Emergence of Japan & The Feudal Age
by: Sarah Lassiter
Geography Sets Japan Apart
- Japan is located on an archipelago, or chain of islands
- about 100 miles off the Asian coast
- Four main islands are Hokkaido, Honshu, Kyushu, and Shikoku.
- Japan is about the size of Montana but 4/5 of its land is too mountainous to farm.
- Most people settled in narrow river valleys and along the coastal plains.
- The surrounding sea both protected and isolated Japan
- Close enough to learn from Korea, but too far away for China to conquer.
- Japanese sealed themselves off from foreign influences
- The seas offered plentiful food resources and the Japanese developed a thriving fishing industry.
- However, the forces of nature and the tsunamis affected them greatly
- The Japanese migrated from the Asian mainland more than 2,000 years ago.
- They slowly pushed the earlier inhabitants onto Hokkaido.
- Early Japanese society was divided into uji, or clans.
- Some clan leaders were women, suggesting that women enjoyed a respected position in society.
- about A.C.E 500, the Yamato clan came to dominate a corner of Honshu, the largest Japanese island.
- the Yamato Plain was the heartland of the Japanese government.
- Early Japanese honoured kami, or superior powers that were natural or divine.
- the worship of nature became known as Shinto
- Shinto traditions still survive in modern times and shrines dot all over the mountains.
- The Japanese language is distantly related to the Korean, but it is very distinct from Chinese.
- Korean artisans settled in Japan, bringing sophisticated skill and technology.
- Some of the leading families at the Yamato court claimed Korean ancestors.
Japan Looks to China
- In the early 600s, Prince Shotoku decided to learn about China directly instead of through Korean sources.
- Over the next 200 years, many Japanese students, monks, traders, and officials visited the Tang court.
- The Japanese visited China
- They spent a lot of time studying
- Japanese rulers claimed absolute power.
- 710 Japanese built a new capital at Nara.
- They spoke and dressed in a Chinese fashion.
- The selective borrowing preserved the culture
The Heian Period
- The blending of cultures took place from 794 to 1185
- the imperial capital was in Heian, present-day Kyoto.
- At the court, an elegant and sophisticated cultured blossomed
- Nobles lived in fairy tale atmospheres.
- Although men were allowed to study Chinese, women were forbidden to learn the language.
- It was Heian women who produced the msot important works of Japanese literature of the period.
- Lady Murasaki is one of the best known Heian novelist in this period of time
Warriors Established Feudalism
- Feudal warfare swept Japan in the 1400s.
- a new Japanese culture arose.
- Local warlords and even some Buddhists formed armed bands
- As in the feudal world of Medieval Europe, warrior aristocracy dominated Japanese society.
- Often the shogun controlled only a small part of Japan
- They, in turn, granted to lesser warriors called samurai.
- Samurai developed their own code of values called bushido.
- Noblewoman lost ground during the time of the feudal age.
- peasants, artisans and merchants served as the backbone of the society.
- Japan hold off the Mongols from invading with the help of natural forces.
The Tokugawas Unite Japan
- The Kamakura shogunate crumbled in the aftermath of the Mongol invasions.
- To defend their castles, daimyp gave arms to peasants as well as samurai which led to even more ruthless fighting.
- The central government was imposed and the Tokugawa shoguns were determined to end feudal warfare.
- The economy boomed, while the shoguns tried to hold back social change, the Japanese economy grew leaps and bounds.
- Trade flourished within Japan
Zen Buddhism Shapes Culture
- During Japan's feudal age, a Buddhist sect from China won widespread acceptance among samurai.
- Known in Japan as Zen, it emphasized self-reliance, meditation, and devotion to duty.
- Zen monks were great scholars, yet they valued the uncluttered mind and stressed importance of reaching a monument of "non-knowing"
- Zen Buddhists believed that people could seek enlightenment through meditation and through precise performance of everyday tasks.
Artistic Traditions Change
- Cities such as Edo and Osaka were home to an explosion in the arts and theater.
- Urban culture emphasized luxuries and pleasures and differed greatly from the feudal culture they had been in for centuries.
- New drama developed in the 1300s, feudal culture had produced Noh plays performed on a square.
- Painting and printmaking