Japan 1648 CE

The Tokugawa shoguns have isolated Japan from the rest of the world.

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What is happening in Japan in 1648CE

After 1467, Japan disintegrated into more than 100 years of civil war. The daimyo governed their territories as independent fiefs, taxing the peasants and administering justice. This was the golden age of the samurai. It was a violent period, but one that saw the full development of the chivalric code of “Bushido”. This is an unwritten set of moral principles stressing frugality, selfless loyalty to one’s lord, mastery of martial arts, and death rather than dishonour.

At length, Japan was re-unified, under the dictatorship of Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1590). Having secured his power at home, he led two great – but unsuccessful – campaigns in Korea (1592-3 and 1597-8), aiming to conquer China.

Ieyasu Tokugawa then fought his way to the Shogunate (1603). He thus becomes the first of the Tokugawa shoguns. Under this, Japan has been organized as a federation of daimyo (feudal lords), under the shogun’s tight control. The daimyo are required to spend half their time at the capital, Edo (modern Tokyo), whilst leaving members of their family at Edo at other times, as hostages.

The country is largely cut off from the rest of the world. Overseas trade has been severely limited, and the Japanese are forbidden to leave the country. In particular, Western influences have been surpressed: firearms have been outlawed and Christianity ruthlessly prohibited. In a sense the Tokugawa represents the high point of feudal Japan, with the anarchic forces of feudalism dragooned within a tightly controlled politico-social structure.

Next map, Japan in 1789

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