(lit. shogunate [bakufu] and domain [han] system). The term currently used by most Japanese historians to describe the government, economy, and society of the Edo period (1600-1868). The samurai were the ruling class of the bakuhan system. However, due to the fact that there were no domestic wars from 1638 to 1853, the samurai maintained their military trappings but for the most part became a class of bureaucrats. Samurai were loyal to their lords (daimyō), and daimyō were in turn loyal to the shogun. Within their own domains, daimyō had considerable autonomy so long as they fulfilled certain responsibilities to the shogun including residing in the shogun's court in Edo (now Tokyo) during alternate years and paying taxes (in the form of rice) to the shogun. With the domains, there was a four-part social hierarchy, with samurai at the top, farmers at the second tier, then craftsmen, then merchants. The bakuhan system survived for almost 300 years without overt challenge. However, the offical ideal of an orderly society in which samurai, farmers, craftsmen and merchants applied themselves diligently to their appointed roles had begun to crumble within a hundred years of the system's foundation. It wasn't until the pressure exerted by foreign governments for Japan to open itself to trade in the 1850's, however, that the system finally crumbled. The Meiji Restoration in 1868 brought an end to the bakuhan system, the domains, the daimyō, and the samurai. (adapted from Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. Tokyo: Kodansha, 1993)
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