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History of Feudal Japan


Hunter-gather society replaced by the Yayoi
We Chin Chinese Chronicles write about Wa (Japan) in 3rd century
Empress Himoko first reported ruler of Japan
Creation of the Yamamoto Sun Line
200AD (or 366AD by some histories) Empress Jingo invades Korea

Yamato begins to build monumental tombs for the departed elite
Buddhism comes to Japan
Empress Suiko put on the throne

Japan adopt Chinese writing system, Court structure, clothing, art and even life style
Empress Suiko dies, fight over who rightful heir
Empress Kogyoku comes to power, abdicates then comes back as Empress Saimei
Empress Saimei leads naval expedition of 27,000 to retake Paekche from the Chinese, dies enroute,
Japan gets artisans and scholars
Empress Shotoku last Empress to rule by her own right, Fujiwara take control

Emperor Kanmu moves capitol to Kyoto (then called Heiankyo)
Buddhism influences grows, becomes a military power
Rise of the Fujiwara, Heike (literally Taira clan), Genji (literally Minamoto clan)
Genpei War between the Taira and the Minamoto
Minamoto clan boasts first shogun
Tomoe Gozen, wife of a Minamoto general, fights along side her husband in battle

Capitol moved to Kamakura, the heart of the Kanto
Features the decline of the Minamoto clan
Ashikaga shoguns rule providence through the shugo(military arm)and jito(civil arm)
Samurai armor boxy for mounted archery
Mongol invasions pushed back by bad weather
Nambokucho civil wars start
Fall of the Hojo

MUROMACHI (early 1300's)/SENGOKU (1467 - 1576AD)/
MOMOYAMA (1576-1603AD) PERIODS (merged together)

Capitol shifts back to Kyoto
Decline of the jito, rise of the shugo (military rule)
Several deaths help cause the death of the Ashikaga
Nambokucho Wars end (1392AD)
Onin War (1467-1477AD)
Hojo clan starts taking power. Hojo Soun (born Ise Shinkuro Nagauji) becomes first daimyo
Late Muromachi Period generally called the Sengoku Period "The Age of Wars"
Hojo Ujitsuna defeats Satomi Yoshitaku and Ashikaga Yoshiaki at Battle of Konodai in 1538AD
Next two decade became a series of fights, alliances, and treaties, between Hojo Ujyasu,
Takeda Shingen, and Uesugi Kenshin
Battle of Kawanakajima in 1561
Ashigaru (foot-soldiers) begin to emerge
Armor becomes less boxy, cavalry becomes mounted spearmen and mounted archery declines
Firearms introduced to Japan by Portuguese in 1543
Oda Nobunaga uses ranks of matchlocks at Nagashino and defeats Takeda and Hojo
Momoyama Period generally included in the Sengoku Period around 1576 to the Tokugawa Shogunate
In 1582 Oda murdered and Toyotomi Hideyoshi becomes shogun in power but not in name
In 1590 Hoko reign ends. Territories given to Tokugawa Ieyasu

Capitol moves to Edo
Tokugawa Shoguns initiate new laws and rule Japan for 265 years


female samurai


"The relationship of parent and child is limited to this life on earth; that between husband and wife continues into the after-life; that between lord and retainer continues into the life after that."

In 200AD, Japan was ruled by a warrior-priestess-queen named Himoko (or Pimiko), who ruled several tribes of the Yamataikoku in a land known as Wa to China (later known as Dai Nihon "Great Japan"). The We Chin (China) stated "When they fight, they use halberd, shield and a bow of wood. The bow is short one half and long the other." Himoko was said to be attended by 1000 servants, only one of whom was male. After her death there was a brief attempt by a male to take power, but he was replaced by Empress Iyo. Bronze was the main metal until 5th - 6th century when iron started to be used for swords and armor.

The Yamato Sun Line soon developed thereafter, where the hereditary line believed to be descended from the sun goddess, Amaterasu. Then in 366, Japan invaded Korea lead by Empress Jingo Kogo (who was rumored to be pregnant at that time) and forced Korea to pay tribute to Japan. Japanese warfare was fought on foot with infantry phalanxes and even shield walls that were four feet or more in height. Bows and swords were mainly used. Armor was scale and comfortable for horseback.

In 538AD Buddhism came to Japan and Empress Suiko was put on the throne after the assassination of Emperor Sujun. In 593AD the Japanese adopted Chinese style writing, court structure, clothing, art and life style.

Empress Suiko died in 628AD, replaced briefly by Jomei then Empress Kogyoku comes into power. She later abdicated to her brother Kotoku after an assassin kills Prince Iruku in her palace before her eyes.

Empress Saimei (the 37th ruler of Japan) who ruled earlier by the name Kogyoku, reclaims the throne. She also personally led a naval expedition of 27,000 men in 661AD to liberate Paekche from the Chinese. She died enroute, but her navy brought back several artisans and scholars to Japan.

During the 700's , a Rasputin-like Buddhist priest named Dokyo acquired so much influence of the reigning Empress Shotoku that he nearly got named an Imperial successor. The Fujiwara, who soon took control, banished him after her death and made it that an Empress would never again rule by her own right (and save two powerless women in the Edo period, none have).

During the late 1100's during the Gempei War we see Tomoe Gozen, the wife of Minamoto general Kiso Yoshinaka, who fought along side her husband. There are several stories about her military prowess and several more about her demise. One account says she died along side her husband, another states she took his head so the enemy would not gain it and flung it and herself into the sea, and another said she took his head, disposed of it then died in a Buddhist convent where she had become a nun. There was also Masako, the widow of the first shogun Minamoto Yoritomo, who was determined and schemed to destroy the Minamoto in favor of her clan, the Hojo. There have also been stories of Yae, a mistress of Takeda Shingen (?) who fought alongside him during the Sengoku period and had a squad of female cavalry who fought by her command.

In the Sengoku Period (1467 - 1576) women have a vague position as either villains, tokens, or pawns in a daimyo's game of power. The tended to be useful to acquire power through seiryaku kekkon (the political marriage). Several complex webs of marriage alliances that linked the Takeda, Hojo and Imagawa. Women were expected to spy or plot against their new families, so it was not surprising that such documents such as the Takeda kakkun (house-laws) stated "Even when husband and wife are alone together, he should never forget his dagger."

Samurai women (the first wife, not the concubine unless he had no wife) generally handled the financial accepts of running the household since handling money was considered beneath them. The money system was mostly based on barter and the koku, which was equivalent to 180.4 dry liters of rice, theoretically enough to feed one man for one year. Not only was the samurai woman responsible for managing the household they even defended the household when he was away. Certain weapons like the naginata(pole arm), the kusari-gami (sickle with chain), kama (sickle), wakizashi (short sword) and aikuchi (knife) were considered weapons suitable for woman.

Women were expected to show the same loyalty to her husband as he would show to his daimyo. Adultery laws were different for the woman than the man. There was no such thing as adultery for a man unless it was with someone else's wife. The attachment for men for men was also said to surpass the love of women, though bisexuality was as common as homosexuality in Japan. Such man to man relationships were not only merely tolerated, but encouraged as being conducive to comradeship on the battlefield.

Concubines were vastly inferior to the wife in the feudal household, having no more rank than a servant. Unmarried daughters were generally no better off, especially during the Sengoku Period. On suicide, samurai women, and sometimes the whole household, were expected to follow their husband in death. Samurai women committed ojigi, which was a thrust through the throat with the aikuchi. (Not seppuku, which is the box cut, disembowelment done by male samurai).



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