Differences between Japanese vs European feudalism

Last Updated on March 19, 2022 by QCity Editorial Stuff

Japan and Europe were vastly different in their feudalism. Japan’s social order was based on the caste system, while Europeans practiced a class society. The Japanese had a military hierarchy with powerful samurai warriors at the top controlling both civil and military affairs, and European feudalism was more of an economic system with lords owning land which they would distribute to peasants who would work it for them. In addition, Europeans used manorialism as their economic model where people would live on large estates farmed by peasants; whereas Japan had agricultural villages where people lived together around rice paddies. 

Japan has a long history of feudalism. The Tokugawa shogunate ruled Japan for more than 250 years, from 1603 to 1868. This period is known as the Edo Period in Japanese history books. It was marked by political stability and economic growth – largely thanks to trade with Europe that occurred under strict conditions set out by the Tokugawa regime. European feudalism developed after Rome fell when kings were replaced with lords who would claim land and then give it to their vassals in return for protection and loyalty in times of war. During this time knights became prominent due to their fighting prowess in battles on horseback, while peasants worked the fields below them, paying taxes and fulfilling obligations like military service or manual labor o then lord.

Comparison between Japanese and European feudalism

Parameters of ComparisonJapanese feudalismEuropean feudalism
CentralizedMore centralizedLess centralized
WidespreadMore widespreadLess widespread
ImpactLess impactGreat impact
DiversifiedMore diversifiedLess diversified
More PowerMore powerLess power

What is Japanese feudalism?

Japanese feudalism is a social hierarchy system in which the emperor was at the top, followed by warriors and nobility. Below them were craftsmen and merchants, then peasants. The samurai class consisted of professional soldiers who had their land, wore distinctive clothing, and lived off what they grew or earned from their work. 

There are many misconceptions about Japanese feudalism that this blog post will help to dispel. For instance, while the samurai made up only 6% of Japan’s population during its height in 1600 AD (and even fewer after 1603), it has been widely believed that they comprised half of society because most people did not have access to education or information on history before modernization began in 1868 AD under Emperor Meiji.

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What is European feudalism?

European feudalism is a complex system of government that dominated much of Europe during the Middle Ages. It was a hierarchical system in which power was concentrated in the hands of a few wealthy landowners, who were known as lords. The common people, or serfs, were bound to the land and had to work for their lords in exchange for protection. This system began to unravel in the fifteenth century as new economic and social forces emerged.

This social order was based on the principles of hierarchy and subordination, with lords having control over their subordinates. It was a complex system that varied from region to region but generally consisted of three tiers: lord, vassal, and serf. In this article, we’ll explore the origins of European feudalism and take a look at some of its most important features.

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10 Differences between Japanese and European feudalism

1. Land was owned by the lord, not the peasants.

2. Peasants were required to provide labor for their lords in addition to paying taxes.

3. The feudal system in Japan was created with a more centralized government than European feudalism.

4. Feudalism in Japan had a greater reliance on samurai warriors than European feudalism did.

5. Japanese peasants were unable to own land or move freely due to strict class hierarchies.

6. Samurai warriors relied on hunting and fishing for sustenance rather than farming like European knights.

7. Feudalism in Japan was not as widespread or established.

8. Feudalism in Europe had a greater impact on the economy and society.

9. European feudalism was more diversified, with many different types of lordships.

10. The central government in Europe had more power over their subjects than the shogunate did in Japan.

Interesting Statistics or Facts of Japanese feudalism

1. The samurai class was the military nobility of feudal Japan.

2. Samurai were expected to be ready at all times for war and trained in martial arts from a young age.

3. Japanese feudalism had three major classes – samurai, peasants (farmers), and artisans.

4. Japanese feudalism was based on an agricultural system where land ownership determined social status.

5. Feudal lords could force their serfs to work as many hours as they wanted without payment or food.

6. Serfs were forbidden from changing jobs or selling goods without permission.

Interesting Statistics or Facts of European feudalism

1. Feudalism was an economic system that existed in Europe from the 10th century to the 16th century.

2. The feudal lord would provide land for his serfs, who were obligated to work on this land.

3. Serfs had no rights and could not leave their lords’ lands without permission.

4. A vassal was a person who held some form of property under a feudal lord.

5. Landlords or landowners had many ways of getting more money out of their tenants, including demanding higher rent payments and imposing fines for infractions such as late payment or failure to carry out all tasks assigned by the landlord.

6. In some cases landlords would impose taxes too – these taxes were called quitrents and they became part of the tenant’s obligation to pay rent each year.


Japanese feudalism is different from European feudalism. The differences in the two types of society are evident in their economic systems and political structures. However, both societies had a strong hierarchical system with lords at the top who controlled all aspects of social life for those below them on the social ladder. Some similarities can be seen between these two forms of hierarchy-based organization where they each gave power to one person or group over others within its ranks. If you want to learn more about this topic or just need help understanding how feudalistic societies work then please check out our other blog posts.


Resource 01: https://www.worldhistory.org/article/1438/feudalism-in-medieval-japan/#:~:text
Resource 02: https://www.timemaps.com/encyclopedia/medieval-europe-feudalism/

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