The rise of Japan (500-1868)
Standard: 7.5.3
  • Describe to explain in detail the values, social customs, and traditions described by the lord-vassal system consisting of shogun, daimyo, and samurai, and the lasting influence of the warrior code throughout the 20th century.
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The Development of Feudalism

Key Terms and People

Minamoto Yoritomo: he became one of the most powerful Japanese rulers

shogun: supreme military commander

daimyo: local land-owning lords

feudalism: a social system in which lords grant people land or other reports in exchange for military service

samurai: highly trained warriors

Section Notes

Two New Capitals

  • the new city of Nara was laid out in a checkerboard pattern, with roads, palaces and temples scattered throughout them. Nara could not have a defensive wall. The imperial court at Nara was divided into different ranks or levels of nobles. Most officials were sons from noble families. Buddhist priest brought art, literature, mathematics, and engineering from Tang China. Buddhist monks and priests accumulated great wealth and political power in 770, a priest named Dokyo even tried to become Emperor. Therefore, the capital was moved and named Heian-kyo and later called Kyoto.

Shifts in Power

  • In the 800s, the Emperor's power began to fade. The Fujiwara family was running the country. The Fujiwara rose to power by having their daughters or sisters marry princes of the imperial family. Outside the capital, other clans both envied and resented the Fujiwara's power. To clans united to overthrow the Fujiwara. To clans were Taira and Minamoto as soon as they overthrew the Fujiwara family they began to fight each other. In 1185, Minamoto and Taira forces clashed at sea. The winner of the final battle was Minamoto Yoritomo. He became the most powerful man in Japan. He won the title of shogun.

A New Social Order

  • Life under the shoguns was often lawless and violent. The job of protecting people became the responsibility of the daimyo. The result was the new social order known as feudalism. Each daimyo relied on peasants to purchase land. In exchange for their labor, he promised them protection. He provided this protection to a small army of samurai. In exchange for their service, the daimyo granted his samurai land or money.


Summary: a group of powerful families gain control over Japan. Military rulers called shoguns, took power and organized society in a new way.

Study Guide Questions

Why was Nara built without a defensive wall?

Did the Taika Reform have the result the Prince Shotoku had hoped for? Explain.

How did the rise of the Fujiwara represent a shift of power in Japan?

How did the shift in power eventually give rise to feudalism?

Practice Test

Homework: Choose one
  1. Workbook Chapter 12, section 1 (Page 149)
  2. Answer three of the study guide questions using complete sentences.
  3. Draw a picture of something important from this section and summarize this section of the text (three sentences minimum).