Following the defeat of Toyotomi Hideyoshi and his army at the beginning of the seventeenth century, Tokugawa Ieyasu began his reign as Japan’s leader or shogun as they were referred to in this time period. The formal name of this time period is the Edo period. The era prior was known as the Momoyama period which only lasted around twenty-five years according to most historians (1673-1698). Hideyoshi, the last ruler during the Momoyama Period, died after trying to conquer China and Korea, and his successor was supposed to be his son, Toyotomi Hideyori. However, Tokugawa Ieyasu defeated Hideyori and his loyalists, thus beginning the Edo period.
The social structure of the Edo period consisted of four social classes. At the top were the Shoguns, leaders of the country who were in the Tokugawa Family. Next were the military lords of the provinces who oversaw cities and reported directly to the shogun. Under these lords were the Samurai who were soldiers and officials. Lastly was the working class which consisted of three tiers. At the top, there were the peasants who worked the land to produce rice. Next, the artisans and craft workers who provided goods and at the bottom there were the merchants who chiefly traded with Korea and China.
Amongst the most major changes seen in this era were seen in the change of perception of the outside world. Previously in the Momoyama period, there was a growing interest in the outside world and trading. After the Tokugawa family took over, though, Japan began a period of isolation. All foreigners were kicked out and Christian missionaries who brought Western ideals and religion into Japan were either driven out of the country or persecuted to serve as a warning to outsiders. The only countries Japan initiated trades with were Korea and China. This isolation, or sakoku, was also a way the government ensured that no outside ideas influenced people of Japan. It also led to change in economy, as Japan chiefly produced everything it needed within its borders. Also, with all foreigners being removed from the country, Japan’s demographics became very homogenous. Thus, the Edo Period brought about by the defeat of Toyotomi Hideyoshi had enormous social impacts in Japan.
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