugawa Ieyasu and ruled by the shoguns of the Tokugawa family. This period is known as the Edo period and gets its name from the capital city of Edo, now Tokyo.

The Tokugawa shogunate ruled from Edo Castle from 1603 until 1868, when it was abolished during the Meiji Restoration. Before the Tokugawa period there were additional movements amongst these classes, but the Tokugawa Shoguns intentions were to maintain their power and privilege, which in fact restricted any other movements. There main focus was to protect the samurai which made any upward mobility from the farming class to the samurai impossible.

In 1586 shogun Hideyoshi dictated that farmers maintain on their land and then on 1587 he dictated again that only samurai would be allowed to carry the long sword, which would later define them as a class. The shoguns were becoming less successful as economic conditions changed, but managed to maintain the rigid boundaries separating the other classes. The population was divided into four distinct classes: samurai, farmers, craftspeople, and traders.

Samurai were the warrior class which was ruled by the shogun himself and beneath him were the daimyo which were the local lords who controlled large amounts of land. In large cities such as Edo they severed as officials in the Shogun’s government or as policemen. The farmers were the ones that produced the rice which in fact bonded the social hierarchy. The shogun was responsible for the distribution of this national crop in which he took 20% off the top for himself and distributed significant amounts to the local lords.

The craftspeople had difficulties determining the division from the merchants because for example a cloth maker would engage in selling his products but the enterprise might also extend in other directions which would interfere with the merchants. The merchants were in position to become the wealthiest but were at the bottom of the social hierarchy due to the Confucian belief that merchants did not produce anything like farmers and craftspeople. Despite their lack of productions there was money to be made which they did so off the productive labor of others.

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