The samurai, the warrior nobility of the pre-modern Japan, was on the top of the class hierarchy up to the Tokugawa shogunate. This was the time of feudalism in Japan. A Shogun is said to be the owner of the entire country with lesser lords under him. The class hierarchy was rigid and the vassal-lord relationship was strong. The samurai’s way of life was that of being servant to a lord, often giving up his life to protect that of his master’s.
Samurais were often rewarded with lands to recognize their fealties to their lords.
These warriors were sticklers for tradition, as shown in the movie the “Last Samurai.” They would fight to uphold their cultural roots and maintain the old ways of Japan. This kind of inflexibility made Japan non-progressive in older times. It called for blind loyalties to masters. Samurais, as servants, have to kill when ordered by their masters, or commit seppuku when their lords would do the same.
Also, despite being landowners, samurais were often poorer than their tenants since they can only collect fixed taxes for the use of their lands.
Modernization, as advocated by the Meiji Restoration after the Togukawa reign ended, is the direct opposite of the shogunate system. It was no longer necessary for the samurais to pledge fealty to a lord. They can be free men. They can be prosperous and become involved in the state of affairs in their own country. Every class obtained a voice and were permitted access to jobs.
A peasant need not be poor and uneducated.
Modernization brought with it new opportunities, new jobs, better facilities, new infrastructures, and knowledge to people from all walks of life. Bridges and roads allowed for commerce to prosper by providing access to far-flung places. Farmers and traders can go to capitals with their crops or wares to exchange them for other goods or for money. Without a doubt, modernization was needed to transform a country that was rotting with time.
Samurai. Japan-Guide Home Page. Retrieved June 20, 2008, from