A glossary with essential terms relating to the history of Japan. This list will be continually expanded.
TERM KANJI DESCRIPTION bakufu 幕府 Government of the shogunate, also referring to the seat of the government and administration bakuhan taisei 幕藩体制 Edo-era system of government, characterised by the central authority of the bakufu and local autonomy of the han be 部 Hereditary professions assigned to uji bunmei kaika 文明開化 "Civilization and enlightenment", an early Meiji-era movement aiming at re-organising Japan according to Western ciliization buke, bushi 武家・武士 Warrior class chōnin 町人 Edo-era townspeople, merchants, craftsmen and labourers daimyō 大名 feudal lord, warlord daiō 大王 Great king dajōkan 太政官 Grand Council of State, the highest organ of the Meiji government until 1885 dajō daijin 太政大臣 Chancellor or Chief Minister, head of the dajōkan fudai-daimyō 譜代大名 Hereditary vassals of the Tokugawa fukoku kyōhei 富国強兵 "Enrich the state, strengthen the military", a national slogan during the Meiji era genrō 元老 Elder statesmen during the Meiji Period, a powerful informal and extraconstitutional institution gokenin 御家人 Direct vassals of the shogun han 藩 Feudal domain of a daimyō haniwa 埴輪 Unglazed tomb figures made of earthenware hatamoto 旗本 "Bannermen", direct vassals of the Tokugawa of higher rank than the gokenin heimin 平民 Citizens heinō bunri 兵農分離 Social segregation of samurai and peasants at the end of the 16th/beginning of the 17th century insei 院政 Cloistered rule, rule of an emperor abdicated jingikan 神祇官 Department of Divinities, a Japanese Imperial bureaucracy established in the 8th century jitō 地頭 land stewards appointed by the shogun, especially in the Kamakura and Muromachi Shogunates jisha bugyō 寺社奉行 "Commissioner" or "overseer" of temples and shrines during the Tokugawa shogunate kabane 姓 Hereditary titles used with clan name in pre-modern Japan to denote rank and political standing kaikoku 開国 The opening the Japanese nation for foreign countries and trade in 1853 kanpaku 関白 Chief advisor and regent of an emperor katanagari 刀狩 Sword hunt, the confiscation of weapons at the end of the 16th century kōbu gattai 公武合体 "Union of the Imperial Court and the Shogunate", a policy aiming at a political coordination between the bakufu and the emperor kofun 古墳 Burial mounds koku 石 Japanese unit of volume, especially for rice (180l) kokudaka 石高 Estimate of the annual yield of farmland measured in koku of unpolished rice and the basis of and taxes throughout the Edo Period kokushi 国司 Provincial governor kokutai 国体 The Japanese national entity: system of government, sovereignty, national identity, essence, and character, etc. kuge 公家 Court nobility Kyōto shoshidai 京都所司代 Governor of Kyōto and highest-ranking representative of the Tokugawa shogunate in the city mandokoro 政所 Chief governing body of the Kamakura bakufu monchūjo 問注所 Court of justice of the Kamakura bakufu Ōsaka jōdai 大坂城代 Commissioners or governors, high-ranking officials of the Tokugawa shogunate ōsei fukko 王政復古 Imperial restoration ritsuryō-sei 律令制 The centralised imperial system of government of the Nara Period rōjū 老中 One of the highest-ranking government posts under the Tokugawa shogunate Rokuhara tandai 六波羅探題 High-ranking position in the Kamakura shogunate rōnin 浪人 Masterless samurai in feudal Japan sadaijin 左大臣 Minister of the Left, a government position in the late Nara and Heian periods sakoku 鎖国 Policy of national isolation during the Tokugawa shogunate samurai-dokoro 侍所 Board of Retainers, an office of the Kamakura and Muromachi shogunates sankin kōtai 参勤交代 "Alternate attendance", a Tokugawa policy under which daimyō had to spend every other year in Edo seii tai shōgun 征夷大将軍 "Commander-in-Chief of the Expeditionary Force Against the Barbarians", the official title of shogun sekke 摂家 The five regent houses of the Fujiwara clan and the kuge sesshō 摂政 Title of a regent acting on behalf of a child emperor or an empress regnant shikken 執権 Regent acting on behalf of a Kamakura shogun shi nō kō shō 士農工商 A hierarchic social class structure based on four professions or castes: samurai, peasants, craftsmen, and merchants. shinpan-daimyō 親藩大名 Branch or cadet families of the Tokugawa shōen 荘園 Privately-owned and often autonomous estates or manors shugo 守護 Military governor or "constable" appointed by the shogun to oversee one or more of the provinces sonnō jōi 尊王攘夷 "Revere the Emperor, expel the barbarians", political slogan of the bakumatsu to overthrow the Tokugawa shogunate sūmitsuin 枢密院 Privy Council, an advisory council to the emperor taikō 太閤 Title of a retired kanpaku tairō 大老 Highest-ranking official in the Tokugawa shogunate and chief policy maker; regent in the absence of a shogun, or in the event that the shogun was incapacitated tenryō 天領 Land under the direct control of the Tokugawa shogunate tozama-daimyō 外様大名 "Outside daimyō", nonhereditary feudal lords that submitted to the Tokugawa after the Battle of Sekigahara and were usually excluded from participation in the government. udaijin 右大臣 Minister of the Right, the Junior Minister of State, overseeing all branches of the daijōkan and deputy of the sadaijin. uji 氏 Kin groups during the Kofun Period and traditional Japanese clans uji no kami 氏上 Head of an uji ujigami 氏神 Guardian god or spirit of an uji wakadoshiyori 若年寄 "Junior Elders", high-ranking government officials in 17th-century Tokugawa shogunate zaibatsu 財閥 Industrial and financial combines of a conglomerate type that dominated the Japanese economy between the Meiji Period and World War I