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Japan Under The Shogun

Power and Control

The 47 Ronin-

A Story of Japanese Honor and Duty

The story of the 47 Ronin is one of

the most beloved Japanese stories.
It has been said that to
understand the story of the 47
ronin is to understand Japan.
The story has been made into
many plays, movies, and books in
Japan as well as other countries.
Why do you think it is so popular?

The Edo Period of Japan

The story of the 47 Ronin took place during the
Edo or Tokugawa period of Japanese history,
which lasted from 1600 to 1868.
Edo, the present day city of Tokyo, was the
capital during this time and the Tokugawa
shogun were the rulers.
In the hundred years before the Edo period,
Japan was locked in almost constant warfare.
Powerful landowners or nobles, known as
daimyo competed with one another for
territory and power.
How did the constant fighting and chaos finally
end? How was order restored in Japan? The

Unifying the Land

Tokugawa Ieyasu became the most powerful man in Japan
after he defeated rival daimyo and generals in a great battle.
In 1603, the emperor made him the shogun. Although the
emperor technically ruled the land, the shogun really held all
the power.
Ieyasu was determined to hold on to his new found power and
created such a strong shogunate that no one would dare
challenge him or his descendants. His plan was to create a long
lasting and stable government.
The first step was to control the daimyo. He watched them
closely. He gave loyal daimyo domains (areas of land), next to
the domains of lords whose loyalty he questioned.
The shogun kept his friends close but his enemies even closer!

Effective Measures of Control by Shoguns

Alternate Attendance

Sharing Power

Every second year the daimyo were

forced to live in Edo. The other year
they would live in their domain.

The bakuhan system of two

levels of government was

The cost of keeping two homes and

moving every year meant that
daimyo would not have the time or
money to challenge the shogun.

The shogunate, the

equivalent to our federal
government, had control
over important matters
such as foreign trade and

Daimyo were required to leave

family members in Edo during their
year absence. The family members
were essentially hostages.
Any uprisings or even rumors of a
plot against the shogun and family

The daimyo controlled local

affairs in their territory.

Strict Laws
Laws established by the
shogunate controlled many
aspects of the daimyos lives,
such as dress and marriage.
They also required the
daimyo to pay for projects,
such as road building in their
territories. This restricted
their wealth.

A Feudal Society
The story of the 47 Ronin illustrates three
of the levels of Japanese society: the
emperor, the nobility, and the samurai.
Japan had a feudal system which was
based on land; local lords controlled the
domains and they supported themselves
by collecting taxes from peasant farmers.
The rigid social structure was intended to
help the shogun maintain control.
Membership in each class was
hereditary, or determined by birth.
Although people could not move up in the
hierarchy, people in lower levels did
sometimes manage to improve their
situation through hard work, talent, or
gaining wealth.

Roles In Society
With a partner, list all the classes in the Japanese hierarchy. Write a
brief description about the roles of each class and explain the
reasoning behind their position.
The Samurai
The Peasants
The Artisans
The Merchants
Women in Edo Society

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