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Japan History

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The Ashikaga era in Japan happened in the years 1336 to 1573, and marked the governance of the Ashikaga Shogunate or the Muromachi. This period was known as the Ashikaga period or the Muromachi period. The governance of the Ashikaga ahogunate was formally established in the year 1338. During the Ashikaga period, the first European merchant ships docked in Japan, with Portuguese traders in the year 1543. The Portuguese started trading in Japan and their business activities were referred to as the Nanban trade. The Nanban Trade which was also referred to as the Southern barbarian trade, started when the Europeans arrived to Japan.

The Japanese considered the Europeans as unsophisticated because of their cultural and social behaviors. On the other side, the Europeans admired Japan, describing the country as a land which is rich in minerals (Mason & Caiger 187). They were fascinated by the temples and palaces built on the land, and were greatly impressed by the abundant presence of surface ores which are common features of a volcanic land. This was before the start of commercial mining. These events led to commercial extraction of minerals and Japan soon became a major exporter of silver and cooper minerals to Europe. 

The Early Tokugawa Japan was a period that happened in the 17th century. The period was referred to as the Tokugawa period or the Edo period. In Japan history, the Tokugawa period was ruled by the shoguns from the Tokugawa family from 1603 to 1868. During this period, poetry went through many changes although the court poets were enviously fighting to maintain their monopoly (Morton & Olenik 119). Poetry was greatly admired and was one of the major arts in the social scene. During this period, there existed a famous poet known as Basho. Basho was highly recognized for his unique works in the combined forms of haikai no renga. Basho’s lifetime saw his recognition as a master of brief and clear Haiku. At his young age, Basho was introduced to poetry and he quickly became famous throughout Japan after integrating himself into intellectual scene of Edo. He worked as a teacher and gave up the luxurious social, city life of the literally groupings and he preferred to explore the whole country from the West to East, and went further into the northern side of the country to grow insight for his poetry writing. His creativity was influenced by his worldly encounters from his expedition.

The late Tokugawa Japan happened at the final years of the Edo period when the reign of Tokugawa shogunate ended. Numerous major events characterized this period, the most notable being the isolationalist foreign policy which was also known as sakoku and its transition from a feudal shogunate to the Meiji administration (Mason & Caiger 257). The Sakoku policy was enacted by the Tokugawa Shogunate through an act of law and policies between the years 1633 to 1639 and remained in effect to the year 1853, on the arrival of Commodore Mathew Perry, and marked the opening of Japan. The policy restricted movement of people in and out of Japan, and thus restricted trade and foreign activities between Japan and the outside world.  

Tokugawa Japan: Economic Growth, Urbanization, and Cultural Change

The period of Tokugawa in Japan witnessed numerous economic and cultural changes. During the Tokugawa period, trade and foreign affairs were yielding massive profits because the activities were monopolized by the shogunate, although the trading activities were also permitted to the Tsushima domains and to the Satsuma  (Mason & Caiger 222). The first trade exchanges were witnessed when European Nanban ships brought in Portuguese merchants. The European trade ships to the Nanban trade were later followed by traders who were Dutch, Spanish and English.

The year 1603 marked the start of active foreign trade by Japan and in 1615, the Hasekura Tsunenaga allowed trade missions across the pacific to the New Spain and until the year 1635, the Shogun gave out various permits for the trade ships designed for the Asian markets. The move increased foreign trade and the economy recorded high gains due to the presence of foreign exchange.   

Christianity started spreading in Japan after the influence of European traders on the Japanese people. Some of the high ranking leaders embraced Christianity and the western culture. One Japanese leader known as Oda Nobunaga also embraced Christianity and the foreign Western technology because he wanted to use it as a strategy to curb Buddhism (Mason & Caiger 106). In the year 1614, an ruler known as Leyasu promoted foreign trade and started relations with the Dutch and the English but on the other hand, the imposed suppression and discrimination of Christianity.

Foreign trade between Japan and European countries boosted economic growth because the country became a major exporter of valuable minerals. During the Tokugawa period, Japan experienced development of large urban centers, education, productive agriculture and highly developed economic systems coupled with national economic structures. This trade resulted to introduction of Christianity and western culture to Japan. The Tokugawa period saw the growth of urban centers, increased export and import activities and expansion of domestic and foreign trades.   

Foreign trade led to the development of urban areas and as a result, this urbanization greatly influenced the cultural and social standards of Tokugawa Japan. Urbanization saw the development of prostitution and geisha. Geishas were famous female dancers, meant to entertain men. Merchants enjoyed spending their luxury time in places that had Geishas. Prostitution became rampant because foreign merchants were used to the pressures of prostitutes. Crime increased in Tokugawa and presence of beggars who were seen as non human, were present in urban areas.  

Discontent in Tokugawa Japan

In the mid 1800s of the Japan history, the country had faced numerous changes due to foreign influence. The country had many factions with differing opinions about their social and political ways, leading to discontent among the Japanese and foreign traders. Some leaders embraced western cultures while others fought to preserve their indigenous culture. The economic environment was stable although the political environment had many negative influences on Japan and the international world.  

The downfall of Tokugawa Shogunate led to the loss of previously enjoyed traditional rights of the Samurai. The Samurai were denied their traditional privileges of carrying two swords, the privileges of being exclusively military and the privileges of holding high bureaucratic positions. The Samurai were unsatisfied with the new governance that denied them their long-established civil liberties.    

In the mid 1800s, the sakoku policy was in effect and restricted any movement in or out of Japan. The policy was unwelcomed by the Japanese people and foreigners. Foreigners were discontented by the law that restricted them from doing free business with Japan, and the people of Japan felt land locked by the policy because traders wanted to do foreign trade with the west. The Sakoku policy was a major impediment to economic and social growth and was unwelcomed by the Japanese people and foreigners (Morton & Olenik 168).

After the mid 1800s, various Japanese factions had borrowed a lot of support from the west, and the Japanese people had adopted various aspects of the western culture. This borrowed culture led to the fading of the Japanese traditions and culture. The Japanese people realized that the foreign influence was a threat to their culture and felt unhappy (Morton & Olenik 168). Towards the end of the 1800s, the Japanese people devised a strategy in admiration of their culture, a plan that was aimed at overseeing respect for Japan's time-honored culture, such as admiration for the Emperor.

The Social, political and economic environments were all altered in order to incorporate foreign influences while trying to maintain stability. This era saw the employment of French military in efforts to modernize the military of the Bakufu (Morton & Olenik 168). Extremists in Japan resulted to war against the Bakufu, the Han authorities and all foreigners in an effort to reclaim the emperor, as a figure of peace and unity. 

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