McGraw-Hill SocialStudies 2003 Return to Unit List
Feudal Japan
Grade 6
Lesson Summary Lesson Summary
Unit 3: New Forces in the World
Chapter 12: New Empires in Asia
Lesson 5: Feudal Japan
The Land of Japan

The four main islands of Japan form a 1,300-mile-long chain. The islands are mountainous and have very little land suitable for farming and very few mineral resources. The Japanese blended ideas from China and Korea into their own unique culture. Their religion is called Shinto, which means “the way of the gods.” Shinto belief states that everything in nature has a spirit of its own. Shintoists also believe Japan’s emperor is descended from their sun goddess.

Emperor, Shogun, and Daimyo

While the emperor was the ruler of Japan, powerful families also fought for control. These families were headed by a daimyo who controlled large areas of land. As in feudal Europe, lords controlled land worked by peasant farmers. Samurai were soldiers who fought for the lord and protected his land. Lords were vassals of military leaders called shoguns. Below the ruling class were farmers, craftworkers, and merchants who showed complete respect to the ruling class. The shogun eventually became the head of a military government called the shogunate. Tokugawa Ieyasu began the Tokugawa Shogunate which reorganized Japanese society and lasted for over 200 years. Daimyo supervised local government and remained loyal to the shogun or lost their land.

Life in the Shogunate

Daimyo had to give expensive gifts to the shoguns as a way to keep them from being able to afford war against the shogun. A 300 mile-long road was built to connect Edo and Kyoto, the 2 capitals of the time. All daimyo lived in Edo while the Emperor lived in Kyoto. Edo grew wealthy and the arts flourished. In 1635, Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu wanted to end foreign influence in Japan and forbade anyone to go abroad. Japan remained closed to the world for over 200 years.