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Japan is often thought of as a very formal, polite society. While this is true in modern times, the Japanese feudal periods were anything but.
The Japanese Feudal Periods
The feudal periods in Japan took place from the 12th through 19th centuries, and it marked an important period in the country's history. The rule of Japan by regional families and clans, as well as by the shogun (war lords) created a different sort of culture marked by a decrease in the power of the emperor as well as indifference in the ruling class. This part of history can be sorted into periods named for the ruling shogun families or shogunates.
The first time period started with the Kamakura Period, which began in 1192. During the reign of the Kamakura Shogunate, an invasion by the Mongols took place in which the Japanese were eventually able to repel the invaders. The problems the Mongol invasion caused finally led to the end of the line for the Kamakura Shogunate, which lost its reign in 1333.
At that time, the “Japanese Middle Ages” began, lasting through the next ruling family in the Muromachi Period. During the later years of this period, around 1542, a Portuguese ship ran aground on Japan's shores. This ship was carrying firearms, and firearm technology was introduced to Japan. This also led the way to other traders from Portugal and other European countries coming to Japan, and Christianity was also brought into the area at that time.
The next period in Japan was the Azuchi-Momoyama Period, which lasted from 1568 to 1600. During this short time, there was a reunification of the military and ruling parties of Japan. The unity was gained by a common goal to attack and defeat China. Alas, the united effort failed. By 1598, the Japanese were repelled back to the islands from China. With the defeat, the unity dissolved and a new period began.
Finally, the Edo Period lasted from 1800 to 1868. This was a very important part of the Japanese time line, as this is when much of the artistic developments of the country occurred. It is also the period when the samurai really came to the forefront of culture and politics, being placed in status high above other “commoners”. The Edo Period was the last period marked by a ruling shogunate in the feudal age of Japan. In roughly 1870, the people rallied around the Emperor and the age of family rule came to an end.
The Japanese feudal periods played an important role in shaping the culture and government of the country. Although it ended many years ago, some of the artistic and cultural traditions started during then are still in practice today. The Edo Period, perhaps the most important of the feudal times, brought art and theater to the masses, and they are still very important today.