Japan undeniably has a rich culture and history. The country has undergone many changes over time, and this included their social hierarchy. Different from today, during the Feudal era Japan, the country’s social classes were distributed into the following tiers:
- The Royal Class
At the very top is the Royal Class, which includes the emperor and his family. However, while placed at the top, the emperor and his family actually did not hold much power over the nation, as the main governing power at the time rested with the military force. As such, the emperor served as more of a figurehead and held symbolic religious influence over the Japanese people.
- The Noble Class
The Noble Class is also the military class who, while below the Royal Class actually ran the country, which made them powerful figures. The Noble Class included the Shogun, the Daimyos, the Samurais and the Ronins.
- Shogun – The shogun held the highest position within this class. He is both the military and political leader and therefore held the most power.
- Daimyos-The daimyos or feudal warlords are ranked just below and directly reports to the Shogun. They also had complete military and economic power.
- Samurai– Samurais who are also known as bushi were the warriors of the feudal era. They are hired by daimyos for protection and are very loyal to their leaders. Less than ten percent of the people of this era belonged to this subclass.
- Ronins– When a daimyo dies or is defeated in battle, the samurais under him then become ronins. In other words, they are simply samurais who did not belong to any master and who worked for different employers. They are at the bottom of the Noble Class.
- The Lower Class
The Lower Class of feudal Japan consisted around ninety percent of the overall population. This class included the Peasants, Artisans, Merchants, the Ainu, the Etas, the Hinin and the Prostitutes.
- Peasants– The farmers or peasants worked in agriculture and although poor, were held in high esteem due to producing food which the other classes depended on.
- Artisans – They are also known as Craftsmen and worked with wood and metal.
- Merchants– These were traders and shopkeepers. Contrary to modern times, they were not highly regarded as they were seen as people who profited from the work of the Peasant and Artisan classes.
- Ainus– These were the descendants of freed slaves.
- Etas– This subclass included the executioners, butchers and tanners.
- Hinin– This referred to convicted criminals and wandering bards.
- Prostitutes – The Prostitutes made up the lowest tier in the feudal era social classes of Japan.