A glossary with essential terms relating to the history of Japan. This list will be continually expanded.

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
beHereditary 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
hanFeudal 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
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
jōdai karō城代家老Karō in charge of a castle
kabaneHereditary 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
karō家老senior samurai officials and advisors in service to the daimyō
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
kokuJapanese 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
kunigarō国家老Karō based in a domain
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.
ujiKin 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