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The Salaried Samurai of Japan for AP World History

Cate O'Donnell

2 min read

Jan 2

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The salaried samurai of Japan is an illustrative example in the Empires: Administration topic of Unit 3 of AP World History. Read more about the salaried samurai of Japan below!



16th Century Illustration of Samurai
16th Century Illustration of Samurai/public domain


The evolution of Japan’s socio-political landscape during the Edo period (1603-1868) witnessed the emergence of a distinct class of warriors known as the “salaried samurai.” Historically, samurai were a hereditary class of warriors bound by a code of honor and feudal obligations. However, as Japan experienced a prolonged era of peace under the Tokugawa shogunate, the role of the samurai transformed, giving rise to a system where samurai were compensated through a salary rather than traditional land grants.


Economic Changes and the Sankin-kotai System

The Edo period saw a consolidation of power under the Tokugawa shogunate, leading to a shift in the samurai’s role from frontline warriors to administrators and bureaucrats. With the imposition of the Sankin-kotai system, regional daimyos (feudal lords) were required to spend alternating years in the capital, Edo (modern-day Tokyo), effectively creating a form of hostage system. To sustain their expensive residences in both Edo and their home domains, daimyos increasingly turned to salaried samurai to manage their affairs.


Salaried Samurai: Economic and Administrative Roles

Salaried samurai, also known as “gokenin,” were appointed by daimyos to serve in administrative capacities, manage finances, and oversee local affairs. Unlike traditional samurai, they were compensated with a stipend or salary rather than receiving income from agricultural land. This economic shift allowed samurai to focus on bureaucratic roles, arts, education, and cultural pursuits. Some distinguished themselves as scholars, poets, or artists, contributing to the flourishing cultural environment of the Edo period.


Social Structure and Challenges

While the salaried samurai class enjoyed relative economic stability, they also faced challenges. The fixed stipends often led to financial constraints, and the rigid social hierarchy limited upward mobility. Additionally, the isolationist policies of the Tokugawa shogunate restricted international trade, contributing to economic stagnation for some samurai.


Legacy

The salaried samurai system played a crucial role in maintaining stability during the Edo period, fostering a peaceful and culturally vibrant society. It allowed for the development of intellectual and artistic pursuits among the samurai class, contributing to the rich cultural heritage of Japan. The economic and social changes of this period laid the groundwork for the eventual transition to the Meiji Restoration in 1868, marking the end of the samurai era and the beginning of Japan’s modernization.



Free Printable Reading Passage on the Salaried Samurai of Japan


Salaried Samurai of Japan Free Reading Passage


Would you rather watch a video about the samurai?





Empires: Administration

Unit 3: Land-Based Empires

AP World History



Samurai of Japan

#APWorldHistory #Japan #salariedsamurai

Cate O'Donnell

2 min read

Jan 2

0

0

0

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