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Feudalism in Japan

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Post #682623
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9:01 pm, Aug 1 2016
Posts: 4


Hello all!

Yuutsu Na Asa is one of my favourite yaoi manga series. However, I came to realise while re-reading it in anticipation of Sublime Manga releasing volume 6 in English that I do not know much of Japanese history, and the setting the manga takes place in. SO I rolled up my sleeves, paid google and my local library visit and did some research. Must say it has been enlightening, and has given me some deeper insight into what is going on in the manga.

Since I prefer to not be selfish, I am going to share my findings with you! So without further ado, here is some information on Japanese Feudalism.

Basics: What is Feudalism?
Feudalism was the economic system of the middle ages in Europe and Japan. It was based on lords offering their knights land grants in exchange for military service. The deal, and the terms, for the land grants were often sworn based on religious grounds. The vassal promised military service for 40 days/year during times of peace, and indefinite service in times of war.

In turn these knights could divide up the land and disperse it to lesser knights and lords. The land division would then divide further, portions of the land were called fiefs, and given to even lesser lords and knights. The rulers of the land would then rent it out to peasants, who farmed the land instead of paying a monthly tax for it.

The results for European and Japanese feudalism were:
1. No unified government. Although the highest tiers of lordship swore loyalty to the King or Emperor, the lesser vassals real rulers were the Lords giving them the land. Note these transactions were between individuals, not countries nor nation states. As a result, there was often in-fighting between the lesser vassals, and the Kings and Emperors often tried to not get involved in such affairs. A sort-of example could be seen in the setting the play Macbeth was set in: Macbeth had his own castle and subjects, and ruled as Lord (called Thane in Scotland).

2. The feudal system prevented economic growth, unlike mercantilism and capitalism. This is because the workers of the land, called serfs, were often forced to stick with the Lord the land grant came from. They had to grind their grain, bake bread, and sell and trade among the other peasants living and working on the Lord's lands. They had to pay fees for everything from a tax on the food they harvested to a tax on using bridges their lords built. If anyone has ever seen the movie Dragonheart, an example of this is in one of the scenes one of King Einon's Lords tries to convince the king to grant a road tax on people travelling through the Lord's lands.


European vs Japanese Feudalism:
European feudalism grew out of the ashes of the Western Roman Empire, and Germanic traditions; while Japanese feudalism grew out of Confucian philosophy. The results were similar but different versions of the medieval feudalistic system.

Similarities
1. In both feudal Japan and Europe, constant warfare made warriors the most important class. Called "knights" in Europe and "samurai" in Japan, the warriors served local lords. In both cases, the warriors were bound by a code of ethics. Knights were supposed to hew to the concept of chivalry, while samurai were bound by the precepts of bushido, or "the Way of the Warrior."

2. a social system of various classes with little possibility of mobility from one class to another
proffering of allegiance in exchange for protection

3. a warrior class with a code of honor and a peasant class tied to the land.

4. Both societies also had clergy that functioned outside the normal feudal system.

5. In Japanese feudal society, the shogun, representing the emperor, ruled through daimyo, or feudal lords. In European feudalism, the king ruled through his nobles.

6. Both societies had strong warrior classes that pledged allegiance to their lords.

7. Peasants in both societies were bound to the land and turned over a portion of their produce in return for protection.

8. The Shinto and Buddhist priests of feudal Japan and the various levels of Catholic clergy in European feudalism existed outside the strict manorial system.

9. Women in both societies were expected to submit to male heads of households.

Differences
1. European feudalism grew out of the Roman Empire, and has ties to Catholicism; Japanese feudalism is tied to Buddhism, and Confucian ideals.

2. Philosophy of Feudalism
a) In Japan, moral beliefs centered around filial piety and the idea of duty. The daimyo and samurai had a moral obligation to protect the peasants living on their land, while the peasants had a moral obligation to respect and pay food taxes to the nobility in return. Neither party, culturally speaking, could sway from this arrangement.
b) the knights and peasants of Europe viewed feudalism as a reciprocal benefit, but were more flexible on the moral aspect.

3. The samurai of Japan did not independently own land. Instead, the daimyo allotted them a portion to live on and paid an income based in rice.

4. Resistance to change during the last half of the second millennium CE
a) The Japanese feudal system was also more resistant to change. After the unification of Japan in the early 1600s, the country expelled all foreigners in 1639, and it closed off the land, aside from a Dutch trading post in Nagasaki and a few other ports. This nearly eliminated foreign influence and most importantly firearms, which were a force equalizer that helped eliminate the knights' hold over Europe.
b) Meanwhile, European feudalism ended with the medieval era, and gave rise to mercantilism during European exploration and the beginning of the colonial era.

Going to move this to a second forum post, as this is kinda long.


Last edited by vadess40 at 10:15 pm, Aug 1

Post #682624
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9:38 pm, Aug 1 2016
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What was Feudalism like in Japan?
The era of feudalism in Japan took place from the 12th through 19th centuries CE. Yuutsu Na Assa takes place near the end of that era, and focus more on the transition from the feudal, isolationist system to more of an open policy towards foreigners. It was longer than European feudalism, and it shaped much of Japanese history.

Even though Confucius was Chinese philosopher, his beliefs and teachings spread to Japan and helped shape the feudal system. Confucius stressed morality and filial piety, or respect for elders and other superiors. As a result, the samurai and lords build a code of ethics around their duty to care for the people on their lands, and to protect them. Furthermore, it was their duty to serve their Lords and the duty of the Lords to serve the Emperor. In turn it was the duty and honour of the peasants, artisans, and merchants to give back to their lords. This duty and honour was not easily changed, nor subverted.

Spoiler (mouse over to view)
This where much of the conflict between Kuze and Katsuragi stem from in the manga: Kuze wants to upturn the hierarchy and class differences within the Kuze household, and between himself and Katsuragi (i.e. wanting to walk side-by-side as equals). Katsuragi, and the servants in the Kuze household, could not even fathom sitting as an equal at the table with Kuze because as far as they are concerned, it is dishonorable to even attempt such a thing.


Hierarchy in Feudal Japan

Samurai
Samurai were the Knights of feudal Japan, who were the most powerful figures during that time period. In Blue Morning Kuse Akihito descended from a Samurai family. They commanded respect and obedience from their subjects so much so, people were to bow when a Samurai walked by, a Samurai who could behead them if they refused.

Unlike in European feudalism, Japanese samurai did not own any land. Instead, the daimyo, who were the lords in feudal Japan, used a portion of their income from taxing the peasants to pay the samurai a salary, usually paid in rice. Although women were subservient to men in feudal Japan, Samurai women, for example, were expected to be strong like the men, and to face death without flinching. In addition, samurai were supposed to be cultured and artistic, able to compose poetry or write in beautiful calligraphy.

The only people Samurai answered to were Daimyo, and Daimyo answered to Shoguns.

Daimyo: feudal lords in Japan (means 'great name' in English) who rented out their land to Samurai. While I cannot confirm, from reading the manga Marquise Moriyama is most likely a Daimyo, hence why it was
Spoiler (mouse over to view)
Scandalous for Kuze to threaten him, never mind Katsuragi making any demands of him in volumes 4 and 5.
.

Shogun: most powerful military ruler among the Daimyo. They served only the Emperor

Farmers/Peasants: Second highest class beneath the Samurai. Unlike in Europe, farmers were considered an important class because Confucius pointed out that farmers are the ones who make all the food people live off of. In spite such honour, the farmers lived under a crushing tax burden for much of the feudal era. For example, as taken from the Asian history website I got the information from, during the reign of the third Tokugawa shogun, Iemitsu, farmers were not allowed to eat any of the rice they grew. They had to hand it all over to their daimyo, and then wait for him to give some back as charity.

Artisans: Made the clothing, cooking untensils, and other tools needed to live life
they were considered less important than the farmers. Even skilled samurai sword makers and boatwrights belonged to this third tier of society in feudal Japan. The artisan class lived in its own section of the major cities, segregated from the samurai (who usually lived in the daimyos' castles), and from the lower merchant class. I think Katsuragi's family, and the servants in Kuze's household, were part of this class in the manga.

Merchants In Blue Morning, the Ishizaki (?) family were part of this class. It's probably why Marquise Moriyama looked down on them with such disdain: Not only were they at the bottom of the barrel in feudal Japan, but they were a wealthy powerhouse in spite of it. According to one source, "Merchants were ostracized as "parasites" who profited from the labor of the more productive peasant and artisan classes. Not only did merchants live in a separate section of each city, but the higher classes were forbidden to mix with them except on business."

In Blue Morning, as said before, the Ishizaki family are merchants. Since this is later in the feudal era, the restrictions placed on merchants were lessening because most of them were well off and wealthy. The dichotomy between old ways and new ways, I think anyway, are most prominent in the scenes that involve them: People like Moriyama and Katsuragi range from barely tolerating them to complete disdain; meanwhile, Kuze was proving to taking the steps towards the modern era by allying with them and befriending the heir at the same time. And his friend took things a step further by openly criticizing Kuze on numerous occasions, and often they were very unsolicited.

References Used
Feudalism in General:
https://web.cn.edu/kwheeler/feudalism.html
http://asianhistory.about.com/od/japan/a/Feudalism-In-Japan-An d-Europe.htm
From References.com
https://www.reference.com/history/similarities-between-japanes e-european-feudalism-7dc0aaa84099843b
https://www.reference.com/history/japanese-feudalism-differen t-european-feudalism-f36f09dd22f9ab
https://www.reference.com/history/did-feudalism-work-fbcb9520 d9f619af#
Japanese Feudalism
http://www.chegg.com/homework-help/definitions/japanese-feud alism-47



Last edited by vadess40 at 9:59 pm, Aug 1

Post #682625
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10:53 pm, Aug 1 2016
Posts: 4


TL;DR: Connections between the history and the Manga:

Class differences fuel much of the conflict between the main characters in the manga. For example, the main characters Kuze Akihito and Katsuragi Tomoyuki are master and servant. Kuze is the descendant of a Samurai family, while Katsuragi is from a more artisan family officially. While I cannot confirm, from reading the manga Marquise Moriyama is most likely at least a Daiymo within the narrative.

In feudal Japan, Kuze is always ahead of Katsuragi and Kuze frequently expresses such disdain that the divide exists at all. Many times throughout the series, the class system is blatantly challenged by Kuze as a result.

For example, Kuze attempts to upturn the hierarchy and class differences within the Kuze household: For example in volume 1 and 2 Kuze tries to get his servants to dine with him at the table during dinner, and many times in the volume Kuze wants Katsuragi to walk side-by-side with him at social gatherings. and between himself and Katsuragi (i.e. wanting to walk side-by-side as equals). Katsuragi, and the servants in the Kuze household, could not even fathom sitting as an equal at the table with Kuze because as far as they are concerned, it is dishonorable to even attempt such a thing.

Note it's not just the underlings who get challenged in terms of their position. Marquise Moriyama is most likely the Daiymo that rules over the households in their area of Japan. In the manga, to challenge him or try to manipulate him to do the bidding of his undelings was unconscionable in feudal Japan. Yet, Kuze and Katsuragi do just that in volumes 4 and 5.

The way the two go about it is a give away the manga takes place at the end of the feudal era. If they were closer to the beginning, Katsuragi and Kuze would've been signing their own death warrants for challenging the Marquise. Instead they got a way with it, and gained the upper hand in the much scheming in the manga.

Speaking of getting ahead, the merchants have a part to play in the manga. Again, if this was early in the era the Merchants probably would have been an afterthought for most of the characters. In Blue Morning, however, the Ishizaki (?) were quite influential in the manga.

Since this is later in the feudal era, the restrictions placed on merchants were lessening because most of them were well off and wealthy. The dichotomy between old ways and new ways, I think anyway, are most prominent in the scenes that involve them: People like Moriyama and Katsuragi range from barely tolerating them to complete disdain; meanwhile, Kuze was proving to taking the steps towards the modern era by allying with them and befriending the heir at the same time. And his friend took things a step further by openly criticizing Kuze on numerous occasions, and often they were very unsolicited.

Does Kuze rebuff his friend's advise and criticisms? No! In fact he welcomes them, walks side-by-side with him on numerous occasions, and apologizes for getting into a fight with him. No wonder so many people in the manga ask, who the hell is this kid?

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