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Edo Japanese

In the feudal culture of the Edo Japanese, the daimyos carry out the shogun's will through steely diplomacy and, if needed, by the samurai's blade.

A long period of instability and warring between the regional clans had been tearing Japan apart. The Tokugawa clan's victory at the Battle of Sekigahara (1600) ushered in a new era of peace and unification in the archipelago.

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The Edo period (1603–1868) is named after Edo (future Tokyo), the new capital city where the powers of the military government—the bakufu—were concentrated under the command of the Shogun. This title was made hereditary, and remained in the hands of the Tokugawa clan for nearly 250 years. During this period they wielded the real power, while the Emperor in Kyoto was relegated to a symbolic and religious role. This period is distinguished by an entrenched feudal system dominated by lords at the head of fiefs and an isolationist policy known as sakoku, devised to consolidate the shogunate’s administrative power. The sakoku forbid trade with the outside world, simultaneously nipping the spread of Christianity in the bud. In this period of peace, an urban, bourgeois lifestyle oriented toward pleasure-seeking developed known as the “floating world” or ukiyo. The pursuit of pleasure during the Edo period gave rise to a multitude of new artforms that pushed the boundaries of refinement: ukiyo-e woodblock prints, Noh and Kabuki theater, bunraku puppet theater, origami, lacquer work, and haiku poetry. This creative vitality enriched the merchant class and spurred the development of cities abounding with shops, temples, tea houses, and other recreational quarters.

Did you know?

During the Edo period, the Japanese used a timekeeping system that divided day and night into a number of equal parts. This meant that hours could be longer or shorter depending on the season and the length of daylight.