Although many people consider feudalism a European invention, the Japanese invented a form of feudalism independent of the Europeans at about the time that feudalism was at its height in Europe. Although these two feudalistic societies differed in several important ways, they also exhibited some key commonalities. This article will compare and contrast feudal Japan with feudal Europe while offering some explanations for the differences.
Since the ownership of land is what defines feudalism, both Japan and Europe had landowning and non-landowing castes during the Middle Ages. Unlike European feudalism, however, Japanese feudalism did not have a true pyramid form with the monarch presiding over a hierarchy of less important nobles. There are two main reasons for this. First, authority in Japan was much less centralized than it was in the nation-states of Europe. Although most of the local aristocrats paid lip-service to the emperor, the rugged terrain of Japan made it difficult for the emperor to fully control the local aristocracy. Thus, the local aristocrats had much more power in Japan than they ever had in France, Britain, or any other European country.…show more content… While the European nobility received land in exchange for their military service, the samurai did not join a landowning hierarchy. Instead, they were given an independent income from their local lord based upon what that lord's lands produced. In contrast, European knights usually had their own serfs to work the land the knights received from their lord. While a Japanese samurai might have had servants, these servants did not work the land they way they would have done in