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The Edo Period: A Era Of Peace

2438 words - 10 pages

Today, whenever Japanese history is mentioned in the media, people think of the romanticized stories of ninjas, Japanese mercenaries who carried out covert operations, and samurai, warriors that were part of the hereditary military caste in feudal Japan, but these versions have been skewed, just as many other historic characters have. History is full of brilliant past adventures and relevance that Hollywood takes at face value. Once people find out that the famous ninja did not actually wear black pajamas and that samurai were not as honorable as portrayed, one may become curious as to what really happened back then. Just what actually transpired in Japanese history, and which period is the most significant? In the opinion of experts on Japan's history, this period would be the Tokugawa, or Edo, Period. What makes this era of peace significant and stand out against the many war-wrecked periods of Japan's history?
The Battle of Sekigahara in 1603 marked the beginning of a new era when a man named Tokugawa Ieyasu defeated many daimyō, land-ruling warlords, and established a new bakufu, military government, in order to rule Japan (Collcutt 134). Ieyasu worked hard to restore Japan and manage foreign trade in order to better the economy. Ironically, the third shogun, or military ruler, of the Edo Period named Tokugawa Iemitsu sealed off Japan from the outside world because of his fear of external ideas (Watts). Iemitsu is responsible for several of the more defining characteristics of the period such as the Seclusion Act and "anti-Christian policies" (Watts). The Seclusion Act was so powerful that it only allowed one port in Nagasaki to trade with the Koreans, Portuguese, and Dutch and went undisturbed for over two-hundred years (Watts).
These acts were probably a product of Iemitsu's father's paranoia. Tokugawa Hidetada, the second shogun, was fearful of revolt by Japanese Christians who had the help of Spain and thus banned Christianity (Hidetada). The outside influence of Spain was probably what sparked Hidetada's distrust of Westerners that eventually led him to ignore Ieyasu's strides on external trade and establish a closed-off policy in Japan. Comically, the fifth shogun, Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, had an obsession with dogs and began to pass wild laws about the welfare of the animals (Bodart). Before this eccentric time, Tsunayoshi did work to introduce Neo-Confucianism, a philosophy that promoted a man's duty to be loyal to the government (Bodart). One of the best-known rulers of Japan is Tokugawa Yoshimune, the eighth shogun, who is known for living simply, reducing the number of "hereditary government retainers," improving the quality of the administration, lifting the ban on foreign books, raising national morale, and creating a law code dubbed the Kansei Code (Yoshimune). In response to devastating natural disasters, famine, cannibalism, and human trafficking, the Kansei Code, which had three objectives, was...

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