Lords and Vassals in Europe and Japan and How the two Compare
While feudalism in Europe was gaining momentum in the 9th century, a similar way of life was also found in Japan between 800 and 1500. According to the text, the “system” (although historians don’t like the term for feudalism), actually lasted much longer in Japan.
Like the Europeans, the Japanese had a contract of sorts between the lord and vassal. This set of guidelines for each fief’s lord and vassal were documented in Bishop Fulbert of Chartres, in modern North France. The obligations between lord and vassal were primarily intended to be mutually beneficial. Thus, the reason the two entered the agreement in the first place. Honor and chivalry were often very important to the lords and vassals of various feudal states. It was through this honor code that the bond was created.
“The Tale of the Heike” illustrates the militaristic struggles that ensued toward the last of the 12th century. Written during the first part of the 13th century, “The Tale of the Heike” offers insight to the constantly warring state of feudal Japan. From the text we gain a sense of the deepness of a vassal named Kanehira’s mutual commitment to his feudal lord, Yoshinaka.
It seems like the two cultures had many other similarities as well. I’d be curious to find out how these similarities came about exactly.
I used to play a video game when I was younger called Onimusha Warlords. You played royalty who rode across the Japanese countryside conquering and protecting land. It was fun.
One of the obvious differences between European and Japanese vassals would have been their weaponry. From the text, we learn that European knights typically favored lances as their primary weapons. Of course, swords were used by both cultures of the time. The Japanese used bow and arrow as indicated by the word “quiver” from the text. I’d be interested to know if the Europeans typically used bow and arrow as frequently. Although I’ve heard of them being used in the western world before (of course), it seems as if the bow and arrow are quite often weaponry of indigenous peoples of various locations.