|Feudal Japan: A Brief History
1.At the beginning of Japan's feudal period, Japan was organized much like Europe during the Middle Ages. As in Medieval Europe, Japan was divided into small regions ruled by nobles. Nobles paid samurai to fight for them.
2.Samurai means "to serve." Samurai served their nobles and lived under a code of conduct, called bushido, "the way of the warrior." Under bushido, samurai were to be courageous, loyal, and honorable; they would rather die than be defeated.
3. Samurai were the backbone of Japanese society. As well as fighting for nobles, they kept the peace and gathered taxes in villages. They performed the jobs of government.
4. In the 1100's, the Minamoto family conquered much of Japan. The Japanese emperor feared the family would take his throne by force. To keep it, the emperor gave a Minamoto the title, "shogun." The emperor became a figurehead; the shogun ruled all of Japan with one, central government.
5.With the help of samurai, a series of shoguns ruled Japan. Shoguns paid samurai with land. This was a problem. A samurai gave each of his sons a piece of his land, and those sons gave their sons a piece. After years, land was divided into small parts. No one could live.
6. In 1331, the emperor revolted against the Kamakura shogun. Samurai joined the emperor and defeated the Kamakura. Unfortunately, the emperor refused to give land to the samurai. Samurai left the emperor to join another shogun, Ashikaga.
7.The Ashikaga shoguns were weak, and people revolted against their power. Japan was divided into small territories headed by military lords, called daimyo. Though they pledged loyalty to the emperor and shogun, daimyo ruled their territories like independent kingdoms, ignoring the central government.
8. In exchange for land, samurai joined daimyo across Japan. With no support from samurai, the central government broke down. Japan was divided again.