This era is significant because it was dominated by peace at a local level, political constancy, and economic growth as a result of a dictatorship created by Tokugawa Ieyasu. The moment when he became shogun was very important in Ieyasu’s life, as he was provided with the opportunity to commence a plan that he was thinking of long before he came to rule Japan. He sent many of his allies to rule over areas that he considered being potentially hostile in an attempt to have people there change their opinions regarding his personae. This individual was well-acquainted with the fact that control was one of the most effective tools that a leader could use and thus focused on having as much control as possible. Ieyasu’s successor further continued his predecessor’s system of gaining control over his people and influenced all of the Daimyos in Japan to live in Edo for several months per year.
Japan was heavily influenced by outside influences at the time and foreign ideas made it difficult for people to be able to comprehend that it was important for them to answer directly to the shogun. As a consequence, Ieyasu started to express more and more suspicion concerning foreigners and Christianity in particular. In spite of the fact that he was supportive of trade, he could not accept that it had a negative influence because it brought in foreigners and thus limited it to the port of Nagasaki. The shogunate eventually began a wide-scale witch hunt meant to punish whoever was courageous enough to act in disagreement with Japanese cultural values.
Japan experienced a series of internal conflicts during the first years of the Tokugawa period because people had trouble understanding the system’s strategies. However, conditions gradually improved as strict hierarchies were installed and as people were provided with the opportunity to choose the role that they were going to play in their community. This made it possible for many of them to head toward cities in an attempt to improve their social status.
The elites were sophisticated and their involvement in internal affairs seriously boosted the country’s economy. Edo in particular became a thriving centre, as “the location there of the shogunate, and the alternate attendance of the daimyo and their retainers, made this inevitable” (Henshall 65). Edo was the largest city in the world during the late eighteenth century as a result of the fact that its population counted one million individuals. In spite of the fact that Edo was the most important city in the county, other cities were also successful as peasants travelled there in large numbers “to seek their fortune amidst all this new economic activity” (Henshall 65).
People living in towns were an active part of Japan’s economy and they were also responsible for developing a new and lively culture. Their personality virtually made it possible for the shogunate to achieve the goals that it had set at the start of the Tokugawa period. The fact that cities contained aristocrats and merchants living in the same environment added to this cultural diversity. Merchants were more eccentric and they did not have to think about conserving their social status by maintaining a sober attitude. “They preferred the colour and ostentation of the kabuki, with its exaggerated movements, simple melodramatic plots, and stage effects such as trapdoors and revolving stages” (Henshall 65). While the ruling classes regarded the search for profits as being undignified, the merchants thought otherwise and some of them actually set the roots for some of the most significant businesses in the history of Japan. Even with this, as people acknowledge that it was beneficial for them and for the Japanese society as a whole to focus on profit-making, conditions in the country changed and even individuals from the ruling classes started to accept this concept (Henshall 68).
Merchants were an essential factor in boosting Japan’s economy, but they were also responsible for bringing down the shogunate and the Tokugawa era. The fact that the aristocracy focused on having merchants seen as being part of the lower classes meant that the community was imbalanced and that it was very difficult for people to understand what was good for them and what was not.
All things considered, the Tokugawa period played an essential role in shaping Japan’s history and it is one of the main reasons for which many Japanese today concentrate on values such as dignity and profit-making. The fact that the country’s economy is presently one of the most powerful in the world further demonstrates that the Edo era has had a beneficial influence on Japan when considering things from a general point-of-view.
Henshall, Kenneth, “A History of Japan: From Stone Age to Superpower,” (Palgrave Macmillan, 15.05.2012)
Lambert, Tim, “A BRIEF HISTORY of KOREA,” Retrieved October 16, 2012, from the a World History Encyclopedia Website: http://www.localhistories.org/korea.html
Miles, Nancy, “Footbinding,” Retrieved October 16, 2012, from the UCLA Website: http://www.international.ucla.edu/shenzhen/2002ncta/miles/index.htm
Seth, Michael J. “A Concise History of Korea: From the Neolithic Period Through the Nineteenth Century,” (Rowman & Littlefield, 2006)
Varley, Paul H., “Japanese Culture,” (University of Hawaii Press, 2000)
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