History Podcasts

Feudal Japan

Feudal Japan

In this pack, you will find four lesson plans about feudal Japan, including activities, assignments, homework, and keys (all suitable for online teaching), as well as:

  • Multiple choice quiz questions in an excel format
  • Glossary of keywords and concepts in an excel format
  • Timeline with related activity
  • Open questions adaptable for debates, presentations and essays
  • Recommended resources to provide you and your students with a comprehensive list of trustworthy references (includes all media types: videos, texts, primary resources, maps, podcasts, 3D models, etc.).

Your 4 lesson plans will allow you to cover the following topics for medieval Japan:

  • Government and Warfare
  • Daily Life and Society
  • Japan's Geography
  • Arts and Culture

All our education material is varied and built to develop middle and high-school students' skills to succeed in social studies.

You will also find several alternatives in the lesson plans to allow for differentiation and adaptation to your students' level of ability.

We would like to thank the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation very much for giving us the opportunity to develop this resource.

We are a non-profit organization and it is one of our goals to provide quality material to teachers by building engaging courses and finding reliable sources.
If you want to join our team of volunteers and help us create great resources, please contact us.

Medieval Japan

The establishment of the bakufu by Minamoto Yoritomo at the end of the 12th century can be regarded as the beginning of a new era, one in which independent government by the warrior class successfully opposed the political authority of the civil aristocracy. Modern scholarly interpretation, however, has retreated from recognizing a major break and the establishment of feudal institutions with the founding of the Kamakura regime. During the Kamakura period, total warrior dominance was not achieved. There was, instead, what approached a dyarchy with civil power in Kyōto and military power in Kamakura sharing authority for governing the nation. Institutions of the Heian imperial-aristocratic system remained in place throughout the Kamakura age, replaced with new feudal institutions when Kamakura passed from the scene.

During the Gempei War, Yoritomo established his headquarters in Kamakura and entrusted the suppression of the Taira to his younger brothers Noriyori and Yoshitsune. Meanwhile, he gathered a following of great eastern warrior leaders and began to lay the foundation for a new military government. In 1180, for example, Yoritomo set up the Samurai-dokoro ( Board of Retainers), a disciplinary board to control his multiplying military vassals. General administration was handled by a secretariat, which was opened four years later and known as the Kumonjo (later renamed the Mandokoro). In addition, a judicial board, the Monchūjo, was set up to handle lawsuits and appeals. These institutions represent the emergence of Yoritomo’s regime (the term bakufu was used only later in retrospect).

In 1185, after the destruction of the Taira family at the Battle of Dannoura, Yoritomo was granted the right to appoint his vassals, or gokenin (“housemen”) as military governors ( shugo) in the provinces and military stewards ( jitō) in both public and private landed estates. It was the job of the shugo to recruit metropolitan guards and keep strict control over subversives and criminals. The jitō collected taxes, supervised the management of landed estates, and maintained public order.

Although the Gempei War ended in 1185, a dispute between Yoritomo and his brother Yoshitsune resulted in continued warfare until 1189, when Yoritomo finally destroyed the northern Fujiwara family of Mutsu province (modern Aomori prefecture), which had sheltered his rebellious brother. Three years later Yoritomo went to Kyōto and was appointed shogun (an abbreviation of seii taishōgun “barbarian-quelling generalissimo”), the highest honour that could be accorded a warrior. Though he kept the title only briefly and was not known by that term in the documents he issued to manage Kamakura affairs, “shogun” ultimately emerged as the title associated with the head of a bakufu. At first the chief base of the Kamakura bakufu lay in the shōen seized from the Taira family and in the limited administrative revenues from public estates in provinces granted to Yoritomo by the imperial court. But later the bakufu was able to expand its influence over lands that were still controlled by the civil provincial governors, as well as the private estates of the civil aristocracy and the temples and shrines.

The First Known Ninja School

For a century or more, the blend of Chinese and native tactics that would become ninjutsu developed as a counter-culture, without rules. It was first formalized by Daisuke Togakure and Kain Doshi around the 12th century.

Daisuke had been a samurai, but he was on the losing side in a regional battle and forced to forfeit his lands and his samurai title. Ordinarily, a samurai might commit seppuku under these circumstances, but Daisuke did not.

Instead, in 1162, Daisuke wandered the mountains of southwest Honshu where he met Kain Doshi, a Chinese warrior-monk. Daisuke renounced his bushido code, and together the two developed a new theory of guerrilla warfare called ninjutsu. Daisuke's descendants created the first ninja ryu, or school, the Togakureryu.

Key Elements of Warcraft


In Feudal Japan, the samurai warlord and his band of soldiers relied on several unique tools in their arsenal and employed various techniques to overcome their enemy. These tools and tactics developed and changed over the long period, but a few are worth noting.

The Way of the Blade

Among the Samurai’s tools, perhaps the most identifiable weapon was the sword. It was what some, including Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, have called “the soul of the samurai.” The time-consuming and artful process whereby the artisan forged the sword, an almost ritualistic procedure, made the swordsman appreciate it that much more.

The goal of the sword maker was to create a weapon that cut well and did not break in battle. While Japanese put great emphasis on ornate decoration in architecture and on tea bowls, the sword was functional first, decorative second. Samurai purchased swords knowing that this piece was to kill in order to protect.

A distinct sword etiquette developed during the peaceful, unified Japan of the Tokugawa Era. Bumping into a samurai’s sword—even if by accident and while the sword was in its sheath—was a very serious offense. Carrying a sword into a fellow friend’s house would violate the friendship. The visitor would typically leave the sword outside, but sometimes carry his smaller sword, the wakizashi, inside. Showing the blade was also a breach of etiquette, unless swordsmen were admiring each other’s weapons.

As the samurai class began to fade in the late nineteenth century, so too did the sword. Samurai were put into retirement and in 1876, the wearing of swords by anyone other than those in the new armed forces was illegal.


Armor for the samurai, while not so symbolic, was highly important. Initially, armor was much heavier, but the Mongol horses that the samurai had come to use required the horseman to be light. Since speed was his prime defense, lamellar armor became the standard. The lamellae were small scales of iron tied tightly together to make a horizontal strip, which was then lacquered. These strips were then laced together, overlapping one another to make a solid breastplate that would repel an arrow or deflect a sword.

Over the soldier’s arms were long cloth socks, sewn with metal plates. On his head was a helmet, typically a heavy metal bowl made from a series of iron plates riveted together. There was much loyalty that came with armor. During the Warring States period, samurai wore a colorful sashimono, a little banner on the back of the armor, to acknowledge his loyalty to his lord.


These essential pieces of warcraft assisted and encouraged warlords throughout the land and throughout the times. The samurai’s strategy in the field to protect or gain additional domains altered with technology. Initially, a samurai and his archers would launch a volley of arrows to commence a formal battle. Champion fighters from each side would engage each other one might issue a challenge, typically picking a worthy opponent, and likely chant out his lineage of ancestors whom he honored in the fight.

Over time, military strategy moved from formal feats of swordsmanship and close combat to frontal assaults by large armies. Advances in weaponry largely caused this shift. For instance, the Portuguese introduced the gun in the 1540s soon Japanese artisans began to mimic and mass produce weapons. The common model was the lightweight musket, fired by lighting a touch hole. The accuracy was not so great, but the availability of the gun encouraged many field commanders to send large volleys of ammunition into opposing forces. The musket eventually replaced the bow and arrow, a device that took more strength and skill.

When rival daimyo could not coordinate open battle in the field, or when an aggressive samurai lord wanted to press another into a fight, a siege proved useful. The primary skill necessary in siege success was patience. Samurai, with their archers, footsoldiers, and cavalry surrounding a castle, would wait out their victim. Eventually the inhabitants of the castle would run out of supplies or be starved out of the fortress. Some who staked out the castle would make large-scale attacks, sometimes using cannon that they had acquired from the Europeans.

Toyotomi Hideyoshi was known for his expertise with the siege. In the late sixteenth century, he carried out a series of attacks that brought several domains under his control. His practices included everything from bribery to flooding—he once diverted a river into a castle, flooding out his enemy.

These were the essential weapons and methods that Japan relied on throughout its feudal period, until a modernized, conscripted armed forces was created with the Meiji Restoration in the late nineteenth century.

Where to Stay on Taketomi Island?

Okinawa's pristine islands are home to plenty of luxurious tropical style resorts, but none are quite as impressive as Hoshinoya's Taketomi outpost. This sprawling cluster combines the traditional designs of the island like the red-tiled roofs with more hotel-style finishes, yet still blending seamlessly with the surroundings. You can opt for either Japanese or western style rooms, while the restaurant serves nouvelle French cuisine using locally sourced island produce, a perfect blend of elements.

Two questions about feudal Japan

Japanese history is neat and I’ve been fortunate enough to visit hundreds of historical sights in Japan. There’s two aspects of Japanese history that confuse me.

People always describe the shift of power from emperor to shogun as the samurai “organizing.” What does that even mean? Was it a National Union of samurai? Did they forget about their lords and swear to the shogun? How did it happen that fast?

During the warring states period in Japan, there were hundreds of wars between each noble family. So, were these “warring states,” considered countries and completely independent? Or did they behave like sub-states that were fighting? Did they still swear fealty to the emperor?

Society became feudal in a similar sense to European feudalism of the High Middle Ages, so that essentially people were more beholden to their local Lord than to the Emperor. The Shogun was essentially the highest lord in the feudal system and the conflicts started partly - although far from entirely - out of power struggles between the various lords due to the powerlessness of the waning Ashikaga Shogunate and all the other daimyo wanting to replace them.

During the warring states period in Japan, there were hundreds of wars between each noble family. So, were these “warring states,” considered countries and completely independent? Or did they behave like sub-states that were fighting? Did they still swear fealty to the emperor?

They have this phrase, which is 上洛, joraku, that means to enter Rakuyo, the ancient name for the capital. You will see many warlords use that phrase as their emphasis on the legitimacy of their claim to their holdings.

They are nominally sworn to the emperor, who was divine, and the shogun, the representative of the civilian structures. There are also fiefs which either belong to the samurai clans or divine provinces, so while they call each of their little fiefdoms ɼountries' they don't consider themselves independent from either the emperor or the shogun. They don't swear fealty to the emperor, as emperor is divine, thus you can't even see him unless you are around a certain rank. And when they are in the process of joraku, they are actually participating in the government of the shogunate in their various offices.

People always describe the shift of power from emperor to shogun as the samurai “organizing.” What does that even mean? Was it a National Union of samurai? Did they forget about their lords and swear to the shogun?

The Taira and Minamoto were branches of the imperial family who own lands across the country. The Taira were more like your typical civilian administrators whereas the Minamotos were your typical samurai warriors. During the Genpai War, Minamoto thoroughly defeated the Tairas and pretty much killed everyone, and they form a separate government structure from the imperial government which copied the Tang government form. So if you watch Japanese shows or video games about these periods, you will note that they have multiple titles because there is a ɼivilian' government which are puppets but useful to show your legitimacy and the military government from the Shogunate.

To understand the sengoku Jidai you must understand what came before.

Japan up until the 13th century was a "bureaucracy", much like China. The country was ruled by the court in Kyoto, and at the center of the court was the emperor. Taxes and law were handled by a structure of bureaucrats.

Unlike China, where the bureacrats were rich commoners that passed an examination to receive their post, in Japan they were mostly appointed to their positions by a high-ranking court official or, seldomly, the emperor. This paved the way to the formation of the first political dinasties, as families with enough money and influence to move to Kyoto and live near the emperor held a virtual monopoly of government positions.

The emperor's family was huge. The emperor could have as many wives and concubines as he wished, and this led to many, many children. After a few generations, the Imperial House of Japan was a maze of major and minor branches, many of wich fell out of favor over time. These minor branches would often find themselves sent off to the countryside as "provincial officials", away from the opulence and influence of Kyoto.

Japan, at this time, had little need for an army. The emperor was the sovereign of the islands, and both China and Korea had good relations. There was, then, no organized warfare, and things like brigands and pirates could be dealth with without large-scale military effort.

Three things would change this, though:

The mongol invasions. The Yuan dinasty in China tried twice to invade Japan, in 1274 and 1281. Even with the "divine wind" storms that destroyed most of their fleets, the elements that landed in Japan gave the japanese soldiers a serious run for their money.

The Conquest of the Northeast. "Japan" in the 12-13th century was largely Kansai and everything east of it. Ambitious aristocrats, however, began expanding to modern-day Kanto and beyond, witch brought them to conflict with the native peoples that inhabited the area.

Succession conflicts were becoming more and more common as the branches of the Imperial House fought over government positions, inheritances and even the imperial crown. This would, in time, coalesce in the Genpei War, a huge conflict that tore the nation in two.

Soldiers became necessary. To protect the nation, expand it to the rest of the isles and fight in the nobles' power plays. And the forgotten minor branches of the Imperial House jumped headfirst into it. This is origin of the Bushi, the warrior class. The Bushi were basically noble-blooded mercenaries.

The greatest of the warrior clans was the Minamoto, that shifted from supporting factions withing the Genpei War to becoming its own faction. The Minamoto destroyed their rivals, but instead of entering the capital and having to endure the stuffy, highly inneficient imperial bureaucracy and palace life they decided to form a Bakufu, a "camp government", in wich the Emperor delegated government positions to bushis loyal to the Minamoto clan and their successors. This was the origin of the Shogunate.

Bushi clans were technically under the control of the Emperor. They were samurai after all. The very word means "servant". But since the economic and military power was at their hands, the emperor's authority was almost purely ceremonial. The courts were still important, but only as the "center of the nation" where you went to form connections and mediate disputes.

You have to keep in mind that the Emperor most often than not was just a figure head without real imperial power. Before the samurai, there were the nobles, and even the brief period of time where the Emperor held some power, it was actually the High Emperor, the emperor's father that held power for him.

The samurai started off as servants of the nobles, who were the title owners of lands. Nobles had to attend court in the capital, so they left the actual management of their land to their servants. Some land owners/managers at the region were actually noble of Royal descent, like the Minamoto clan. Because feudal system relies on the land and power came from people getting levied from the land, the actual managers of the land became the power holders.

The catalyst for the formal change was the Genpei War, a fight for power between two factions if royal descents, the Minamoto/Gen and the Taira/Pei. At the beginning it was just court rivalry, then late on it became all out all and each faction mobilized their servants and land managers in their bid for power. The Minamoto won out and established the Shougunate to rule over all the land owning samurai, because the nobles had no real power. The Hojo, who were the servants of Minamoto, took over later and this system lasted until the Meiji Restoration.

So, it was by no means "organized" unless you want to use the term to describe the first large scale organized civil war. How the Emperor gained and lost power was itself very messy and complicated.

So we have established there were two types of landowners, nominal and actual. The actual landowners could do whatever they want provided in the absence of the nominal owners that they were without internal resistance, because land wasn't managed as a single piece. The actual landowners sometime chased out the residues of the nominal owners and "unified" that pot of the land, and ask the court for recognition. The court would usually give them because they would sent money and gifts, as the court was quite poor since Sengoku. These landowners would become Damyos, the equivalent of a medieval European counts or dukes, who were fully autonomous within their own domain but still had to answer to their overlords if they had one.

End of the War and Aftermath:

What remained of the Taira loyalist army retreated into their heartland. It took the Minamoto some time to mop them up. Almost a year after Yoshitsune ousted his cousin from Kyoto, in February of 1185, the Minamoto seized the Taira fortress and make-shift capital at Yashima.

On March 24, 1185, the final major battle of the Genpei War took place. It was a naval battle in the Shimonoseki Strait, a half-day fight called the Battle of Dan-no-ura. Minamoto no Yoshitsune commanded his clan's fleet of 800 ships, while Taira no Munemori led the Taira fleet, 500 strong. The Taira were more familiar with the tides and currents in the area, so initially were able to surround the larger Minamoto fleet and pin them down with long-range archery shots. The fleets closed in for hand-to-hand combat, with samurai leaping aboard their opponents' ships and fighting with long and short swords. As the battle wore on, the turning tide forced the Taira ships up against the rocky coastline, pursued by the Minamoto fleet.

When the tides of battle turned against them, so to speak, many of the Taira samurai jumped into the sea to drown rather than being killed by the Minamoto. The seven-year-old Emperor Antoku and his grandmother also jumped in and perished. Local people believe that small crabs that live in the Shimonoseki Strait are possessed by the ghosts of the Taira samurai the crabs have a pattern on their shells that looks like a samurai's face.

After the Genpei War, Minamoto Yoritomo formed the first bakufu and ruled as Japan's first shogun from his capital at Kamakura. The Kamakura shogunate was the first of various bakufu that would rule the country until 1868 when the Meiji Restoration returned political power to the emperors.

Ironically, within thirty years of the Minamoto victory in the Genpei War, political power would be usurped from them by regents (shikken) from the Hojo clan. And who were they? Well, the Hojo were a branch of the Taira family.

Japanese Hairstyles Male 2017

There was a time in Japan&rsquos history when men wore their hair long and tied in a simple ponytail or bun. This was the standard look and was preferred over anything else. There are places not only in Japan but also in some places in the world, where when a man cuts his hair short it is a sign of weakness and shame.

The good thing is that this is not the trend anymore. Men have the option to wear their hair very short, semi-short, or long. There is a multitude of haircuts which are popular in Japan. Although it is much less common, there are some men in Japan who wear their head cleanly shaven. This is common for men who have thinning hair and would rather cut it off entirely. Some wear their hair very short. This is especially popular for students and younger people. There are also some people who still like wearing their hair long.

Thick hair is best for that Asian idol look where the hair is overgrown to the sides and the guy gets bangs. The hair is then cut in a shaggy layer and sometimes colored with browns and blondes. This particular hairstyle is very common for actors, idols, and models.

What is interesting as well is that Japanese men are now more attentive to their hair. There are salons that offer up treatments, hair spas, head massages specifically for men. There are aromas and scents for shampoos and other hair products which are made for guys. It is not anymore taboo to see men caring about their hair, it is already considered good hygiene in fact.

Feudal Japan - History

Historical Maps of Japan

    (d-maps.com) (Pardee School of Global Studies - Center for the Study of Asia) (University of Southern California) (Center for Strategic and International Studies( (University of Alabama) (John C. Huntington) (J. Murdoch, I. Yamagata, 1903) (The Samurai Archives Japanese History Page) (University of Alabama) (American Geographical Society Library Digital Map Collection) (David Rumsey Map Collection) (G. William Skinner, University of Washington) (CHGIS Harvard University) (Library of Congress) (Yale University Library Digital Collections)
  • Japan Maps (Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection) (East Asian Library, University of California, Berkeley) (University of British Columbia) (oldmapsonline.org)

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Farmer's Clothing Jackets & Vests (noragi)

Japanese farm women spun and loomed cotton fabric so that they could make clothing for their family. Fabric that they did not use at home was often sold for supplemental income. This homemade, hand-stitched rural work clothing is called noragi in Japanese. Jackets, vests and monpe pants were the three most common noragi garments. The noragi tradition was passed down from each generation to the next, from mother to daughter, and became part of the basic homemaking repertoire of every Japanese farm woman. These women not only made clothing but also created other household items from the cotton fabric: futon (mattress) covers, curtains, furniture covers, aprons, and other workaday articles. Indigo was the primary textile color. Kasuri, katazome and shibori patterns were popular and were often incorporated into the fabrics&rsquo design. These patterns enriched the fabrics, evoking a feeling of joy and sometimes mythical significance, thereby helping to alleviate the routine drudgery of farm life. The vintage/antique farm clothing we catalog and sell on this site were actually used by Japanese farm women, who wore the garments while working in the house or in the fields. In addition to their household workload, Japanese women spent as much time laboring in the fields as their men. Their clothing might have been made from scraps or new fabric, or a combination of the two.

Farmer Clothing Collection

Introduction: What is Feudal Japan?

Feudal Japan was the period of time when the daimyo family, the military controller (shogun), the Warriors and the Samurai ruled all of Japan. This was the way the Japanese lived from the 12th Century until the 19th century. The military power in Japanese culture meant that the power and authority of the Emperor were minimised. There are many reasons of why feudalism disappeared in Japan, such as the Black Death and people not in favour of the system. Once the domination of the military rule ended in Japan the Emperor was given back its importance and control over the country.

This website will cover the topic of “Crime and Punishment during Feudal Japan”. It will contain much information about the punishments for crimes and how they developed and changed over the years.

Watch the video: 81b. ΙΑΠΩΝΙΑ - JAPAN: Zen, Koyasan, Koya, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Japanese migration (January 2022).