Difference Between Feudal Japan and Feudal Europe

Feudal Japan vs Feudal Europe

There is a huge interest in finding the difference between feudal Japan and feudal Europe because of the appearing similarity between both. Feudalism is believed to have originated in Medieval Europe and is believed to be a direct result of the weakening of the Roman Empire. The conditions for feudalism were ripe with weak monarchs at centers in most of the European nations. However, a similar political and social system developed a little later in Japan though there was no direct contact between Europe and Japan. Despite a social hierarchy and a pyramid-like structure, the feudalism in Europe had many differences with the one in Japan. These differences will be highlighted in this article.

What is Feudal Europe?

Whether we read development of societies by Karl Marx or talk about feudalism in general, most of us believe that the roots of feudalism lie in medieval Europe where countries ruled by weak kings at centers led to the development of powerful local lords. Kings gave large tracts of lands to these lords who provided military service to the monarch. Powerful lords divided the land at their disposal into smaller pieces to hand over to less powerful lords who further handed their portions to knights. .The knights made use of peasants to get the land cultivated and gave them protection and also a part of the agricultural produce. This political and social hierarchical system was called feudalism that was based upon the principle of exchange where the monarch gave honorary titles and piece of lands to the nobles who in turn made use of the manual labour of the serfs to get the land cultivated. These nobles provided protection to the serfs who were allowed to keep part of the produce for their living.The feudal system in Europe had little scope for social advancement. It was mainly characterized by a system of land ownership.

Difference Between Feudal Japan and Feudal Europe

What is Feudal Japan?

Feudalism in Japan arose in the 12th century and continued till 19th century. This feudalism had nothing to do with the rise of feudalism in Europe that originated much earlier in 9th century. Like Europe, there was a vertical division of society with an established hierarchy. The emperor was at the top of the hierarchy though it was Shogun who held the real power. Just as in Europe, Shogun distributed land at his disposal to vassals that were referred to as daimyo. Daimyos gave away rights of lands to Samurai, who were Japanese warriors and got the land cultivated with the help of peasants or serfs.


What is the difference between Feudal Japan and Feudal Europe?

  • While the system of feudalism appears similar in Europe and Japan, the rugged terrain of Japan further weakened the control of the emperor of Japan than the Monarchs in Europe.
  • This meant that the nobility of Japan paid lip service to the Emperor while in Europe there was some fear and respect of the monarch in the minds of the local aristocrats called nobles.
  • Samurai did not hold lands like knights in Europe but were rather given money in exchange for their services.
  • The basis of feudalism in Europe was the Roman Catholic Church whereas its basis in Japan was Buddhism or the Confucian law.
  • Feudalism arose in Europe in 9th century whereas in Japan feudalism took shape in 12th century.