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Page history last edited by cdaniels@... 13 years ago




Jomon Period (13000 – 300 BC) :


Hunting and Gathering


Fishing becomes more and more central to existence


An increase in producing crafts and ritual objects


Descendants of Jomon people most likely Ainu 


1st Emperor (Jimmu, descendant of sun goddess Amaterasu) comes into power around 660 BC (or so the story goes).


Jomon History Page



Shintoism -


As old as Japan itself, no founder



No written texts like the Koran or Bible

People become spirits/gods (kami) after they die

No absolute wrong or right: people are good,
but can be affected by evil spirits

Purification is therefore very important



Yayoi Period (300 BC – 300 AD):


Rice cultivation is brought, bringing social classes and the beginnings of the feudal culture

 - from China via Korea


Innovations such as iron are brought from Korea




Kofun Period (300 – 538 AD): 



in 400 Japan is unified into Yamato Japan, with the seat of government in present day Nara.  The Emperor (Yamato) is the symbolic head of state. However, any real authority is soon usurped by the Soga family.


Close relations with Korea begins at end of 4th c.


Innovations of the time include:


- Buddhism (538), Confucianism, Taosim

- Chinese writing system

- Aristocratic society with military leaders at the helm



The Myth of Creation (680 AD)


The Kojiki is the creation myth that is central to many of the tenets in Shintosim




Nara Period (710-794): 


The seat of government is located in the same place as the seat of Buddhism




Heian Period (794-1185): 


Noted for its Art and Literature


Fujiwara clan took power from the Sogas


    - New Governmental and Administrative systems


    - Government bought all land and redistributed it among landowners


    - New tax system adopted from Chinese model.



These land reforms were a huge failure for various reasons


    - Taxes were too high.

    - Farmers had to sell their land and become tenants.

    - Buddhist temples and aristocrats were immune from taxation, so less money was collected overall


As a result, power shifted away from government and towards large landowners


  • Minamoto Clan
  • Taira
  • Fujiwara
  • Tachibana


Buddhism becomes a major part of Japanese culture


    - Influence is so strong that the capital has to be moved from Nara to Kyoto (Heian).


 A movement away from Chinese influence and towards “Japanization” starts


    - Kana system of writing

    - Native arts are given more attention.


The Fujiwara clan rules for nearly a century, but at the end they lose their grip and society becomes quite unruly.


This leads to wealthy landowners hiring samurai for protection.


Fujiwara clan’s power is usurped by Go-Sanjo


    - Go-Sanjo’s intention to reclaim emperor’s power

- Successful, but only for a while (1086-1156)


The rise of two families to power


- Minamotos (Genjis) – covered military side

- Tairas (Heike) – covered political side


Taira  Kiyamori rules through the emperor for about ten years


The Minamotos eventually defeat the Tairas in the Gempei war (1180-1185)





The Japanese Middle Ages (Kamakura, Muromachi, and Azuchi-Momoyama Periods 1185-1600)


  • Japan is now governed by Samurai clans, under the direction of the Shogun
  • Minamoto Yoritomo is the new shogun
  • Government is moved to Kamakura
  • Japan invaded by Mongols (1272) but repelled by Divine Wind (Kamikaze)
  • This eventually causes a rift with the Kyoto center of government
  • Minamotos defeat the royal army and redistribute land again.
  • Because of money and energy expended on Mongol invasions, the emperor (Go-Daijo) is able to regain control.
  • But he is soon overthrown in turn and Japan splits into North and South Governments.
    • they battle for over 50 years
    • Southern court finally surrenders in 1392 and Japan is united once more (sort of)
    • The age of civil wars starts, with several landowners fighting over land and money  
    • Daimyo exert actual control
  •  Oda Nobunaga makes the first big steps in actually uniting Japan in the mid 16th century.
  • 1543 - First contacts with the West, in the form of Portuguese traders
  • The art of Sumi-e is introduced to Japan by Zen Buddhist Monks from Korea.





Outside Links:



Religious Tolerance Overview of Shintoism


Okami and Japanese Mythology - the vidogame


The Kojiki in Manga Form

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