Social Changes in Japanese Society During Tokugawa Shogunate Period

The isolationist rule of the Tokugawa shogunate was pivotal in the social and moral development of Japanese society. The Neo-Confucian principles that were popularised by the Shogunate became the ‘rationalising’ force which shifted Japan from an “ascetic and religious culture to a secular and bureaucratic one.”

Neo-Confucianism was first introduced by the Tokugawa Shogunate in order to legitimise the sakoku regime by providing a system of ethics to support it. Neo-Confucian principles heavily influenced the social standards and general values of the Japanese population by encouraging a more secular, rational and humanistic approach to ethical philosophy. With denouncing the spiritual faiths of Buddhism and Shinto, the general population of Japan adopted a more rationalistic approach to their everyday lives and is still evident in the systematic and pragmatic approach to life in contemporary Japan that make it such a productive society. 

In addition, Neo-Confucianism had a role of sustaining the sovereign rule of the bafuku as its ethical code reinforced social stratification and therefore the Tokugawa hegemony. However, in sustaining the Tokugawa feudal system, Japanese society prolonged their isolation and critically hindered the scientific and industrial revolutions that were experienced by the West. This political therefore caused the nation to lack behind other world powers technologically during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Due to a lack of war and external threats, Japanese society was able to enjoy popular culture and new styles of artistic expression emerged. The Edo period gave way to the Genroku Era that crucially contributed to the distinctive art (theatrical, poetic, forms that are now associated with Japanese traditional culture. These included theatrical forms, such as kabuki and traditional Japanese art mediums such as ukiyoe woodblock printing,

Furthermore, the new educational interests that emerged in the Tokugawa period due to increased living standards were instrumental in the founding of the Ministry of Education and the promulgation of universal education laws. The high literacy rates achieved during feudal Japan contributed to the intellectual standards that helped transition Japan to its modernisation.

To conclude, during a strict period of the Tokugawa Shogunate Japanese society was dealing with accepting new sence of their identity through Neo-Confucian principels that were popular during that period of time. Nevertheless, the advantage of Tokugava period was found in intellectual or, in another word, educational sphere. 

07 July 2022
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