The Feudal Pyramid!

European feudal pyramid
Under the Feudal system in Europe, land was divided between Kings, who were in charge of kingdoms.  These kingdoms were so large, that the kings could not easily keep track of all their land.  As a result, the kings would split their land into fiefs, which they would give to barons in exchange for oaths of fealty (or loyalty).  Because these fiefs were also quite large, the barons would grant land to knights in exchange for protection from the knights for the barons and the king!  These knights would be in charge of their manor, and would have peasants (serfs) to work on the land producing the food necessary to keep the kingdom fed.  This form of social structure was used to keep Europe protected in a time of chaos following the Fall of Rome.

A Day in the Life of a Knight

Artist's representation of a knight on horse.
One important part of the feudal pyramid was the role of the knight.  Knights were required to follow a strict code of behavior, known as a code of chivalry.  This code required that all knights be Christian, and protect those that were considered weak, such as women and children.  As a result, knights would begin their day with morning mass and prayers, followed by breakfast.  After breakfast, the majority of a knight's day would concern training with weapons and discussing battle strategy.  After lunch, a knight might work on learning the art of dancing and horsemanship, as well as hunting or hawking.  After their afternoon activities, knights would enjoy their supper, complete with dinner entertainment like music, dancing and jesters.  After supper would be evening prayers and off to bed, concluding the day of a knight!

Feudalism in Japan vs Europe

Japanese Feudal Pyramid
    While feudalism developed in Europe in about 900 AD after the fall of Rome, feudalism also developed in Japan and was organized in a similar manner.  While there were many similarities between European and Japanese feudalism, there were also several differences in the way both systems were carried out. 
    Some similarities between European and Japanese feudalism were in the levels into which society was split.  Under European feudalism, society was split into levels, where the King was on top, Barons were below the King, Knights below the Barons, and Peasants and Serfs on the bottom.  Under this system, people could not move up or down in their social levels, but had to remain in their station of birth.  In Japan, society was also split into levels.  The Emperor was technically at the top, followed by the Shogun, Daimyo, Samurai, Peasants, and then Merchants.  This system began to develop between 600 AD and its decline in the 1100s.  Both systems developed in order to protect landowners from the lawlessness that developed, either at the fall of Rome (in Europe) or with the increased power of the daimyo class (in Japan).  Also, both structures provided a warrior class intended to protect the other social classes from danger.  This level of society was made up of knights in Europe and Shoguns in Japan.  Even though there were many similarities, there were also several differences between how feudalism worked in Europe and Japan.
    Some of the differences between both structures was in the way each societies levels were ordered.  While both social structures contained a king/emperor figure, in Japan, the Emperor had no actual power, and was more of just a figurehead.  Also, as one looks at the location of the peasant class in Japan, it is obvious that peasants did not make up the lowest level in Japanese society, while peasants were the bottom of Europe's social structure.  Instead, the merchant class made up the lowest level of Japanese feudal society because they did not farm or produce any goods that would contribute to the rest of society.  Another difference is that, even though the merchant class was the lowest level in Japan, it was not the largest.  The largest level in both social structures was the peasant class.  These differences are more about the specific way feudalism actually operated in two different societies.
    Although there are differences between Japanese and European feudalism, the majority of those differences lie in the way the same social structure was operated within two very different cultures.  There were many similarities in the two systems as well, mostly because a feudal structure follows a basic pattern no matter which society implements it.  Overall, these similarities and differences represent cultural similarities and differences as well.