• amanda0195

Japan's History


Jomon Culture (4000 BC)

Yayoi Culture (300 BC)

Yamamota Period (250-710)

Kofun (250-538)

Asuka (538-710)

Buddhism (552 priests from Korea arrive)

Prince Shotoku (574-622)

Taika Reform (645) by Emperor Kotoku

Taiho Code (702)

Nara Period (710-784)

Heian Period (794-1185)

Fujiwara Period (858-1160)

Tale of Genji

Civil War (1156-1185)

Heiji Rebellion (1160)

Gempei War (1180-1185)

Rise of Minamoto leader Yoritomo (1147-1199)

Kamakura Period (1185-1333)


Shokyu War (1221)

Mongol invasions (1274)

Kemmu Restoration (1333-1336)

Ashikaga (Muromachi) Period (1336-1573)

Civil Wars

Unification (1568-1599)

Tokugawa (Edo) Period (1600-1867)

Meiji Restoration (1868-1912)

Taisho Period (1912-1926)

Showa Period (1926-1989)

World WAr II

Heisei Period (1989 to present)



  • Four main islands

  • Hokkaido

  • Honshu (main island)

  • Kyushu and Shikoku

  • Size

  • 146,000 square miles (size of Montana)

  • Climate: temperate

  • Slightly warmer on east coast (where most people live)

  • Economy

  • Most people live on east coast

  • Around cities of Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto

  • Where farmers could harvest two crops of rice annually.

  • Topography and fertility

  • Most of Japan is mountainous (from Volcanoes)

  • Only about 20% of the land is suitable for cultivation

  • But volcanoes create extremely fertile = very productive

  • Natural disasters

  • Japan is prone to earthquakes (1923 earthquake destroyed Tokyo)

  • Earthquakes cause Tsunamis (as in 2011)

  • Consequence of geography

  • Culturally homogeneous (similar features) = culturally and ethnically distinct.



Legend of Amaterasu

  • Written in 8th c. B.C.E.

  • Islands formed as result of marriage between god Izanagi and goddess Izanami.

  • They gave birth to a sun goddess Amaterasu

  • Full name: Amaterasu-ōmikami

  • Meaning "the great kami (god) who shines in the heaven

  • A descendant of Amaterasu descended to earth and became founder of Japanese nation.

  • Story explains

  • Uniqueness of Japanese people

  • And divinity of the Japanese emperor (a descendant of the sun goddess Amaterasu)



  • Japanese islands have been occupied for 100,000 years

JOMON PEOPLE (14,000-300 B.C.E.)

  • Earliest Neolithic inhabitants

  • Named for cord pattern on their pottery

  • Lived in islands from 8000 BC

  • Hunting, fishing, food gathering (possibly cultivated some food crops)

  • Agriculture introduced 1000 B.C.E.

  • Rice cultivation introduced by immigrants from China about 400 B.C.E.

YAYOI (300 B.C.E - 200 C.E.)

  • Immigrants who drove out inhabitants

  • Name "Yayoi"

  • From site near Tokyo where pottery from the period was found

  • Mixture of Jomon and new arrivals.

  • Enriched by wet rice brought from immigrants.

  • Yayoi were descendants of majority of present-day Japanese.

  • At first lived primarily on southern island of Kyushu

  • Eventually moved northward to main island of Honshu

  • Driving out locals (Ainu) (some still in northern islands

  • In first centuries C.E. Yayoi settled in the Yamato plain

  • near modern-day Osaka and Kyoto


YAMATO PERIOD (250-710 C.E.)

  • Legend of Jimmu

  • Divine warrior who led his people eastward from island of Kyushu to establish a kingdom in Yamato plain

  • Yamato government and society

  • In central Honshu, Yayoi set up a tribal society based on a number of clans called uji

  • Each uji was ruled by a hereditary chieftain

  • Who protected local population

  • In return for proportion of annual harvest.

  • Population

  • Small aristocratic class

  • Majority were rice farmers, artisans and household servants of aristocrats.

  • Society was highly decentralized

  • Eventually chieftain of the dominant clan in the Yamato region (who claimed descent form sun goddess Ameratsu) had top title.

  • But not centralized like Chinese rules of Shang and Zhou

  • Relations with China

  • At first Japanese didn't pay attention

  • early 7th century rise of Tang (centralized and expansionist)

  • Meddled in affairs of Korean Peninsula (worried Japanese)

  • Reaction of Yamato rulers

  • First sought alliance with remaining Korean states

  • Then tried to centralize their authority in order to effectively resist Chinese if invaded.

  • Kofun Period (250-538)

  • Characterized by a Shinto culture

  • Politically, the leadr of a powerful clan won control over much of west Honshu and northern half of Kyushu

  • Eventually established the Imperial House of Japan.

  • Asuka period (538-710)

  • Shotoku Taishi (572-622)

  • Leading aristocrat of one of leading families in Yamato region.

  • Served under Empress Suiko (592-628)

  • Who was the niece of previous emperor Sujun (588-593)

  • Sent missions to Tang capital of Chang'an to learn about political institutions.

  • Sent first diplomatic mission to China in 607

  • 17 Article constitution (written 604, published 720)

  • Based on Chinese model

  • Called for creation of a centralized government under a supreme ruler

  • And a merit system of selecting and ranking public officials

  • wanted to limit power of the hereditary nobility and enhance prestige and authority of Yamato rulers (who claimed divine status)

  • Articles were very Buddhist and Confucian (morals and virtues)

  • Buddhism

  • Shotoku supported Buddhism

  • From Baetke (Korea)

  • Built Buddhist Temple Horyu-ji in 607 (Pagoda is one of oldest wooden building in world)

  • First Japanese traveled to China during this period as pilgrims

  • By 7th c., Buddhism had become popular among aristocrats

  • who endowed wealthy monasteries that became active in Japanese politics

  • At first didn't spread to masses

  • Then popular sects such as the Pure Land sect (from China) attracted common people

  • After Shotoku's death in 622

  • His successors continued to introduce reforms to make the government more efficient

Taika ("Great Change") Reform 645

  • Set of doctrines established by Emperor Kotoku

  • After death of Prince Shotoku (622)

  • Aim: greater centralization and enhance power of imperial court (based on Chinese structure)

  • ​Made everyone subject to the emperor

  • Land and people now belonged to him

  • In return clan heads given paid official jobs

  • New tax system established.

  • Now all farmland technically belonged to the state

  • So taxes paid directly to central government rather than local nobility

  • Grand Council of State established

  • Presiding over a cabinet of 8 ministries.

  • 6 traditional ministries of Tang China

  • Pus 2 ministers (central secretariat and imperial household)

  • Borrowed from Chinese

  • Chinese written language used for all official communication

  • Territory divided into administrative districts like China

  • Rural village (ideally 50 households) was basic unit of government.

  • Village chief responsible for

  • Assigning forced labor, collecting taxes, law and order, assigning crops and cultivation of mulberry trees, maintenance of household registers

  • Taiho Code 702

  • Made leader of Yamato clan an emperor (“son of heaven”)

  • Criminal laws (applied to all)

Ties with Korea

  • Ties to Paekche/Baekje people in southwestern coast of Korean Peninsula

  • 552 Buddhist priests from Korea arrived in Japan

  • Buddhism introduced 538 by Paekche

  • Promoted by ruling class for own purposes

  • When Japanese saved King of Paekche from enemies, Koguryo (in north)

  • Yamato politically became centralized state


NARA PERIOD (710-784)

  • After Shotoku's Taishi's death in 622

  • political influence fell to hands of the powerful Fujiwara clan

  • which managed to marry into the ruling family

  • and continue the reforms Shotoku had begun

  • Capital moved from Asuka to Nara in 710

  • City laid out on a grid similar to the great Tang city of Chang'an

  • on eastern edge of Yamato plain

  • Center of Buddhist art, religion and culture

  • designed in imitation of Tang Chinese capital, Chang’an

  • Without defensive wall

  • Yamato ruler began to use title "son of Heaven" in Chinese fashion

  • But title stayed with imperial house (not individual selected by "mandate of heaven" because of talent and virtue as in Chinese tradition)

  • If it had adopted Chinese style, Jpan might have followed Chinese pattern and developed centralized bureacratic govt.

  • But Japan didn't avoid eventual domination by aristocracy

  • Civil Service Exam

  • Unlike China, exam was not open to all but restricted to individuals of noble birth

  • Led to officials being awarded large tracts of land

  • and powerful families able to keep taxes from the lands for themselves.

  • increasingly, central govt. steadily lost power and influence

In 770, a Buddhist priest named Dokyo tried to become emperor


HEIAN PERIOD (794-1185)

  • Influence of powerful Buddhist monasteries in Nara became too powerful

  • In 794, Emperor Kamu moved the capital from Nara to Heian (Kyoto)

  • (Heian-kyo – “capital of peace and calm” court)

  • Heian was his family's original power base.

  • Like Nara, it was laid out in familiar Chang'an checkerboard pattern but on a larger scale than Nara

  • Emperors were more self-confident

  • So stopped emulating Tang

  • No longer sent missions to Chang'an.

  • Tang was also declining in 838

  • Japanese indigenous writing system (like kana) was established

  • 800

  • Emperor’s power began to fade

  • Royal line descended om sun goddess

  • continued to rule in name

  • but actual power in hands of Fujiwara clan

  • who intermarried to link its fortunes to imperial family

  • a senior ember of the clan served as rgent forr the emperor.

  • By 850

  • Fujiwara family was running country

  • Emperor was “puppet”

Fujiwara Period (858-1160)

  • Imperial family lost political power

  • Fujiwara had daughters or sisters married to princes

  • When son born they became regent

  • Titles Shessho and Kampaku (imperial regents)

  • Government decentralized (like before Shotoku Taishi)

  • Central governments attempt to impose taxes directly on rice lands failed

  • rural areas came under control of powerful families

  • whose wealth was based on ownership of tax-exempt farmland called schoen

  • To avoid paying taxes

  • Peasants gave up lands to local aristocrat

  • Who allowed peasants to cultivate lands in return for rent

  • To obtain protection from government officials

  • Local aristocrats might grant title of their lands to more powerful aristocrat with influence at court

  • In return, these individuals would receive inheritable rights to a portion of the income from the estate

  • Tale of Genji

  • By Murasaki Hikibu (978-1016)


Civil War 1156 to 1185

  • Rebellions:

  • Hogan Rebellion (1156-1158)

  • Led to first stages of feudalism in Japan

  • Heiji Rebellion (1160)

  • Gempei War (1180-1185)

  • A society led by samurai clans emerged under rule of shogun

  • Beginning of feudalism

  • End of Heian period

  • Between Taira and Minamoto clans

  • 1159

  • Minamoto forces stormed Kyoto

  • Attacked emperor’s residence

  • Taira

  • Dominated imperial government from 1160-1185

  • Gempei War (1180-85)

  • Final struggle be Taira and Minamoto clans

  • Fighting off coasts of Dan-no-ura beach – sea battle

  • Rise of Minamoto leader Yoritomo (1147-1199)

  • Instituted the (Kamakura) Shogunate (lasted until 1868)

  • Persuaded 13-year old emperor to give him title of Shogun

  • Made title hereditary


Feudal Japan (1185-1868)

  • Emperor was technically at the top

  • Although the emperor was only a figurehead

  • The government was dominated by warlords (shoguns)

  • While dominant power in countryside was in the hands of regional families (daimyo)

  • Who hired samurai (warriors) to defend the manor and the peasants

  • Power of merchants weak


Kamakura (1192-1333)

  • Shogunate

  • 1192 court appointed Yoritomo of the Minamoto clan

  • To a number of high positions in government

  • Yorimoto defeated the Fujiwara clan (miltiary captain, north of Japan)

  • Positions were consolidated and he became first person designated the Shogun

  • Capital at Kamakura

  • To prevent corruption

  • Yoritomo established his own government away from the capital

  • Based in Kamakura (south of modern-day Tokyo)

  • Called the Bakufu

  • Samurai

  • Government was comprised entirely of samurai (warriors)

  • Samurai replaced nobles as real rulers of Japan

  • Emperor and Imperial court remained in Kyoto

  • Beginning of military rule (military dictatorship

  • Yoritomo's sons not as capable

  • Power in Kamakura eventually shifted to the Hojo family

  • Shokyu War of 1221 (shogun v. emperor)

  • Conflict between the Bakufu in Kamakura (shogun)

  • And Imperial government in Kyoto (emperor)

  • Question over who was really in control

  • Imperial army was defeated

  • And the Bakufu assumed total control of Japan


  • Genghis Khan and Mongols terrorizing China

  • By 1271 Mongols under Kublai Khan

  • Conquered most of Asia

  • Sent emissaries to Japan with demands of recognition

  • Bakufu sent back negative reply resulting in war

  • All Japan united

  • First invasion Kyushu 1274

  • Saw mass murder of women and children

  • Samurai disadvantage

  • Virtually no real fighting in Japan for century

  • Samurai preferred simple charge into battle

  • No recently built castles in the area

  • Soldiers to old castles from Yamato Period, almost 600 years ago

  • Mongols ran out of arrows

  • Tactical withdrawal

  • Great storm devastating Mongolian ships as they tried to escape (lost 13,000)

  • 7 years Kublai in China

  • Giving Bakufu change to organize better defense

  • Another wind – “kami-kazi” (divine wind)

  • A lot of money spent

  • To keep samurai ready for a possible third invasion by Mongols

  • Death of Emperor Go-Saga in 1272

  • Bitter dispute over succession to throne within the imperial family

Kemmu Restoration (1333)

  • Kamakura shogunate was overthrown in coup led by Emperor Go-Daigo and followers

  • Kusunoki Masashige

  • Nitta Yoshisada

  • Ashikaga

  • Goal was to bring Imperial house back to power



  • New warrior government in Kyoto held weak control of country

  • From base in Kyoto's Muromachi district.

  • Patrons of newly flourishing art

  • Influenced by Zen Buddhist culture as well as samurai and court culture

  • Last time Emperor had any power until the Meiji Restoration 1867



  • Country unified under military government

  • Maintained 250 years of peace

  • Japan secluded

  • Only Dutch could trade with Japanese at Dejima, Nagasaki

  • Dutch learning



Early 19th century turmoil

  • ​Declining agricultural productivity

  • Periodic crop failures and famines, strvation

  • Harsh taxation = economic hardships

  • Many cultivators had to sell land and move to towns

  • Price of rice and other commodities rose = urban poor

  • Samurai and daimyo in debt to growing merchant class

  • Peasant protests and rebellions (late 18th c./early 19th c.)

Response of Tokugawa bakufu

  • ​Conservative reforms

  • 1841-1843, shogun chief advisor, Mizuno Tadakuni

  • ​To stem social/economic decline and hellp Tokugawa govt.

  • Canceled debts that samurai and daimyo owed to merchants

  • Abolished merchant guilds

  • Forced peasants to leave cities and go back to cultivate rice

  • Reforms resulted in strong opposition = Tadakuni fired.

Foreign pressure

  • Trade in Japan controlled/only opened to Dutch and Chinese in Nagasaki

  • 1844 British, French and US ships tried to get Japan to open ports

  • Tokugawa officials refused

  • U.S Commodore Matthew Perry 1853

  • US naval squadron to Tokyo Bay 1852

  • Perry pointed guns towards bakufu capital, Edo (modern Tokyo)

  • Demanded that shogun open Japan to diplomatic and commercial relations

  • And sign treaty of friendship

  • Shogun quickly gave in to Perry's demands

  • Britain, Russia, Netherlands also won rights

  • Unequal treaties

  • Opened ports to foreign commercial trade

  • Government had no control over tariffs

  • Foreigners got extraterritorial right (didn't have to follow Japan laws)

End of Tokugawa rule

  • Sudden intrusion of foreigners = domestic crisis

  • Great opposition of conservative daimyo and emperor

  • Didn't like humiliating terms of unequal treaties

  • Questioned shogun's right to rule Japan

  • Centers of discontented samurai: Choshu and Satsuma

  • 1858 opponents gathered at emperor's court in Kyoto

  • Slogan "revere the emperor, expel the barbarians"

Civil War

  • Tokugawa reacted by dismissing dissident daimyo

  • And killing or imprisoning samurai critics

  • But Bakufu armies suffered defeats by dissident militia trained by foreign experts with modern, imported weapons

  • Shogun forced to resign

Meiji Restoration 1868

  • Boy emperor Mutsuhito (later known as Meiji ("enlightened ruler") took power

  • Emperor Meiji (r. 2852-1912)


  • Reasons

  • To be a strong as Europe and US

  • And win revision of unequal treties

  • How?

  • Foreign experts hired to help develop economy and train locals

  • Japanese students sent around world to study, technology, governments etc.

  • Fukuzawa Yukichi

  • In 1860 he was on first Japanese mission to the US, then Europe

  • Laued constitutional govenremtn and modern educational systems in US and western Europe

  • Argued for equality before the law in Japan

  • Ito Hirobumi

  • To Europe 1882-3 to study constitutions and administrative systems

  • Impressed with recently united Germany

  • Inspired by German constitution (used for Japan)

  • Social

  • Goal: to centralize political power (required destruction of old social order)

  • Persuaded daimyo to give up their lands to the throne

  • in exchange for patents of nobility

  • Old domains replaced with prefectures and metropolitan districts controlled by central governemnt

  • Samurai class abolished (as well as their stipends)

  • Samurai no longer had military monopoly

  • No longer allowed to carry swords or wear hair in topknot

  • Instead conscript army raised

  • Samurai given bonds but they declined in value = samurai poor.

  • Some samurai rose in rebellion - but new national army crushed them

  • Political

  • Authority back to Japanese emperor

  • End to series of military governments (in Japan since 1185)

  • New government

  • Formed by coalition of daimyo, imperial princes, court nobles, samurai

  • Goals

  • Proseperity and strength

  • "Rich country, strong army"

  • Constitution

  • Pressure for a constitution and representative government

  • Emperor believed constitutions gave foreign powers their strength and unity.

  • Meiji constitution

  • As voluntary "gift" to the people.

  • Drafted with help from Ito Hirobumi

  • Established a constitutional monarchy

  • Diet (legislature)

  • House of nobles and an elected lower house

  • Could advise Emperor but never control him

  • Emperor

  • Commanded armed forces

  • Named the prime minister

  • Appointed the cabinet

  • Had right to dissolve the parliament

  • When Diet not in session, the emperor could issue ordinances.

  • Individual rights granted (but limited to interest of state)

  • Franchise limited to property restrictions

  • In elections 1890 only 5% of adult male population could vote

  • Economic reforms

  • Tax system revamped.

  • Peasants traditional paid taxes in grain.

  • but value of grain fluctuated with price of rice causing revenue to change

  • 1873 Meiji government converted grain tax into a fixed-money tax

  • Result:

  • Government had predictable revenue/peasants had to deal with fluctuation

  • Cost peasants 40-50% of their crop yields

  • Produced more than 90% of government revenue

  • Taxes also assessed on potential productivity

  • = Farmers had to maximize production or sell land

  • Modern transporation, communication and eucational inrastructure

  • Established telegraph, railroad and steamship lines

  • Tied local and regional markets into a national economic network.

  • No more guild restrictions or internal tariffs.

  • Education

  • 40% of males and 15% of females literate

  • through system of universal primary and seoncary education

  • Universities provided advanced instruction for best students (esp. scientific and technical fields)

  • Rapid industrialization

  • 90% of government revenue from land tax of 1873

  • Foreign revenue from export of textiles

  • produced in labor-intensive industry

  • staffed by poorly paid workers.

  • Formation of unions and organization of strikes were considered criminal

  • Govt. crushed growing labor movement in 1901

  • By early 20th c. Japan was a major industrial power

  • Zaibatsus

  • In 1880s the governmtn sold most of its enterprises to private investors who had close ties to giovernment officials



  • Tendai

  • 804, Saicho

  • Monastic form of Buddhism

  • Isolated monasteries or temples on tops of mountains

  • Shingon

  • Introduced from China by Kukai (774-835)

  • Three Mysteries

  • Mantras

  • Practiced by Heian nobles

  • Pure Land

  • Bodhisattva Amida

  • Simpler than Tendai and Shingon

  • Very popular during a time of degeneration and trouble

  • In later half of 11th century (or 1200s)

  • Nicheren

  • 1200s (troubled time)

  • Lotus Sutra

  • Zen Buddhism

  • Chan in Chinese

  • Meditation

  • samurai

  • Mongols 1274



  • Bushi – Warrior

  • Bushido – Way of the warrior (“death before dishonor)

  • Samurai

  • Kuge – aristocratic families

  • Bakufu – military government

  • Seppuku – ritual suicide

  • Sekkan (two titles below, Sekkan family like Fujiwara)

  • Sessho – title to a regent who assisted a child emperor (1st was Shotoku to Empress Suiko)

  • Kampaku – chief advisor for emperor (Heian era)

  • Taiko is a retired kampaku

  • Writing

  • Kanji – adopted Chinese characters

  • Kana – pair of syllaberies

  • Hiragana – used with kanji for native Japanese words

  • Katakana – used for foreign words and names and onomatopoeia

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