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Who Were the Daimyo?


A samurai warrior kneels before his daimyo lord, Japan, 1877

Photo of a daimyo, or feudal lord, and one of his samurai warriors in Japan, 1877

Stillfried and Andersen, Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Collection

Daimyo: A feudal lord in shogunate Japan, c. 10th century to 19th century. The daimyo were large land-owners, and vassals of the Shogun. Samurai warriors served to protect the lives and property of the daimyo.

The word "daimyo" comes from the Japanese roots dai, meaning "big or great," and myo, or "name," so "great name." In this case, however, "myo" means something like "title to land," so the word really refers to the daimyo's large landholdings. The equivalent in English would be "lord."

The daimyo were divested of their land and power during the Meiji Restoration of 1868, although some were able to transition to the new oligarchy (wealthy industrialist class).

Pronunciation: "dime-yo"

"The power of the daimyo in Japan ended in 1871, when the new Meiji rulers curtailed the power of the samurai class and vested control once more in the Emperor."

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