The Tokugawa Shogunate
FDR High School
Brooklyn, New York City
Aim: How did the Tokugawa Shogunate centralize the Japanese
Students will be able to:
- Identify the social structure of feudal Japan and the terms shogun,
daimyo, samurai, bushido and haiku.
- Assess the role Ieyasu Tokugawa's reforms played in bringing stability
- Analyze the changes that took place in Japan under the Tokugawa
- Ieyasu Tokugawa's
Moral Precept ;
- Laws Governing Military Households;
- Postcards and/or pictures of Nijo Castle in Kyoto;
- Pictures of the Nikko shrine (Toshogu Shrine, or "Shrine
to the Sun God of the East).
1. Students should be familiar with the military aristocracy of
Japanese feudal society from a previous lesson or assigned homework.
Review the organization of the Japanese feudal society with students
and the relationship between the Emperor, Shogun, Daimyo and Samurai.
2. Explain to the students that the feudal period was a time of
constant war. Review the failure of the Mongol invasions of 1274
and 1281 due to typhoons. Ask students: Why did the failure of the
Mongol invasion reinforce the idea that the Japanese were special
people set apart and protected by the gods?
3. Present the students with a haiku by the poet Sogi from the 1400s:
To live in the world
Is sad enough without this rain
Pounding on my shelter.
Ask the class to determine what this haiku reveals about life in
feudal Japan in the 1400s. Students should be able to conclude that
it was a time of despair and war, and thus the Japanese maintained
a great respect for nature. Ask the students to explain what insights
into 15th-century Japanese culture the haiku reveals. They should
reason that the haiku reveals a sense of despair, that the Japanese
maintained a high level of learning to create this haiku, and that
nature was a focus of Japanese life.
4. Tell the students that the powerful general Toyotomi Hideyoshi,
a commoner at birth, brought most of Japan under control by his
death in 1598. In 1603, however, Ieyasu Tokugawa founded the Tokugawa
Shogunate. The Tokugawa shogunate would rule Japan until 1868 and
bring peace to the nation.
5. Present students with Ieyasu Tokugawa's moral precept. Divide
the class into groups by having students number off from 1-4 and
assign the following roles:
Member 1: reporter (to the class)
Member 2: reader (to the group)
Member 3: recorder (of all group responses)
Member 4: discussion leader (begins the discussion for the group)
Ask the group to evaluate what Ieyasu's precept (decree) reveals
about the type of leader he will be. Ask the group reporters to
report the findings of the individual groups to the class. Discuss
the findings as a class and create a class list of the qualities
that students anticipate to find in the leader Ieyasu.
6. Present "The Laws Governing Military Households" to
the class. Review the introduction with the entire class, then assign
two or three laws to each group depending on class size. Have the
groups, using the same roles as before, answer the following questions:
A. What is the goal of this law?
B. How would this law increase the power of the shogun?
7. Record the groups' responses on the board for the entire class
under the heading: Ieyasu Tokugawa Centralizes Government Power.
8. Have students return to their seats and explain to the class
that the Japanese economy and culture flourished under the Tokugawa
9. Explain to the class that, as evidenced in the Military Laws,
Ieyasu and the other Tokugawa shoguns kept a close eye on their
daimyos. Present the class with slides of Nijo Castle to review
the way that the Shogun controlled the daimyo with regulated visits
to the castle. Ask the class: Why did forced visits to the Shogun
weaken the daimyo? How does Nijo Castle reflect a strong reverence
for nature in Japanese culture?
In conclusion, show the students pictures of the Toshogu shrine
in Nikko. Explain that the shrine was built to honor Ieyasu Tokugawa.
The name Toshogu means "Sun, God of the east." Ask the
students how the name demonstrates that the Shogun was on an equal
plane with the Emperor. How does the shrine demonstrate the power
of Ieyasu and the respect the Japanese people had for him?
For homework, have students write a short paragraph describing how
the lives of the Japanese changed under the rule of the Tokugawa.
De Bary, Wm. Theodore, ed., Introduction to Asian Civilizations.
Vol.1, Sources of Japanese Tradition, compiled by Ryusaku Tsunoda,
Wm. Theodore de Bary, and Donald Keene. New York: Columbia University