• What was life like for all people in Shogunate Japan?
  • What role did the Tokugawa Shogunate have in shaping the feudal system?
  • How did modernisation and westernisation destroy the Shoguns?

As a result of completing this topic, you will be able to:

  • Place each Shogun period into a timeline that reflects major events that have happened from the year 0 to now. You will reflect on the significance of each event.
  • Analyse and discuss the Japanese Feudal system in detail, including the relationships between the different groups and the way they interacted with each other.
  • Discuss and explain how each Shogun period changed or altered the feudal system in some way.

What do you know about Japan?

What was life like in Japan from 794 until 1100, and how do we know this? What was the name of this period in history?

Use the following headings to guide your search:

  • social
  • cultural
  • economic
  • political
  • environmental
  • military rule

The following resources may help you:

  • Your text, page 227-228, and 242-243.
  • The following websites:
Court Lady's Full Dress in the Heian Period

Learning Activity 1: Do an internet search to find out what 'shogun' means.

What was life like in Japan 1185 until 1336?

Taken from Jacaranda History Alive 8 for the Australian Curriculum, page 228:

'The twelfth century as a very unstable time in Japan. The Minamoto family had become the most powerful daimyo clan in Japan, but their power was challenged by the Taira clan. A series rebellions, followed by civil war from 1180 to 1185, led to ultimate vicotry by the Minamoto family, who then proceeded to destroy the Taira clan. A famous historical account of the civil war period, The Tale of the Heike, was written by a number of different authors and is considered one of the great works of Japanese literature.'

In 1192, Minamoto no Yoritomo, the head of the Minamoto clan, was appointed as shogun, with the responsibility of leading the Japanese armed forces. He set up his government in Kamakura, which is approximately 50 kms south of modern-day Tokyo. This shogunate was important as it saw real power pass from the emperor to the shogun, and represents the beginning of the shogunate, or feudal period of Japanese history, which lasted for the next 700 years. During this time, emperors were restricted to ceremonial and religious duties, while the shoguns and their samurai warriors ruled.

The Kamakura shogunate ruled for nearly 150 years, and brought political stability to Japan. During this time, China was the most significant threat to Japan -- Kublai Khan, the Mongol emperor of China, demanded that Japan become a tributary state. When the shogunate refused, Kublai Khan sent his army via Mongol ships in 1274 and 1281, to invade Japan. On both occasions, the ships were sunk by typhoons, leading the Japanese to believe that their country was protected by kamikaze (divine winds). However, the shogun could not afford to pay the samurai who fought the Mongols, and waited for an opportunity to overthrow the shogunate.

Kamakura period

Learning Activity 2:

  • In a think/pair/share, discuss what you remember about the European Feudal system. Here is a diagram to help you remember.
European Feudal System
  • Have a look at the Japanese Feudal System. In a venn diagram (insert, smart art, relationships, venn diagram), list the similarities and differences between the European and Japanese Feudal systems.

Learning Activity 3: Expert Jigsaw

  • 3 groups of 6 members each (allocated by teacher)
  • Using the information given to you, and your own research, each group member will be reponsible for investigating one of the following groups in the Japanese Feudal system: Emperors, Shoguns, Samurai, Daimyo, Peasants, Ronin.
  • By yourself read the information given to you. Individually record 4 - 6 dot points.
  • Share your information with the students from the other 2 groups, who have researched the same topic as you. As a group, decide on the 4 - 5 most important points.
  • Return to your original group. You are the expert on your given topic. It it your role to now share your research with the other, and to listen and record information on the other topics.
  • Complete the chart which your teacher will hand out to you.
  • Finish this activity by using the information to create a visual representation of the Japanese Feudal system, adding 3 - 4 significant words at each level to describe their role, power, home, and position in society

Ashikaga Shoguns - 1336 - 1573

  • How did the Ashikaga clan come to rule Japan?
  • What are some of the cultural achievements which occurred during this time?
  • Explain why the period of the Ashikaga shogunate came to be described as 'the age of the warring states'.
  • You will find some information on page 229 of your History Alive text, and using the link below:
Japanese Tea Ceremony

Oda Nobunaga (Warring States) - 1573 - 1603

Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomie Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu are credited with being the unifiers of Japan. Explain how, using page 230 of your History Alive text.

Tokugawa Shoguns - 1603 - 1867 (Edo Period)

Watch the following video:

While viewing, complete the table handed out to you by your teacher, with information about social changes, attitudes to land, and attitudes to people.

After viewing, complete a PMI on these cultural and social changes, and theorise why they may have occurred.

Why did Shogun Japan end?

  • What happened?
  • Who was involved?
  • Major events?


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