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Japanese Caste System

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Farzana Hoque

on 13 February 2015

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Transcript of Japanese Caste System

The Emperor
The Emperor, along with the Shogun, were the highest ranked nobles of the Japanese feudal system. Although it is expected for the emperor to have the greatest power of the entire country, it actually is the opposite. The emperor just has the image of being the most powerful of the country when in reality it is just a puppet like figure with almost no power. The shogun, however, was ranked second in line but was more effective than the emperor because they had more power. It is only possible for the emperor to stay on top and keep his power because it is believed that the emperor is connected to the Shinto deities.For an emperor, maintaining order throughout the empire is difficult because of the many people that are needed for the whole of Japan to function. Being an emperor is harder than you think even if it seems that he does not hold all power.
The Shogun is the second highest rank on the feudal pyramid of ancient Japan. This position is actually where a person holds the real power of the empire. The Shogun is an appointed strong military leader that works hard to look after the empire. They also supervise private estates found throughout the land, put provinces under military control, and helped create legal and financial government posts. The Shogun was normally the head of the Samurai, which were ranked a couple levels below. In general, a Shogun had as much importance, and maybe more, as the emperor because of his valuable duties and roles as a military leader played in all of Japan.
The Last Samurai
The Shogun
The Last Samurai
The Daimyo
The Last Samurai
The Samurai
The Last Samurai
The Ronin
The Last Samurai
The Farming Peasants
The Last Samurai
The Peasants
The Last Samurai
The Craftsmen & Artisans
The Last Samurai
The Merchants
The Last Samurai
Introduction
Japanese culture and religion have been a strange part of our history that many don't seem to understand. One major part of the Japanese culture is the feudal system, as almost every other country has. After modernizing the Japanese have had a major change in the world. This feudal triangle shown below is the system that was developed
before
the Japanese modernized, it was the true cultural levels of classes that everyone was used to. The movie "The Last Samurai", starring Tom Cruise, shows how Japan was isolated from the world and it wasn't aware of how quickly and efficiently the rest of the world was modernizing.If they did not do the same, they realized, their territory may be vulnerable to invasions. The people of the old feudal system, the samurai in particular, did not approve of Japan modernizing. They felt that the real Japan will fall apart and no one will realize what once was a unified country would be modern like the rest of the world. But the emperor was convinced to modernize and hired an American Captain of the regiments who was very skilled in training the soldiers that they took over the Native Americans territory and made it their own. He came over to Japan and started to train some of the the men to become good soldiers and defeat the samurai.
Japanese Caste System
Prezi Presentation Created By: Farzana Hoque
This American Captain was Nathan Algren, played by Tom Cruise. He was extremely alcoholic and a traumatic issue from killing all those Native Americans. After the first battle of his japanese 'army' against the samurai, it clearly showed that they were not prepared and Algren was captured by Katsumoto, a samurai. For months Katsumoto held Algren captive in his territory among the mountains and his village. He learned of his enemy while Algren was cared for. After recovering from detoxification, Algren started to explore his surroundings and saw how little children of the village were learning to fight like the samurai, it was as if they are the people the others look up to. The samurai had great importance but after Japan will modernize, they will have even less importance and will destroy the heart of what Japan is known for. Algren becomes enveloped in the care for this village and in the end switches sides to being the samurai and attempting to defeat the army he once trained. But of course, due to advance in innovations of the weapons, the samurai had lost honorably. Algren was still alive, however Katsumoto had died with honor. My favorite part was when the emperor asked Algren to tell him all about how Katsumoto had died and Algren said,"I tell you how he lived." It may have not been a perfect ending for the samurai, but it was the perfect ending for me.
In "The Last Samurai", the emperor was Shichinosuke Nakamura, playing Emperor Meiji. He greatly displays how the emperors of Japan had little power.
Here are what a Shogun would wear to display their power. Technically Katsumoto would have been the Shogun because he is the leader of the Samurai but due to the modernization of Japan he became ranked at a lower position.
The Daimyo, being the third ranked on the feudal pyramid, is not as powerful as the Shogun but does play a part in protecting the emperor's conquered land. There are many Daimyos that are chosen by the Shogun to protect large amounts of land. To do this, the Daimyos, considering that they are very powerful warlords, have to hire many armies to fight and keep their land safe. This is actually a pretty difficult job because the Daimyos have to be able to determine among the men of Japan, who would be trustable enough to protect a large amount of land. As we know in the real world, trust is a difficult quality and the most important to look for in people. Furthermore, the Daimyos hired men are called Samurai, and to help pay back for fighting to keep land safe, the Daimyos provide the Samurai large estates to live in. The Samurai protect the land while the Daimyos are kept safe.
Omura, being once technically a merchant should be at the bottom of the triangle. But he is the who had hired armies to fight for the emperor and therefore, his rank is the same as being a Daimyo since he is similar to a warlord as well.
Ah, the Samurai, one we have been waiting for ages. The Samurai are the well-trained men in the Japanese armies that the Daimyos lead. These people are very well honored and respected throughout hi/her community. Did you know that there were women samurai as well? As a matter of fact there were. It is very surprising since women did not have many roles to play but they could only become a samurai if their leader was a male. The Samurai follow a special code called the "Bushido" code. It is made up of the rules for which a Samurai must be loyal to their Daimyos at all times. They must also master the art of martial arts and overcome the fear of death. The Samurai must be well dedicated enough that if they are defeated then they must commit "Seppuku", a form of honorable suicide. Becoming a Samurai prepares you for the massive amount of respect you will recieve. It is a very well honored rank even if it is the fourth one. There you have it, the Samurai!
Katsumoto is also considered a Samurai because he fights as well to keep his country safe. After switching sides, Algren became a samurai as well and stood by Katsumoto's side to fight for their real Japan and prevent it from modernizing to lose all the valuable respect for the Samurai.
The Ronin, ranked fifth on the feudal pyramid, used to be respected more when they were a Samurai. It's true, the Ronin were former Samurai who didn't have a Daimyo. Many things could have happened to their Daimyo, the main one being death. You'd never know when your Daimyo was going to die or get killed in battle so really you could be a Samurai one day and then a Ronin the next. When a Samurai loses his/her Daimyo, they also lose their authority and all of their prized land. Many times you would find a Ronin trying to find another Daimyo to work for. It's dreadful being a Ronin because you don't have all that respect as a Samurai anymore.
I don't believe there were any Ronin displayed throughout the movie of "The Last Samurai" so here are examples of what one would look like.
The Farming Peasants and the Peasants seem like they'd belong within the same rank. Truly, there is a difference. The farming peasants are better off than the peasants because since the land the emperor rules over is very mountainous, the people who farm and produce food are seen as very respectable. A farmer who is able to own his land have a higher, more honorable status from one that does not. Work does prosper.
The Peasants are known to be the lowest ranked on any Feudal System, however according to the feudal triangle of Japan, peasants were found more useful than the artisans and mostly the merchants. This is because they are found to be more productive and put more in towards the community. According to Confucianism, giving more to the community than to yourself was highly respected and so the peasants had gained that respect which was obviously more than the merchants and the craftsmen & artisans.
Surprisingly the craftsmen and the artisans were ranked lower than the peasants! These people were skilled in either the aspect of art or crafts. They were ranked higher than the merchants because they were found more useful to the society. The craftsmen and artisans made goods such as clothing, silk, cooking utensils, and pottery. What's more surprising is that even samurai sword makers were in this class making beautiful yet deadly swords for the samurai. Yet these people were more respected than the merchants which was a positive note.
The merchants were put at the bottom of the Japanese feudal system. This may seem very surprising since in other feudal triangles, merchants were put at higher ranks. The reason for the lowest rank is that Japanese people believed that merchants cheated people out of their money and business to just get wealthy. And it's true in some cases. These merchants were separated from society and lived in other parts of the land. They were only allowed to talk to higher ranked people while they were doing their business. But then again, merchants were able to move up in power because they became so rich. Generally, still everyone looked down on merchants because they're expected to be greedy and selfish. I mean what do you expect from a merchant?
Omura from "The Last Samurai" movie was technically a merchant to begin with. Only did he rise to power of a daimyo after being rich and convincing the emperor on modernizing Japan.
In the background, you could see how the farmers had worked the mountainous land so it could be farmed.
This would be a normal peasant life, always working. Some kids may even have time to play games.
There were no particular scene to show the artisans of feudal Japan. But here is an example of what one would look like.
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