Describe and compare the European system of vassalage and the Japanese system of samurai feudalism.

Feudalism in both Europe and Japan involved a strict social hierarchy in which the nobility allowed peasants and warriors (knights and samurai) to live on their land in exchange for service. However, they differed in terms of the conditions of loyalty and payment for services.

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Medieval Japan and Europe both practiced forms of feudalism. Under this economic, social, and political system, a class of nobles managed and ruled land which was worked by peasants. In turn, the peasants received protection, the rights to farm the land, and a place to live.

Although Japan and Europe came about this system independently of each other, they shared many common characteristics. Feudalism in Japan and Europe was based on hereditary hierarchy. People were born into their social class and there was little opportunity for social mobility. In both places, a warrior class of lower-ranking nobles swore allegiance to the landholding nobles. These were the knights of Europe and the samurai of Japan. To govern the behavior of these warriors, a code of conduct was established (chivalry and bushido), although adherence to its tenets was far from universal. Taxes in both locations were typically paid in the form of harvests. Peasants took what they farmed and gave a large portion of it to their feudal lord. This was then further divided and passed up the feudal pyramid.

Despite these many similarities, there were key differences in the way feudalism was practiced in Japan and Europe. European knights and vassals were granted land in exchange for loyalty and military service. Samurai, on the other hand, did not own land. Instead, they received a salary from their lord, usually in the form of large quantities of rice. The justification for loyalty also differed under these two systems. In Japan, fidelity to one's lord was always to be unquestioning. Samurai and peasants were expected to remain faithful to their lord no matter what. While such fidelity was prized by Europeans, feudal relationships were considered more transactional. A lord was expected to provide protection to his vassals in exchange for loyalty. If the lord did not uphold his end of the bargain, a revolt could be expected.

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