Feudalism in Japan and W. Europe Essay
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At a time when their governments could not sustain a stable centralized power, Japan and Western Europe both adapted their governments to fit their needs and adopted the feudal system. Although, the reasons why these two areas turned to feudalism are different, both societies had many centuries of this similar type of government. European feudalism was influenced most likely by the fall of the Roman empire and Germanic tribes (and other external forces) who had tried to invade them.
Japan, on the other hand, adopted the system to settle internal disputes in the country and to split up the land between the nobility; Japanese feudalism developed because of internal attacks by groups of uncontrolled armies and had a more military aspect.
Japan would later discover that the structure of having smaller feudal systems was bad for their economy. However, both Japan and Western Europe formed feudalistic societies to provide protection and stability for everyone. Japanese and Western European societies were able to embrace feudalism because both economies were dominantly agricultural.
The only difference was in Japan, a human work force toiled the land, which slowed their production. This was not the case in Western Europe, where cows and oxen were used to work the land instead. As a result, Europe was able to increase the amount of land under cultivation. This brought more money in and built the economy considerably well. Furthermore, Japan’s location made is hard for them to trade with anyone except China, who had access to the Silk Roads. This was not the case for Western Europe, where there were many trading partners nearby.
All things considered, merchants were not significant in the feudal system; being neither landowners nor peasants. They didn’t have a place in society, and weren’t seen as intellectually inclined. Feudal Japanese and European societies were both built on a system of hereditary classes. This type of system requires and depends on every class in society, from peasant to lord. In Europe, aristocratic women were more equal to husbands; they owned land without male interference; they could inherit and sue.
On the contrary, Japanese aristocratic women were isolated, and seen as somewhat insignificant in their roles. There was very little social mobility; the children of farmers became farmers, while the children of lords became lords and ladies. Under this system, everyone had a well-defined place in the social structure. In both cases, the social hierarchy attempted, with much success, to control everyone’s lives; everyone owed their fealty to someone, except for the monarchy in Europe or the Emperor in Japan, who didn’t owe loyalty to anyone, since there was no higher authority in society.
In addition, both societies had similar types of weaponry and skilled swordsmen and warriors were feared and respected. Furthermore, The official religion of Feudal European countries was Christianity, and the Roman Catholic Church was the only church. This was not the case with Feudal Japan, where religion was not affiliated in the government, guiding a more religious freedom. In Japan, feudalism was based on the teachings on Confucius and was entranced in respect for superiors. In European, feudalism was a social contract that offered protection to peasants from those with more means.
In Japan, the real political and military power was in the hands of the shogun. The emperor was only a puppet figure with almost no actual power. Much like in Europe, where the land was split between the nobility, the shogun distributed lands to his loyal subjects, the daimyo. The daimyo then granted lands to the warriors, the samurai. In both feudal Japan and Europe, constant warfare made warriors the most important class. Additionally, both societies had multiple states, fragmented.