Sample Essay

Explain the role of the following individuals in Medieval Japan: a. Shogun b. Samurai c. Daimyo d. Emperor Include in your essay an explanation of the words “Bushido” and “Shinto”. (1 ½ pages)


Shogun, the short form of “Sei Tashogun” is referred to as the “Commander of the Armies”. It was a position/rank in the military circles for the Hereditary Commander of Armies in Japan in the medieval era. Today the term Shogun has replaced the term “Generalissimo” and is the modern rank equivalent of Shogun. His office is known as the Shogunate in English and Bakafu in Japanese while Shogun’s disciplines and sub-ordinates were collectively called the Bakafu. The significance of this title traces back to the Heinn Period (794-1185) when it was bestowed on the military commanders for their campaigns against Emshi who was fighting in the Imperial Court of Kyoto against the government. The title was passed down in various other Shogunates staged in Japan and by 1603-1867; Shoguns were given the added responsibilities of foreign policy and feudal patronage as well.


The history of Daimyos traces back to the Tokugo Shogunate (1616-187) of Japan when the country was divided into various fiefs, each under the control of these daimyos. The word daimyo refers to “great name” and had revenues above 10000 kokos of rice. They enjoyed a lot of autonomy while ensuring that the government’s policies are upheld, complete and absolute power within their spheres of operation and over their subjects. But the laws of Shogunate exercised the right to remove them provided that they were caught working against national interests.


The military nobility and superiority of medieval Japan was connoted by the word Samurai. They were originally referred to as saburaus in Japan and were military personnel who worked in proximity with the nobles. The samurais struggled and fought innumerable battles throughout the history of Japan. Though in the Tokugawa era, they gained more prominence as courtiers, bureaucrats and administrators rather than warriors. It was in this era (around 17th century) that their military function was slowly and gradually dismantled. As this era neared its end, samurais were served as aristocratic bureaucrats for the daimyos.

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