The Sengoku Period: The Status Of Women In Japan

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Introduction Throughout Japanese history, women of high status have had more power and influence than perhaps women in other countries. It seemed that this power waned as Japan entered the medieval era, but this is not necessarily the case. Despite the decline of inheritance on the woman’s side, elite women played significant roles in the medieval era. This is especially visible in the Sengoku period, the era of “warring states”. Towns and families were in a state of constant conflict for two hundred years. Amidst this warring, wives of court nobles and warriors played significant roles both in combat and in the home. Wives took arms against enemies while their husbands fought away from home and were to manage affairs if their husbands died.…show more content…
The chaos involved all classes, but it especially affected people of high status. Lords and samurai had the duty to defeat their enemies and take their land. Most of the men left their towns to take part in battle, leading to a significant decrease in men at home. This left the women to defend their towns when necessary. Often it was the women of high status, such as the wives of warriors, who took this role of defender. The upper-class female warriors (onna bugeisha) of the Heian and Kamakura periods had largely faded out by the Sengoku period. Despite this, many women took up arms again in the Sengoku period. Although most elite women were not trained in combat, they often carried a traditional weapon called the kaiken, a small dagger. The kaiken was meant to be a suicide tool. When a woman found herself in a situation that could lead to disgrace, she was to kill herself to escape bringing dishonour to her…show more content…
As studied in the section above, warrior wives took over many of their husband’s responsibilities in the event of their death. They were often placed in charge of deciding the heir of their household and distributing land after their husbands’ death. Additionally, warrior wives had important duties even while the husband was alive. Similar to the kuge wife’s role in social gatherings, the warrior wife was in charge of receiving the daimyo when he visited her household. She oversaw the preparation of the feast, budgeted the reception, and greeted the daimyo when he arrived. In return for their hospitality, the daimyo gave gifts to the warrior and his wife. Acknowledging the wife as the one who planned and managed the reception, the daimyo often gave the wife money, separate from the gifts given to her husband. Furthermore, the warrior wife played a vital role in managing familial ties. According to daimyo Mori Motonari, maintaining sound familial ties was a woman’s responsibility. The warrior wife was tasked with ensuring that good families adopted her sons that were not the family heir. She had to make sure her children continued to have good relations with one another after adoption. By doing this, the warrior wife secured political alliances with other families for her heir and her family. This task was an especially important one, as alliances switched constantly in

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