Shogunate Japan

In Glogpedia

by bmit14
Last updated 6 years ago

Social Studies
Ancient History

Toggle fullscreen Print glog
Shogunate Japan

Social Classes

The emperorThe emperor of Japan was regarded as the spiritual and symbolic head of the country and descended from the gods. From 1185 onwards, however, the emperor had no real power and his role was mainly ceremonial. He was still seen as the head of state and was expected to officially give the shogun his title and right to rule. The emperor lived in the Imperial Palace in Kyoto.

The shogun was the emperor’s leading general. Between 1185 and 1867, shoguns formed their own governments and controlled Japan. As well as commanding the military, shoguns ran the everyday affairs of the country and were responsible for collecting taxes.


Shogunate Japan


Daimyo were regional landowners allowed to rule provinces in return for providing loyalty and military support to the shogun. While the shogun owned 25 per cent of the land, the rest of the land was divided into 275 regions ruled by different daimyo. The shogun’s authority depended on the loyalty of these daimyo. Each daimyo controlled a private army made up of samurai warriors that were made available to the shogun when needed. Each daimyo depended on the loyalty of his samurai, together with the labour, taxes and military assistance of the peasants living in his province, in order to hold power.


Samurai were warriors who swore allegiance and loyalty to their daimyo. They wore plain, dark clothes bearing a clan crest so they could be easily identified. Male samurai wore two swords denoting their warrior status. Female samurai would also train in martial arts such as archery.



Peasants were the largest single group in Japanese society, making up around 80 per cent of the population. Most peasants were farmers, but this group also included woodcutters, fishermen and mine workers. Unlike European peasants, peasants in Japan were given a higher rank than merchants and craftspeople, because it was believed that they performed an essential and important role in society – that is, producing food on which everyone depended. Despite this higher status, peasants lived a harsh life..

At the bottom of the social ladder were two outcast groups – the eta and the hinin. The eta (‘much filth’) were involved in tasks such as butchery, leatherwork, or burials that involved the handling of dead people or animals. The hinin (‘non-persons’) were undesirables, such as street-cleaners, ex-convicts and actors.



Craftspeople were those who made goods and tools, including sword smiths, printers, boat builders and carpenters. Craftspeople received less official respect than peasants because, according to Confucian thought, people could live without the goods they made. Merchants lived by trading and transporting goods, lending money and running shops. They were given little respect because it was considered that they produced nothing useful themselves, only profited from the hard work of others. Merchants tended to live in the larger towns and cities and, despite their low status, they could be very wealthy.


    There are no comments for this Glog.