Both civilizations had been fragmented for centuries before feudalism was established in Medieval Europe (600-1450 CE) and Japan. Europe had become vulnerable to invasions from all directions following the collapse of Roman Empire. Japan, meanwhile, was long a clan-based country. Both feudal societies shared many similarities, such as their stabilizing effect and similar hierarchical structures. The militaristic aspect of feudalism was very different, with knights and samurai being two of the most striking examples. It was a central and powerful government that ruled Europe over hundreds of years. The Roman Empire had a powerful and large military that repelled invaders. Invaders like the Huns or the Goths, who were unsure what to do, took advantage of the chaos and divided lands to take them over. The feudal order created a single ruler who would control the people through a hierarchy. The peasants were expected to work for a manor and support the owner, the monarch or those who protected the manor. Japan, however, has a long-standing tradition of clans that are independent. They had a central authority with the feudal government. The shogun could oversee the entire civilization and allow them to work together to advance as a group instead of focusing on conquering more land. The European system had a monarch at its top, either a king or a queen. The Japanese system also had an emperor as its monarch. In reality, he was there only to show off, because people believed he had divine qualities. Samurai placed the shogun as the leader. The nobles sat beneath the monarchs in both cultures. Next, I will describe the samurai. Under the European knights, there were peasants working at the manors. The merchants were regarded as more important than common laborers. The opposite is seen in Japan. In Europe the difference was less pronounced, but still very evident. Japanese people believed that merchants were inferior to laborers because the latter worked long hours for little profit and the former simply bought someone else’s labor. The differences between samurai and knights in feudalistic times are fascinating. Both had the same purpose: to protect people from external threats. They were, however, a very, very distinct pair of people. In Europe, the knights of Europe were merely that – knights. They weren’t always literate and polite. Instead, they were strong, adventurous, and oftentimes, only a few words literate. In Japan, the samurai had to possess more than strength to earn the title. Samurai were often literate, and had training in the fine arts. Knights were employed by their employers through contracts. When a contract ended with a lord, a rival would often buy the knight at a higher cost. They were just mercenaries and worked for whoever paid the most. Samurai felt a duty to help the rulers, not because of a legal obligation, but simply because that was the thing they thought to be right. Both cultures’ major religions affected the way samurai and knights fought. In Europe, Christianity was the dominant religion, and it strictly prohibited suicide. Knights fought bravely but would retreat if necessary. Samurai did not have a religion that forbade suicide. Seppuku is the act in which one kills himself by tearing out his guts using a knife. This made the Japanese army more violent and deadly than their European counterparts. Though the names of the two systems were the same (600 to 1450 BC in Europe and Japan), they were very different. They are similar, but they’re not the same.


  • owenbarrett

    I'm Owen Barrett, a 31-year-old educational blogger and traveler. I enjoy writing about the places I've visited and sharing educational content about travel and culture. When I'm not writing or traveling, I like spending time with my family and friends.