Edo Period (1603-1868)

The streets of Edo by Utagawa Hiroshige (1840).
  • After the fall of Osaka Castle, the peaceful Edo period started under the rule of the Tokugawa family.
  • This is the era when the samurai started losing their prestigious social status since there were no wars.
  • In this period about 300 daimyos were ruled by the Tokugawa shogunate based in Edo (Tokyo).
  • In most of the Edo period (1639~), Japan was literally an isolated country (Sakoku).
  • No Japanese could leave the country and no foreigner could enter Japan.
  • Foreign books, foreign trade and foreign religions were banned. Missionaries were killed.
  • Only the Dutch were given a privileged status. They could temporarily stop by a a tiny island in Southern Japan.
  • Ukiyo-e (woodblock prints) and kabuki (Japanese style musicals), bunraku (Japanese puppet theater) were born and became popular in this era.
  • Kabuki artists were like rock starts, ordinary people had ukiyo-e posters of kabuki performers hung on their walls at home.
  • The samurai were still needed for personal protection and suppressing revolts.
  • Many high ranking samurai and daimyos became bureaucrats and government officials towards the end of the Edo period.
  • Some samurai were given permission to do farming
  • The light-weight hidden armors became popular. At the same time most armors produced during this period tend to be ceremonial as there were no wars.
  • During the Edo period Japan was considered to be one of the most advanced nations in the world. About 90% of the population in Tokyo could write and read, the highest rate in the world.
  • Japanese called the foreigners barbarians since they used their hands while eating and did not take daily showers unlike Japanese.

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