History of Japan

History of Japan

Overview
The history of Japan encompasses the history of the islands of Japan
Geography of Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia comprising a stratovolcanic archipelago extending along the Pacific coast of Asia. Measured from the geographic coordinate system, Japan stretches from 24° to 46° north latitude and from 123° to 146° east longitude...

 and the Japanese people
Japanese people
The are an ethnic group originating in the Japanese archipelago and are the predominant ethnic group of Japan. Worldwide, approximately 130 million people are of Japanese descent; of these, approximately 127 million are residents of Japan. People of Japanese ancestry who live in other countries...

, spanning the ancient history
Ancient history
Ancient history is the study of the written past from the beginning of recorded human history to the Early Middle Ages. The span of recorded history is roughly 5,000 years, with Cuneiform script, the oldest discovered form of coherent writing, from the protoliterate period around the 30th century BC...

 of the region to the modern history of Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

 as a nation state. Following the last ice age
Ice age
An ice age or, more precisely, glacial age, is a generic geological period of long-term reduction in the temperature of the Earth's surface and atmosphere, resulting in the presence or expansion of continental ice sheets, polar ice sheets and alpine glaciers...

, around 12,000 BC, the rich ecosystem
Ecosystem
An ecosystem is a biological environment consisting of all the organisms living in a particular area, as well as all the nonliving , physical components of the environment with which the organisms interact, such as air, soil, water and sunlight....

 of the Japanese Archipelago
Japanese Archipelago
The , which forms the country of Japan, extends roughly from northeast to southwest along the northeastern coast of the Eurasia mainland, washing upon the northwestern shores of the Pacific Ocean...

 fostered human development. The earliest-known pottery belongs to the Jōmon period
Jomon period
The is the time in Japanese prehistory from about 14,000 BC to 300 BC.The term jōmon means "cord-patterned" in Japanese. This refers to the pottery style characteristic of the Jōmon culture, and which has markings made using sticks with cords wrapped around them...

. The first known written reference
Recorded history
Recorded history is the period in history of the world after prehistory. It has been written down using language, or recorded using other means of communication. It starts around the 4th millennium BC, with the invention of writing.-Historical accounts:...

 to Japan is in the brief information given in Twenty-Four Histories
Twenty-Four Histories
The Twenty-Four Histories is a collection of Chinese historical books covering a period from 3000 BC to the Ming Dynasty in the 17th century. The whole set contains 3213 volumes and about 40 million words...

in the 1st century AD. The main cultural and religious influences came from China.

The first permanent capital was founded at Nara in 710 AD, which became a center of Buddhist art, religion and culture.
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Encyclopedia
The history of Japan encompasses the history of the islands of Japan
Geography of Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia comprising a stratovolcanic archipelago extending along the Pacific coast of Asia. Measured from the geographic coordinate system, Japan stretches from 24° to 46° north latitude and from 123° to 146° east longitude...

 and the Japanese people
Japanese people
The are an ethnic group originating in the Japanese archipelago and are the predominant ethnic group of Japan. Worldwide, approximately 130 million people are of Japanese descent; of these, approximately 127 million are residents of Japan. People of Japanese ancestry who live in other countries...

, spanning the ancient history
Ancient history
Ancient history is the study of the written past from the beginning of recorded human history to the Early Middle Ages. The span of recorded history is roughly 5,000 years, with Cuneiform script, the oldest discovered form of coherent writing, from the protoliterate period around the 30th century BC...

 of the region to the modern history of Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

 as a nation state. Following the last ice age
Ice age
An ice age or, more precisely, glacial age, is a generic geological period of long-term reduction in the temperature of the Earth's surface and atmosphere, resulting in the presence or expansion of continental ice sheets, polar ice sheets and alpine glaciers...

, around 12,000 BC, the rich ecosystem
Ecosystem
An ecosystem is a biological environment consisting of all the organisms living in a particular area, as well as all the nonliving , physical components of the environment with which the organisms interact, such as air, soil, water and sunlight....

 of the Japanese Archipelago
Japanese Archipelago
The , which forms the country of Japan, extends roughly from northeast to southwest along the northeastern coast of the Eurasia mainland, washing upon the northwestern shores of the Pacific Ocean...

 fostered human development. The earliest-known pottery belongs to the Jōmon period
Jomon period
The is the time in Japanese prehistory from about 14,000 BC to 300 BC.The term jōmon means "cord-patterned" in Japanese. This refers to the pottery style characteristic of the Jōmon culture, and which has markings made using sticks with cords wrapped around them...

. The first known written reference
Recorded history
Recorded history is the period in history of the world after prehistory. It has been written down using language, or recorded using other means of communication. It starts around the 4th millennium BC, with the invention of writing.-Historical accounts:...

 to Japan is in the brief information given in Twenty-Four Histories
Twenty-Four Histories
The Twenty-Four Histories is a collection of Chinese historical books covering a period from 3000 BC to the Ming Dynasty in the 17th century. The whole set contains 3213 volumes and about 40 million words...

in the 1st century AD. The main cultural and religious influences came from China.

The first permanent capital was founded at Nara in 710 AD, which became a center of Buddhist art, religion and culture. The current imperial family emerged about 700 AD, but until 1868 (with few exceptions) had high prestige but little power. By 1550 or so political power was subdivided into several hundred local units, or "domains" controlled by local "daimyō" (lords), each with his own force of samurai warriors. Tokugawa Ieyasu came to power in 1600, gave land to his supporters, set up his "bakufu" (military government) at Edo (modern Tokyo). The "Tokugawa period" was prosperous and peaceful, but Japan deliberately terminated the Christian missions and cut off almost all contact with the outside world. In the 1860s the Meiji Period began, and the new national leadership systematically ended feudalism and transformed an isolated, underdeveloped island country into a world power that closely followed Western models. Democracy was problematic, because Japan's powerful military was semi-independent and overruled—or assassinated—civilians in the 1920s and 1930s. The military moved into China starting in 1931 but was defeated in Pacific War
Pacific War
The Pacific War, also sometimes called the Asia-Pacific War refers broadly to the parts of World War II that took place in the Pacific Ocean, its islands, and in East Asia, then called the Far East...

 by the United States and Britain.

Occupied by the U.S. after the war and stripped of its conquests, Japan was transformed into a peaceful and democratic nation. After 1950 it enjoyed very high economic growth rates, and became a world economic powerhouse, especially in automobiles and electronics. Since the 1990s economic stagnation has been a major issue, with an earthquake and tsunami in 2011 causing massive economic dislocations.

Paleolithic Age




The Japanese Paleolithic
Japanese Paleolithic
The began around 50,000 to 30,000 BC, when the earliest stone tool implements have been found, and continued to around 14,000 BC, at the end of the last ice age, which corresponds to the beginning of the Mesolithic Jōmon period...

 age covers a lengthy period starting as early as 50,000 BC and ending sometime around 12,000 BC, at the end of the last ice age
Ice age
An ice age or, more precisely, glacial age, is a generic geological period of long-term reduction in the temperature of the Earth's surface and atmosphere, resulting in the presence or expansion of continental ice sheets, polar ice sheets and alpine glaciers...

. Artifacts claimed to be older than ca. 38,000 BC are not generally accepted, and most historians therefore believe that the Japanese Paleolithic started after 38,000 BC.

The Japanese archipelago
Japanese Archipelago
The , which forms the country of Japan, extends roughly from northeast to southwest along the northeastern coast of the Eurasia mainland, washing upon the northwestern shores of the Pacific Ocean...

 would become disconnected from the mainland continent after the last ice age, around 11,000 BC. After a hoax
Japanese Paleolithic Hoax
The consisted of a number of lower and middle paleolithic finds in Japan discovered by amateur archaeologist Fujimura Shinichi, which were later all discovered to have been faked...

 by an amateur researcher, Shinichi Fujimura
Shinichi Fujimura
Shinichi Fujimura is a Japanese former amateur archaeologist who claimed he had found a large number of stone artifacts dating back to the Lower Paleolithic and Middle Paleolithic periods. These objects were later revealed as forgeries.-Success:Fujimura was born in Kami, Miyagi in 1950...

, had been exposed, the Lower
Lower Paleolithic
The Lower Paleolithic is the earliest subdivision of the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age. It spans the time from around 2.5 million years ago when the first evidence of craft and use of stone tools by hominids appears in the current archaeological record, until around 300,000 years ago, spanning the...

 and Middle Paleolithic
Middle Paleolithic
The Middle Paleolithic is the second subdivision of the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age as it is understood in Europe, Africa and Asia. The term Middle Stone Age is used as an equivalent or a synonym for the Middle Paleolithic in African archeology. The Middle Paleolithic and the Middle Stone Age...

 evidence reported by Fujimura and his associates has been rejected after thorough reinvestigation.

As a result of the fallout over the hoax, now only some Upper Paleolithic
Upper Paleolithic
The Upper Paleolithic is the third and last subdivision of the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age as it is understood in Europe, Africa and Asia. Very broadly it dates to between 40,000 and 10,000 years ago, roughly coinciding with the appearance of behavioral modernity and before the advent of...

 evidence (not associated with Fujimura) can possibly be considered as having been well established.

Jōmon period




The Jōmon period
Jomon period
The is the time in Japanese prehistory from about 14,000 BC to 300 BC.The term jōmon means "cord-patterned" in Japanese. This refers to the pottery style characteristic of the Jōmon culture, and which has markings made using sticks with cords wrapped around them...

 lasted from about 14,000 until 300 BC. The first signs of civilization and stable living patterns appeared around 14,000 BC with the Jōmon culture, characterized by a Mesolithic
Mesolithic
The Mesolithic is an archaeological concept used to refer to certain groups of archaeological cultures defined as falling between the Paleolithic and the Neolithic....

 to Neolithic
Neolithic
The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world. It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age...

 semi-sedentary hunter-gatherer
Hunter-gatherer
A hunter-gatherer or forage society is one in which most or all food is obtained from wild plants and animals, in contrast to agricultural societies which rely mainly on domesticated species. Hunting and gathering was the ancestral subsistence mode of Homo, and all modern humans were...

 lifestyle of wood stilt house
Stilt house
Stilt houses or pile dwellings or palafitte are houses raised on piles over the surface of the soil or a body of water. Stilt houses are built primarily as a protection against flooding, but also serve to keep out vermin...

 and pit dwellings and a rudimentary form of agriculture
Agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

.

Weaving
Weaving
Weaving is a method of fabric production in which two distinct sets of yarns or threads are interlaced at right angles to form a fabric or cloth. The other methods are knitting, lace making and felting. The longitudinal threads are called the warp and the lateral threads are the weft or filling...

 was still unknown at the time and clothes were often made of furs. The Jōmon people started to make clay vessels, decorated with patterns made by impressing the wet clay with braided or unbraided cord and sticks. Based on radio-carbon
Radiocarbon dating
Radiocarbon dating is a radiometric dating method that uses the naturally occurring radioisotope carbon-14 to estimate the age of carbon-bearing materials up to about 58,000 to 62,000 years. Raw, i.e. uncalibrated, radiocarbon ages are usually reported in radiocarbon years "Before Present" ,...

 dating, some of the oldest surviving examples of pottery in the world can be found in Japan along with daggers, jade, combs made of shells, and various other household items dated to the 11th millennium BC.

Alternatively, the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is a renowned art museum in New York City. Its permanent collection contains more than two million works, divided into nineteen curatorial departments. The main building, located on the eastern edge of Central Park along Manhattan's Museum Mile, is one of the...

's Timeline of Art History notes "Carbon-14 testing of the earliest known shards has yielded a production date of about 10,500 BC, but because this date falls outside the known chronology of pottery development elsewhere in the world, such an early date is not generally accepted.

Calibrated radiocarbon measures of carbonized material from pottery artifacts: Fukui Cave and (Kamaki & Serizawa 1967), Kamikuroiwa rock shelter
Rock shelter
A rock shelter is a shallow cave-like opening at the base of a bluff or cliff....

 12, 165 ± 350 years BP in Shikoku. although the specific dating is disputed.

Clay figures known as dogū
Dogu
are small humanoid and animal figurines made during the late Jōmon period of prehistoric Japan. Dogū come entirely from the Jōmon period and do not continue into the Yayoi period. There are various styles of Dogū, depending on exhumation area and time period...

 were also excavated. The household items suggest trade routes existed with places as far away as Okinawa
Okinawa Prefecture
is one of Japan's southern prefectures. It consists of hundreds of the Ryukyu Islands in a chain over long, which extends southwest from Kyūshū to Taiwan. Okinawa's capital, Naha, is located in the southern part of Okinawa Island...

. DNA
DNA
Deoxyribonucleic acid is a nucleic acid that contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms . The DNA segments that carry this genetic information are called genes, but other DNA sequences have structural purposes, or are involved in...

 analysis suggests that the Ainu
Ainu people
The , also called Aynu, Aino , and in historical texts Ezo , are indigenous people or groups in Japan and Russia. Historically they spoke the Ainu language and related varieties and lived in Hokkaidō, the Kuril Islands, and much of Sakhalin...

, an indigenous people that live in Hokkaidō
Hokkaido
, formerly known as Ezo, Yezo, Yeso, or Yesso, is Japan's second largest island; it is also the largest and northernmost of Japan's 47 prefectural-level subdivisions. The Tsugaru Strait separates Hokkaido from Honshu, although the two islands are connected by the underwater railway Seikan Tunnel...

 and the northern part of Honshū
Honshu
is the largest island of Japan. The nation's main island, it is south of Hokkaido across the Tsugaru Strait, north of Shikoku across the Inland Sea, and northeast of Kyushu across the Kanmon Strait...

, are descended from the Jōmon and thus represent descendants of the first inhabitants of Japan.

Yayoi period




The Yayoi period
Yayoi period
The is an Iron Age era in the history of Japan traditionally dated 300 BC to 300 AD. It is named after the neighbourhood of Tokyo where archaeologists first uncovered artifacts and features from that era. Distinguishing characteristics of the Yayoi period include the appearance of new...

 lasted from about 400 or 300 BC until 250 AD. This period followed the Jōmon period and completely supplanted it. This period is named after Yayoi town, the subsection of Bunkyō, Tokyo
Bunkyo, Tokyo
is one of the 23 special wards of Tokyo, Japan. Situated in the middle of the ward area, Bunkyō is a residential and educational center. Beginning in the Meiji period, literati like Natsume Sōseki, as well as scholars and politicians have lived there...

, where archaeological investigations uncovered its first recognized traces.

The start of the Yayoi period marked the influx of new practices such as weaving, rice
Rice
Rice is the seed of the monocot plants Oryza sativa or Oryza glaberrima . As a cereal grain, it is the most important staple food for a large part of the world's human population, especially in East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, and the West Indies...

 farming, shamanism
Shamanism
Shamanism is an anthropological term referencing a range of beliefs and practices regarding communication with the spiritual world. To quote Eliade: "A first definition of this complex phenomenon, and perhaps the least hazardous, will be: shamanism = technique of ecstasy." Shamanism encompasses the...

, and iron
Iron
Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust...

 and bronze
Bronze
Bronze is a metal alloy consisting primarily of copper, usually with tin as the main additive. It is hard and brittle, and it was particularly significant in antiquity, so much so that the Bronze Age was named after the metal...

 making. Bronze and iron appear to have been introduced simultaneously into Yayoi Japan. Iron was mainly used for agricultural and other tools; whereas, ritual and ceremonial artifacts were mainly made of bronze. Some casting of bronze and iron began in Japan by about 100 BC, but the raw materials for both metals were introduced from the Asian continent.

Japan first appeared in written records in 57 AD with the following mention in China's Book of the Later Han: "Across the ocean from Lelang
Lelang Commandery
Lelang was one of the Chinese commanderies which was established after the fall of Gojoseon in 108 BC until Goguryeo conquered it in 313. Lelang Commandery was located in the northern Korean peninsula with the administrative center near modern P'yongyang....

 are the people of Wa
Wa (Japan)
Japanese is the oldest recorded name of Japan. Chinese, Korean, and Japanese scribes regularly wrote Wa or Yamato "Japan" with the Chinese character 倭 until the 8th century, when the Japanese found fault with it, replacing it with 和 "harmony, peace, balance".- Historical references :The earliest...

. Formed from more than one hundred tribes, they come and pay tribute frequently". The book also recorded that Suishō
Suishō
was a king of Wa . He is the first Japanese whose name appeared in the Chinese history.- Historical references :The only historical record about Suishō is a brief sentence on Volume 85 of the Book of the Later Han....

, the king of Wa, presented slaves to the Emperor An of Han
Emperor An of Han
Emperor Ān of Hàn, ch. 漢安帝, py. hàn ān dì, wg. Han An-ti, was an emperor of the Chinese Hàn Dynasty and the sixth emperor of the Eastern Hàn period ruling from 106 to 125...

 in 107. The Sanguo Zhi
Records of Three Kingdoms
Records of Three Kingdoms , is regarded as the official and authoritative historical text on the Three Kingdoms period of Chinese history covering the years 184-280 CE. Written by Chen Shou in the 3rd century, the work combines the smaller histories of the rival states of Cao Wei , Shu Han and...

, written in the 3rd century, noted the country was the unification of some 30 small tribes or states and ruled by a shaman queen named Himiko of Yamataikoku
Yamataikoku
or is the Sino-Japanese name of an ancient country in Wa during the late Yayoi period . The Chinese history Sanguo Zhi first recorded Yemetaiguo or Yemayiguo as the domain of shaman Queen Himiko...

.

During the Han
Han Dynasty
The Han Dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China, preceded by the Qin Dynasty and succeeded by the Three Kingdoms . It was founded by the rebel leader Liu Bang, known posthumously as Emperor Gaozu of Han. It was briefly interrupted by the Xin Dynasty of the former regent Wang Mang...

 and Wei
Cao Wei
Cao Wei was one of the states that competed for control of China during the Three Kingdoms period. With the capital at Luoyang, the state was established by Cao Pi in 220, based upon the foundations that his father Cao Cao laid...

 dynasties, Chinese travelers to Kyūshū
Kyushu
is the third largest island of Japan and most southwesterly of its four main islands. Its alternate ancient names include , , and . The historical regional name is referred to Kyushu and its surrounding islands....

 recorded its inhabitants and claimed that they were the descendants of the Grand Count (Tàibó) of the Wu
Wu (state)
The State of Wu , also known as Gou Wu or Gong Wu , was one of the vassal states during the Western Zhou Dynasty and the Spring and Autumn Period. The State of Wu was located at the mouth of the Yangtze River east of the State of Chu. Considered a semi-barbarian state by ancient Chinese...

. The inhabitants also show traits of the pre-sinicized Wu people with tattooing, teeth-pulling, and baby-carrying. The Sanguo Zhi records the physical descriptions which are similar to ones on haniwa
Haniwa
The are terracotta clay figures which were made for ritual use and buried with the dead as funerary objects during the Kofun period of the history of Japan....

statues, such as men with braided hair, tattooing, and women wearing large, single-piece clothing.

The Yoshinogari site
Yoshinogari site
Yoshinogari is the name of a large and complex Yayoi archaeological site in Yoshinogari and Kanzaki in Saga Prefecture, Kyūshū, Japan. According to the Yayoi chronology established by pottery seriations in the 20th century, Yoshinogari dates to between the 3rd century BC and the 3rd century AD...

 in Kyūshū is the most famous archaeological site of the Yayoi period and reveals a large settlement continuously inhabited for several hundred years. Archaeological excavation has shown the most ancient parts to be from around 400 BC. It appears the inhabitants had frequent communication and trade relations with the mainland. Today, some reconstructed buildings stand in the park on the archaeological site.

Kofun period




The Kofun period
Kofun period
The is an era in the history of Japan from around 250 to 538. It follows the Yayoi period. The word kofun is Japanese for the type of burial mounds dating from this era. The Kofun and the subsequent Asuka periods are sometimes referred to collectively as the Yamato period...

 began around 250 AD, is named after the large tumulus
Tumulus
A tumulus is a mound of earth and stones raised over a grave or graves. Tumuli are also known as barrows, burial mounds, Hügelgrab or kurgans, and can be found throughout much of the world. A tumulus composed largely or entirely of stones is usually referred to as a cairn...

 burial mounds (kofun
Kofun
Kofun are megalithic tombs or tumuli in Japan, constructed between the early 3rd century and early 7th century. They gave their name to the Kofun period . Many of the Kofun have a distinctive keyhole-shaped mound , unique to ancient Japan...

) that started appearing around that time.

The Kofun period (the "Kofun-Jidai") saw the establishment of strong military states, each of them concentrated around powerful clans (or zoku
Zoku
is a Sino-Japanese term meaning tribe, clan, or family. As a suffix it has been used extensively within Japan to define subcultural phenomena, though many zoku do not acquire the suffix ....

). The establishment of the dominant Yamato polity
Polity
Polity is a form of government Aristotle developed in his search for a government that could be most easily incorporated and used by the largest amount of people groups, or states...

 was centered in the provinces of Yamato
Yamato Province
was a province of Japan, located in Kinai, corresponding to present-day Nara Prefecture in Honshū. It was also called . At first, the name was written with one different character , and for about ten years after 737, this was revised to use more desirable characters . The final revision was made in...

 and Kawachi
Kawachi Province
was a province of Japan in the eastern part of modern Osaka Prefecture. It originally held the southwestern area that was split off into Izumi Province...

 from the 3rd century AD till the 7th century, establishing the origin of the Japanese imperial lineage. And so the polity, by suppressing the clans and acquiring agricultural lands, maintained a strong influence in the western part of Japan.

Japan started to send tributes to Imperial China in the 5th century. In the Chinese history records, the polity was called Wa, and its five kings
Five kings of Wa
The five kings of Wa are kings of ancient Japan who sent envoys to China during the 5th century to strengthen the legitimacy of their claims to power by gaining the recognition of the Chinese emperor. Details about them are unknown...

 were recorded. Based upon the Chinese model, they developed a central administration and an imperial court system, with its society being organized into various occupation groups. Close relationships between the Three Kingdoms of Korea
Three Kingdoms of Korea
The Three Kingdoms of Korea refer to the ancient Korean kingdoms of Goguryeo, Baekje and Silla, which dominated the Korean peninsula and parts of Manchuria for much of the 1st millennium...

 and Japan began during the middle of this period, around the end of the 4th century.

Asuka period




During the Asuka period
Asuka period
The , was a period in the history of Japan lasting from 538 to 710 , although its beginning could be said to overlap with the preceding Kofun period...

 (538 to 710), the proto-Japanese Yamato polity gradually became a clearly centralized state, defining and applying a code of governing laws, such as the Taika Reforms and Taihō Code
Taiho Code
The was an administrative reorganization enacted in 701 in Japan, at the end of the Asuka period. It was historically one of the . It was compiled at the direction of Prince Osakabe, Fujiwara no Fuhito and Awata no Mahito...

. Also during the same period, the Japanese developed strong economic ties with the Paikche or Baekje people, who lived on the southwestern coast of the Korean Peninsula. Good relations with the Baekje had begun in 391 when a Japanese expedition saved the King of Baekje and the Baekje people from their traditional enemies—the Koguryo people—who lived in the northern part of the Korean Peninsula.

Indeed, Buddhism was introduced to Japan in 538 by Baekje people, to whom Japan continued to provide military support.
In Japan, however, Buddhism was promoted largely by the ruling class for their own purposes. Accordingly, in the early stages, Buddhism was not a popular religion with the common people of Japan. However, the introduction of Buddhism
Buddhism in Japan
The history of Buddhism in Japan can be roughly divided into three periods, namely the Nara period , the Heian period and the post-Heian period . Each period saw the introduction of new doctrines and upheavals in existing schools...

 led to a discontinuing of the practice of burying deceased people in large kofuns.

Prince Shōtoku
Prince Shotoku
, also known as or , was a semi-legendary regent and a politician of the Asuka period in Japan who served under Empress Suiko. He was a son of Emperor Yōmei and his younger half-sister Princess Anahobe no Hashihito. His parents were relatives of the ruling Soga clan, and was involved in the defeat...

 came to power in Japan as Regent to Empress Suiko in 594. Empress Suiko had come to the throne as the niece of the previous Emperor—Sujun (588–593)--who had been assassinated in 593. Empress Suiko had also been married to a prior Emperor—Bidatsu (572–585), but she was the first female ruler of Japan since the legendary matriarchal times.

As Regent to Empress Suiko, Prince Shotoku devoted his efforts to the spread of Buddhism and Chinese culture
Culture of China
Chinese culture is one of the world's oldest and most complex. The area in which the culture is dominant covers a large geographical region in eastern Asia with customs and traditions varying greatly between towns, cities and provinces...

 in Japan. He is also credited with bringing relative peace to Japan through the proclamation of the Seventeen-article constitution
Seventeen-article constitution
The is, according to Nihon Shoki published in 720, a document authored by Prince Shōtoku in 604. It was adopted in the reign of Empress Suiko. The emphasis of the document is not so much on the basic laws by which the state was to be governed, such as one may expect from a modern constitution, but...

, a Confucian style document that focused on the kinds of morals and virtues that were to be expected of government officials and the emperor's
Emperor of Japan
The Emperor of Japan is, according to the 1947 Constitution of Japan, "the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people." He is a ceremonial figurehead under a form of constitutional monarchy and is head of the Japanese Imperial Family with functions as head of state. He is also the highest...

 subjects. Buddhism would become a permanent part of Japanese culture.

A letter brought to the Emperor of China
Emperor of China
The Emperor of China refers to any sovereign of Imperial China reigning between the founding of Qin Dynasty of China, united by the King of Qin in 221 BCE, and the fall of Yuan Shikai's Empire of China in 1916. When referred to as the Son of Heaven , a title that predates the Qin unification, the...

 by an emissary
Imperial embassies to China
The Japanese Missions to Imperial China were diplomatic embassies which were intermittently sent to the Chinese court. Any distinction amongst diplomatic envoys sent from the Imperial Japanese court or from any of the Japanese shogunates was lost or rendered moot when the ambassador was received in...

 from Japan in 607 stated that the "Emperor of the Land where the Sun rises (Japan) sends a letter to the Emperor of the land where Sun sets (China)", thereby implying an equal footing with China which angered the Chinese emperor.

Nara period




The Nara period
Nara period
The of the history of Japan covers the years from AD 710 to 794. Empress Gemmei established the capital of Heijō-kyō . Except for 5 years , when the capital was briefly moved again, it remained the capital of Japanese civilization until Emperor Kammu established a new capital, Nagaoka-kyō, in 784...

 of the 8th century marked the first emergence of a strong Japanese state, and is often portrayed as a golden age. In 710, the capital city of Japan was moved from the city of Asuka to the city of Nara. Hall (1966) concludes that "Japan had been transformed from a loose federation of uji in the fifth century to an empire on the order of Imperial China in the eighth century. A new theory of state and a new structure of government supported the Japanese sovereign in the style and with the powers of an absolute monarch." Traditional political and economic practices were now organized through a rationally structured government apparatus legally define functions and precedents. Lands were surveyed and registered with the state. A powerful new aristocracy emerged which control the state, and was supported by taxes that were efficiently collected. The government built great public works, including government offices, temples, roads, and irrigation systems. A new system of land tenure and taxation was introduced which was designed to spread land ownership widely throughout the rural population. Such allotments tended to be about one acre in size. However, they could be as small as one-tenth (1/10) of an acre Lots for slaves were about 2/3's the size of allotted to free men. Allotments were reviewed every five years when the census was conducted.

There was a cultural flowering during this period. Soon dramatic new cultural manifestations characterized the Nara period, lasting some four centuries.

Following an imperial rescript by Empress Gemmei
Empress Gemmei
, also known as Empress Genmyō, was the 43rd emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession.Gemmei's reign spanned the years 707 through 715....

, the capital was moved to Heijō-kyō
Heijo Palace
' in Nara, was the Imperial Palace of Japan , during most of the Nara period. The Palace was located in the north end of the capital city, Heijō-kyō...

, present-day Nara
Nara, Nara
is the capital city of Nara Prefecture in the Kansai region of Japan. The city occupies the northern part of Nara Prefecture, directly bordering Kyoto Prefecture...

, in 710. The city was modeled on Chang'an
Chang'an
Chang'an is an ancient capital of more than ten dynasties in Chinese history, today known as Xi'an. Chang'an literally means "Perpetual Peace" in Classical Chinese. During the short-lived Xin Dynasty, the city was renamed "Constant Peace" ; yet after its fall in AD 23, the old name was restored...

 (now Xi'an
Xi'an
Xi'an is the capital of the Shaanxi province, and a sub-provincial city in the People's Republic of China. One of the oldest cities in China, with more than 3,100 years of history, the city was known as Chang'an before the Ming Dynasty...

), the capital of the Chinese Tang Dynasty
Tang Dynasty
The Tang Dynasty was an imperial dynasty of China preceded by the Sui Dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. It was founded by the Li family, who seized power during the decline and collapse of the Sui Empire...

.

During the Nara Period, political development was marked by a struggle between the imperial family
Imperial House of Japan
The , also referred to as the Imperial Family or the Yamato Dynasty, comprises those members of the extended family of the reigning Emperor of Japan who undertake official and public duties. Under the present Constitution of Japan, the emperor is the symbol of the state and unity of the people...

 and the Buddhist clergy, as well as between the imperial family and the regents—the Fujiwara clan. Japan did enjoy peaceful relations with their traditional foes—the Silla
Silla
Silla was one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, and one of the longest sustained dynasties in...

 people—who occupied the southeast coast of the Korean Peninsula. Japan also established formal relationships with the Tang dynasty of China.

In 784, the capital was moved again to Nagaoka-kyō
Nagaoka-kyo
was the capital of Japan from 784 to 794. Its location was reported as Otokuni District, Yamashiro Province, and Nagaokakyō, Kyoto, which took its name from the capital...

 to escape the Buddhist priests and then in 794 to Heian-kyō
Heian-kyo
Heian-kyō , was one of several former names for the city now known as Kyoto. It was the capital of Japan for over one thousand years, from 794 to 1868 with an interruption in 1180....

, present-day Kyōto
Kyoto
is a city in the central part of the island of Honshū, Japan. It has a population close to 1.5 million. Formerly the imperial capital of Japan, it is now the capital of Kyoto Prefecture, as well as a major part of the Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto metropolitan area.-History:...

. The capital was to remain in Kyoto until 1868. In the religious town of Kyoto, Buddhism and Shinto began to form a syncretic system.

Historical writing in Japan culminated in the early 8th century with the massive chronicles, the Kojiki
Kojiki
is the oldest extant chronicle in Japan, dating from the early 8th century and composed by Ō no Yasumaro at the request of Empress Gemmei. The Kojiki is a collection of myths concerning the origin of the four home islands of Japan, and the Kami...

(The Record of Ancient Matters, 712) and the Nihon Shoki
Nihon Shoki
The , sometimes translated as The Chronicles of Japan, is the second oldest book of classical Japanese history. It is more elaborate and detailed than the Kojiki, the oldest, and has proven to be an important tool for historians and archaeologists as it includes the most complete extant historical...

(Chronicles of Japan, 720). These chronicles give a legendary account of Japan's beginnings, today known as the Japanese mythology
Japanese mythology
Japanese mythology is a system of beliefs that embraces Shinto and Buddhist traditions as well as agriculturally based folk religion. The Shinto pantheon comprises innumerable kami...

. According to the myths contained in these chronicles, Japan was founded in 660 BC by the ancestral Emperor Jimmu
Emperor Jimmu
was the first Emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession. He is also known as Kamuyamato Iwarebiko and personally as Wakamikenu no Mikoto or Sano no Mikoto....

, a direct descendant of the Shintō
Shinto
or Shintoism, also kami-no-michi, is the indigenous spirituality of Japan and the Japanese people. It is a set of practices, to be carried out diligently, to establish a connection between present day Japan and its ancient past. Shinto practices were first recorded and codified in the written...

 deity Amaterasu
Amaterasu
, or is apart of the Japanese myth cycle and also a major deity of the Shinto religion. She is the goddess of the sun, but also of the universe. the name Amaterasu derived from Amateru meaning "shining in heaven." The meaning of her whole name, Amaterasu-ōmikami, is "the great August kami who...

, or the Sun Goddess. The myths recorded that Jimmu started a line of emperors that remains to this day. Historians assume the myths partly describe historical facts, but the first emperor who actually existed was Emperor Ōjin
Emperor Ojin
, also known as Homutawake or , was the 15th emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession.No firm dates can be assigned to this emperor's life or reign, but he is conventionally considered to have reigned from 270 to 310....

, though the date of his reign is uncertain. Since the Nara period, actual political power has not been in the hands of the emperor but has instead been exercised at different times by the court nobility, warlords, the military and, more recently, the Prime Minister of Japan
Prime Minister of Japan
The is the head of government of Japan. He is appointed by the Emperor of Japan after being designated by the Diet from among its members, and must enjoy the confidence of the House of Representatives to remain in office...

.

Heian period




The Heian period
Heian period
The is the last division of classical Japanese history, running from 794 to 1185. The period is named after the capital city of Heian-kyō, or modern Kyōto. It is the period in Japanese history when Buddhism, Taoism and other Chinese influences were at their height...

, lasting from 794 to 1185, is the final period of classical Japanese history. It is considered the peak of the Japanese imperial court and noted for its art
Japanese art
Japanese art covers a wide range of art styles and media, including ancient pottery, sculpture in wood and bronze, ink painting on silk and paper and more recently manga, cartoon, along with a myriad of other types of works of art...

, especially its poetry
Japanese poetry
Japanese poets first encountered Chinese poetry during the Tang Dynasty. It took them several hundred years to digest the foreign impact, make it a part of their culture and merge it with their literary tradition in their mother tongue, and begin to develop the diversity of their native poetry. For...

 and literature
Japanese literature
Early works of Japanese literature were heavily influenced by cultural contact with China and Chinese literature, often written in Classical Chinese. Indian literature also had an influence through the diffusion of Buddhism in Japan...

. In the early 11th century, Lady Shikibu Murasaki
Murasaki Shikibu
Murasaki Shikibu was a Japanese novelist, poet and lady-in-waiting at the Imperial court during the Heian period. She is best known as the author of The Tale of Genji, written in Japanese between about 1000 and 1012...

 wrote Japan's (and one of the world's) oldest surviving novels, The Tale of Genji
The Tale of Genji
is a classic work of Japanese literature attributed to the Japanese noblewoman Murasaki Shikibu in the early 11th century, around the peak of the Heian period. It is sometimes called the world's first novel, the first modern novel, the first psychological novel or the first novel still to be...

. The Man'yōshū and Kokin Wakashū, the oldest existing collections of Japanese poetry, were compiled during this period.

Strong differences from mainland Asian cultures emerged (such as an indigenous writing system, the kana
Kana
Kana are the syllabic Japanese scripts, as opposed to the logographic Chinese characters known in Japan as kanji and the Roman alphabet known as rōmaji...

). Due to the decline of the Tang Dynasty, Chinese influence had reached its peak, and then effectively ended, with the last imperially sanctioned mission to Tang China in 838, although trade expeditions and Buddhist pilgrimages to China continued.


Political power in the imperial court was in the hands of powerful aristocratic families (kuge
Kuge
The was a Japanese aristocratic class that dominated the Japanese imperial court in Kyoto until the rise of the Shogunate in the 12th century at which point it was eclipsed by the daimyo...

), especially the Fujiwara clan, who ruled under the titles Sesshō and Kampaku
Sessho and Kampaku
In Japan, was a title given to a regent who was named to assist either a child emperor before his coming of age, or an empress. The was theoretically a sort of chief advisor for the emperor, but was the title of both first secretary and regent who assists an adult emperor. During the Heian era,...

 (imperial regents). The Fujiwara clan obtained almost complete control over the imperial family. However, the Fugiwara Regents who advised the Imperial Court were content to derive their authority from imperial line. This meant that the Fujiwara authority could always challenged by a vigorous emperor. Fujiwara domination of the Court during the time from 858 until about 1160 led to this period being called "the Fujiwara Period." The Fujiwara clan gained this ascendancy because of their matrimonial links with the imperial family. Indeed, because of the number of emperors that were born to Fujiwara mothers, the Fujiwara Regents became so closely identified with the imperial family, that people saw no difference between the "direct rule" by the imperial family and the rule of the Fujiwara Regents. Accordingly, when dissatisfaction with the government arose resulting in the Hogen Rebellion
Hogen Rebellion
The was a short civil war fought in order to resolve a dispute about Japanese Imperial succession. The dispute was also about the degree of control exercised by the Fujiwara clan who had become hereditary Imperial regents during the Heian period....

 (1156–1158), the Heiji Rebellion
Heiji Rebellion
The was a short civil war fought in order to resolve a dispute about political power. The Heiji no ran encompassed clashes between rival subjects of the cloistered Emperor Go-Shirakawa of Japan in 1159. It was preceded by the Hōgen Rebellion in 1156...

 (1160) and the Gempei War (1180–1185), the target of the dissatisfaction was the Fujiwara Regents, as well as the Imperial family. The Gempei War ended in 1185 with the naval battle of Den-no-ura in which the Minamoto clan defeated the Taira clan. (The battle of Den-no-ura and the Gempei War is mentioned in a story told by the late Carl Sagan in the second episode of the 1980 TV miniseries Cosmos.) In 1192, the Court appointed Yoritomo of the Minamoto clan to a number of high positions in government. These positions were consolidated and Yoritomo became the first person to be designated the Seii-tai-shogun or "Shogun." Yoritomo then defeated the Fujiwara clan in a military campaign in the north of Japan. This spelled the end of the Fujiwara Period and the end of Fujiwara influence over the government.

The end of the period saw the rise of various military clans. The four most powerful clans were the Minamoto clan
Minamoto clan
was one of the surnames bestowed by the Emperors of Japan upon members of the imperial family who were demoted into the ranks of the nobility. The practice was most prevalent during the Heian Period , although its last occurrence was during the Sengoku Era. The Taira were another such offshoot of...

, the Taira clan
Taira clan
The was a major Japanese clan of samurai in historical Japan.In reference to Japanese history, along with Minamoto, Taira was a hereditary clan name bestowed by the emperors of the Heian Period to certain ex-members of the imperial family when they became subjects...

, the Fujiwara clan, and the Tachibana clan
Tachibana clan (kuge)
The Tachibana clan was one of the four most powerful kuge families in Japan's Nara and early Heian periods. Members of the Tachibana family often held high court posts within the Daijō-kan , most frequently Sadaijin...

. Towards the end of the 12th century, conflicts between these clans turned into civil war, such as the Hōgen
Hogen Rebellion
The was a short civil war fought in order to resolve a dispute about Japanese Imperial succession. The dispute was also about the degree of control exercised by the Fujiwara clan who had become hereditary Imperial regents during the Heian period....

 (1156–1158). The Hogen Rebellion was of cardinal importance to Japan, since it was the turning point that led to the first stages of the development of feudalism in Japan. The Heiji Rebellion
Heiji Rebellion
The was a short civil war fought in order to resolve a dispute about political power. The Heiji no ran encompassed clashes between rival subjects of the cloistered Emperor Go-Shirakawa of Japan in 1159. It was preceded by the Hōgen Rebellion in 1156...

 of 1160 also occurred during this period and the uprising was followed by the Genpei War
Genpei War
The was a conflict between the Taira and Minamoto clans during the late-Heian period of Japan. It resulted in the fall of the Taira clan and the establishment of the Kamakura shogunate under Minamoto Yoritomo in 1192....

, from which emerged a society led by samurai
Samurai
is the term for the military nobility of pre-industrial Japan. According to translator William Scott Wilson: "In Chinese, the character 侍 was originally a verb meaning to wait upon or accompany a person in the upper ranks of society, and this is also true of the original term in Japanese, saburau...

 clans under the political rule of the shōgun
Shogun
A was one of the hereditary military dictators of Japan from 1192 to 1867. In this period, the shoguns, or their shikken regents , were the de facto rulers of Japan though they were nominally appointed by the emperor...

--the beginnings of feudalism in Japan.
Buddhism began to spread during the Heian Period. However, Buddhism was split between two sects—the Tendai
Tendai
is a Japanese school of Mahayana Buddhism, a descendant of the Chinese Tiantai or Lotus Sutra school.Chappell frames the relevance of Tendai for a universal Buddhism:- History :...

 sect which had been brought to Japan from China by Saicho
Saicho
was a Japanese Buddhist monk credited with founding the Tendai school in Japan, based around the Chinese Tiantai tradition he was exposed to during his trip to China beginning in 804. He founded the temple and headquarters of Tendai at Enryaku-ji on Mt. Hiei near Kyoto. He is also said to have...

 (767–822) and the Shigon
Shingon Buddhism
is one of the mainstream major schools of Japanese Buddhism and one of the few surviving Esoteric Buddhist lineages that started in the 3rd to 4th century CE that originally spread from India to China through traveling monks such as Vajrabodhi and Amoghavajra...

 sect which had been introduced from China by Kukai
Kukai
Kūkai , also known posthumously as , 774–835, was a Japanese monk, civil servant, scholar, poet, and artist, founder of the Shingon or "True Word" school of Buddhism. Shingon followers usually refer to him by the honorific titles of and ....

 (774–835). Whereas, the Tendai sect tended to be a monastic form of Buddhism which established isolated monasteries or temples on the tops of mountains, the Shingon variation of Buddhism was a less philosophical and more practical and more popular version of the religion. Pure Land Buddhism
Pure Land Buddhism
Pure Land Buddhism , also referred to as Amidism in English, is a broad branch of Mahāyāna Buddhism and currently one of the most popular traditions of Buddhism in East Asia. Pure Land is a branch of Buddhism focused on Amitābha Buddha...

 was a form of Buddhism which was much simpler than either the Tendai or Shingon versions of Buddhism. Pure Land Buddhism became very popular in Japan during a time of degeneration and trouble in the latter half of the 11th century.

Feudal Japan (1185–1868)


The "feudal
Feudalism
Feudalism was a set of legal and military customs in medieval Europe that flourished between the 9th and 15th centuries, which, broadly defined, was a system for ordering society around relationships derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labour.Although derived from the...

" period of Japanese history, dominated by the powerful regional families (daimyō
Daimyo
is a generic term referring to the powerful territorial lords in pre-modern Japan who ruled most of the country from their vast, hereditary land holdings...

) and the military rule of warlords (shōgun), stretched from 1185 to 1868. The emperor remained but was mostly kept to a de jure
De jure
De jure is an expression that means "concerning law", as contrasted with de facto, which means "concerning fact".De jure = 'Legally', De facto = 'In fact'....

figurehead ruling position, and the power of merchants was weak. This time is usually divided into periods following the reigning family of the shōgun.

Kamakura period



The Kamakura period
Kamakura period
The is a period of Japanese history that marks the governance by the Kamakura Shogunate, officially established in 1192 in Kamakura by the first shogun Minamoto no Yoritomo....

, 1185 to 1333, is a period that marks the governance of the Kamakura shogunate
Kamakura shogunate
The Kamakura shogunate was a military dictatorship in Japan headed by the shoguns from 1185 to 1333. It was based in Kamakura. The Kamakura period draws its name from the capital of the shogunate...

 and the transition to the Japanese "medieval" era, a nearly 700-year period in which the emperor, the court, and the traditional central government were left intact but largely relegated to ceremonial functions. Civil, military, and judicial matters were controlled by the bushi (samurai) class, the most powerful of whom was the de facto
De facto
De facto is a Latin expression that means "concerning fact." In law, it often means "in practice but not necessarily ordained by law" or "in practice or actuality, but not officially established." It is commonly used in contrast to de jure when referring to matters of law, governance, or...

national ruler, the shōgun. This period in Japan differed from the old shōen
Shoen
A was a field or manor in Japan. The Japanese term comes from the Tang dynasty Chinese term zhuangyuan.Shōen, from about the 8th to the late 15th century, describes any of the private, tax-free, often autonomous estates or manors whose rise undermined the political and economic power of the...

system in its pervasive military emphasis.

In 1185, Minamoto no Yoritomo
Minamoto no Yoritomo
was the founder and the first shogun of the Kamakura Shogunate of Japan. He ruled from 1192 until 1199.-Early life and exile :Yoritomo was the third son of Minamoto no Yoshitomo, heir of the Minamoto clan, and his official wife, a daughter of Fujiwara no Suenori, who was a member of the...

 and his younger brother, Yoshitsune
Yoshitsune
may refer to:* Minamoto no Yoshitsune * Takuya Sugi , Japanese professional wrestler better known as Yoshitsune* Yoshitsune , a 2005 Japanese television drama series* Yoshitsune, a character in manga/anime Air Gear...

 defeated the rival Taira clan
Taira clan
The was a major Japanese clan of samurai in historical Japan.In reference to Japanese history, along with Minamoto, Taira was a hereditary clan name bestowed by the emperors of the Heian Period to certain ex-members of the imperial family when they became subjects...

 at the naval battle of Dan-no-ura. The outcome of the Battle of Dan-no-ura meant the rise of the warrior or samurai class. Under the feudal structure that was arising in Japan, the samurai owed military service and loyalty to the emperor. The Samurai, in turn required loyalty and work from the peasants who rented land from them and served them. On occasion the samurai would conduct warfare against each other, which caused disruption to the society. In 1192, Yoritomo was appointed Seii Tai-Shōgun by the emperor. The shogun was expected to run the day-to-day affairs of the government on behalf of the emperor and to keep the samurai in line. During this time the Imperial Court remained in their capital of Kyoto. Society at Kyoto was regarded as more refined and cultured than the rest of the country. However, Yoritomo established his base of power called the Bafuku in the seaside town of Kamakura
Kamakura, Kanagawa
is a city located in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan, about south-south-west of Tokyo. It used to be also called .Although Kamakura proper is today rather small, it is often described in history books as a former de facto capital of Japan as the seat of the Shogunate and of the Regency during the...

. Yoritomo became the first in a line of shōguns who ruled from Kamakura. Thus, the period of time from 1185 until 1334 became known as the period of the Kamakura Shogunate. Society in the military or samurai capital of Kamakura was regarded as rough and ignorant by comparison with the refined society at Kyoto. However, Yoritomo wished to free his government from the pernicious influence of the bureaucracy in Kyoto and, thus remained in Kamakura. The Kamakura Shogunate based itself on the interests of this rising class rather than on the bureaucracy at Kyoto. Accordingly, the preference of Kamakura as the capital of the shogunate fit this new warrior class.

Yoritomo was married to Hôjô Masako of the Hôjô clan, herself a Sensei (master) in kyudô
Kyudo
, literally meaning "way of the bow", is the Japanese art of archery. It is a modern Japanese martial art and practitioners are known as .It is estimated that there are approximately half a million practitioners of kyudo today....

 (the art of the bow) and kendô
Kendo
, meaning "Way of The Sword", is a modern Japanese martial art of sword-fighting based on traditional Japanese swordsmanship, or kenjutsu.Kendo is a physically and mentally challenging activity that combines strong martial arts values with sport-like physical elements.-Practitioners:Practitioners...

 (the art of the sword), and she contributed much to his ascent and organizing the Bafuku. However, after Yoritomo's death, another warrior clan, the Hōjō
Hojo clan
See the late Hōjō clan for the Hōjō clan of the Sengoku Period.The in the history of Japan was a family who controlled the hereditary title of shikken of the Kamakura Shogunate. In practice, the family had actual governmental power, many times dictatorial, rather than Kamakura shoguns, or the...

, came to rule as shikken
Shikken
The was the regent for the shogun in the Kamakura shogunate in Japan. The post was monopolized by the Hōjō clan, and this system only existed once in Japanese history, between 1203 and 1333...

(regents) for the shōgun.


A traumatic event of the period was the Mongol invasions of Japan
Mongol invasions of Japan
The ' of 1274 and 1281 were major military efforts undertaken by Kublai Khan to conquer the Japanese islands after the submission of Goryeo to vassaldom. Despite their ultimate failure, the invasion attempts are of macrohistorical importance, because they set a limit on Mongol expansion, and rank...

 in 1274 and in 1281. Massive Mongol forces with superior naval technology and weaponry attempted a full-scale invasion of the Japanese islands in both 1274 and in 1281. However, a famous typhoon referred to as kamikaze
Kamikaze (typhoon)
The Kamikaze , were two winds or storms that are said to have saved Japan from two Mongol fleets under Kublai Khan. These fleets attacked Japan in 1274 and again in 1281...

(translating as divine wind in Japanese) is credited with devastating both Mongol invasion forces and saving Japan. Although the Japanese were successful in stopping the Mongols, the invasion attempt had devastating domestic repercussions, leading to the extinction of the Kamakura shogunate. For two decades after the second failed Mongol invasion of Japan, the Japanese remained fearful of a third Mongol attempt. (Indeed, Japan could not rest assured of peace until the death of Kublai Khan in 1294.) Consequently, the shogun required the various samurai spend money lavishly on armed forces in order to remain in a high state of readiness for the expected third attack by the Mongols. This vast expenditure of money had a ruinous effect on the economy of Japan. The Kamakura Shogunate could perhaps have survived the strain of the continual military readiness and the resultant bad economy if that had been the only problem. However, upon the death of Emperor Go-Saga in 1272, there arose a bitter dispute over succession to the throne within the imperial family.

Kemmu Restoration



In 1333, the Kamakura shogunate was overthrown in a coup d'état
Coup d'état
A coup d'état state, literally: strike/blow of state)—also known as a coup, putsch, and overthrow—is the sudden, extrajudicial deposition of a government, usually by a small group of the existing state establishment—typically the military—to replace the deposed government with another body; either...

 known as the Kemmu Restoration
Kemmu restoration
The is the name given to both the three year period of Japanese history between the Kamakura period and the Muromachi period, and the political events that took place in it...

, led by Emperor Go-Daigo
Emperor Go-Daigo
Emperor Go-Daigo was the 96th emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession....

 and his followers (Ashikaga Takauji
Ashikaga Takauji
was the founder and first shogun of the Ashikaga shogunate. His rule began in 1338, beginning the Muromachi period of Japan, and ended with his death in 1358...

, Nitta Yoshisada
Nitta Yoshisada
was the head of the Nitta family in the early fourteenth century, and supported the Southern Court of Emperor Go-Daigo in the Nanboku-chō period, capturing Kamakura from the Hōjō clan in 1333....

, and Kusunoki Masashige
Kusunoki Masashige
was a 14th century samurai who fought for Emperor Go-Daigo in his attempt to wrest rulership of Japan away from the Kamakura shogunate and is remembered as the ideal of samurai loyalty.-Tactician:...

). Emperor Go-Daigo had come to the throne in 1318. From the beginning, Go-Daigo had made it clear that he was going not going to abdicate and become a "cloistered emperor" and he was intending to rule Japan from his palace in Kyoto independent from the Kamakura Shogunate. War was conducted against the Kamakura Shogunate by Go-Daigo and his supporters. The Imperial House was restored to political influence. The government was now a civilian government rather than the military-run government of the Kamakura Shogunate. However, this did not last. The warrior class throughout Japan was in tumult. Furthermore, Go-Daigo was not a natural leader. Indeed, his personality tended to alienate people. One of those that was alienated by Go-Daigo, was his former supporter, Ashikaga Takauji. Ashikaga Takauji found that he had support from other regional warlords in Japan. In early 1335, Ashikaga left Kyoto and moved to Kamakura. Ashikaga, then began assuming powers that had not been given him by the Emperor. This brought Ashikaga Takauji in direct conflict with the governmental officials in Kyoto, including his old allies, Nitta Yoshisada and Kusunoki Masashige. However, by assuming shogun-like powers, Ashikaga appeared to be standing up for the warrior class against the civilian authority that seemed intent on destroying the power of the warriors. Accordingly, Ashikaga Takauji was joined in Kamakura by a number of other regional warlords. On November 17, 1335, Ashikaga Tadayoshi, brother of Takauji, issued a call (in the name of his brother Takauji) asking the warriors throughout the country to "assemble your clansmen and hasten to join me." Dissatisfaction with Go-Daigo was so strong that a majority of the warriors in Japan answered this call.

After initial defeats on the main island of Honshu
Honshu
is the largest island of Japan. The nation's main island, it is south of Hokkaido across the Tsugaru Strait, north of Shikoku across the Inland Sea, and northeast of Kyushu across the Kanmon Strait...

, Ashikaga and his troops retreated to the southern island of Kyushu
Kyushu
is the third largest island of Japan and most southwesterly of its four main islands. Its alternate ancient names include , , and . The historical regional name is referred to Kyushu and its surrounding islands....

, where he immediately won over most of the regional warlords to his side and defeated the few who remained loyal to Go-Daigo. With all of the island of Kyushu in his hands, Ashikaga Takauji invaded the main island of Honshu again and, in 1336, at the decisive Battle of Minatogawa
Battle of Minatogawa
The Battle of Minatogawa also known as the Battle of Minato River was fought in 1336 between Japanese forces loyal to Emperor Go-Daigo and the Ashikaga clan. The Imperial forces were led by Kusunoki Masashige and Nitta Yoshisada, while the Ashikaga were led by Ashikaga Takauji. The Ashikaga were...

, or the Battle of Minato River, defeated the armed forces of Nitta Yoshisada and Kusunoki Masanori and the other loyalist forces of Go-Daigo. The victorious warrior-class forces gathered around the town of Kamakura became known as the "Northern Court." The Loyalist forces may have been defeated but they survived to fight on. They formed the "Southern Court" and upon the death of Go-Daigo in the late summer of 1339, they rallied around the person of Prince Kazuhito who was enthroned as Emperor Kogon
Emperor Kōgon
Emperor Kōgon was the 1st of Ashikaga Pretenders during the Period of the Northern and Southern Courts in Japan...

. Prince Kazuhito was from a younger line of descendents in the Imperial family and, thus, his supporters were supporters of the "junior line." On September 20, 1336, the Ashikaga coalition of samurai opposed to Go-Daigo enthroned Prince Yutahito as Emperor Kōmyo
Emperor Komyo
was the 2nd of the Ashikaga Pretenders, although he was actually the first to be supported by the Ashikaga Bakufu. According to pre-Meiji scholars, his reign spanned the years from 1336 through 1348.-Genealogy:...

. Prince Yutahito was from the "senior line" of descendents in the Imperial family. Accordingly, the civil war between the warriors led by the Ashikaga clan—the Northern Court on the one hand and the "Loyalist" Southern Court on the other hand, became a civil war of imperial succession between followers of the "senior" and "junior" lines of succession in the Imperial family. The warriors and the Ashikaga clan captured Kyoto and proceeded to move their forces from Kamakura to Kyoto. Meanwhile, the Southern Court deposed from their capital in Kyoto, now established themselves in Yoshino.

The Ashikaga Shogunate was never able to control and centralize the government over the entire country. Rather they ruled because of a narrow and shifting majority of warlords who supported them. There were always some warlords that acted independently of either the Northern Court or the Southern Court. Later, during the war of succession, these independent warlords enthroned a third emperor—Emperor Suko. So the civil war of succession became a three-cornered affair. The prestige of the throne declined as the civil war continued. This had the effect of bolstering the idea that the Imperial family should be removed from politics and strengthened the need for a shogun to be appointed to run the government on a day-to-day basis.

In 1338, Ashikaga Takauji was officially appointed as Shogun by the new Emperor. He was the first of a line of Ashikaga shoguns. The attempted restoration of independent power of the throne—the Kemmu Restoration—was at an end and the period of the Ashikaga Shogunate had begun.

The civil war of succession to the throne was finally settled. As part of the settlement, all three "emperors" abdicated on April 6, 1352. Ashikaga died in 1358 and Ashikaga Yoshiakira succeeded him as Shogun. By 1368, however, the ascendancy of the Ashikaga Shogunate was so complete that Ashikaga Yoshimisu was able to rule Japan without reference to the emperor. In 1392, the Southern Court and the Northern Court were finally merged under an agreement that placed Emperor Kogon, of the Southern Court and the junior line, on the throne and pledged that the throne would, henceforth, alternate between candidates of the Northern Court and the Southern Court. This agreement was, however, never implemented.

Muromachi period


During the Muromachi period
Muromachi period
The is a division of Japanese history running from approximately 1336 to 1573. The period marks the governance of the Muromachi or Ashikaga shogunate, which was officially established in 1338 by the first Muromachi shogun, Ashikaga Takauji, two years after the brief Kemmu restoration of imperial...

, the Ashikaga shogunate
Ashikaga shogunate
The , also known as the , was a Japanese feudal military regime, ruled by the shoguns of the Ashikaga clan.This period is also known as the Muromachi period and gets its name from Muromachi Street of Kyoto where the third shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu established his residence...

 ruled for 237 years from 1336 to 1573. It was established by Ashikaga Takauji who seized political power from Emperor Go-Daigo. A majority of the warrior class supported the Ashikaga clan in the succession war. After taking Kyoto from Emperor Go-Daigo, the Ashikaga clan made Kyoto, the capital of the Ashikaga Shogunate in late 1336. This became the new capital of the Northern Court. Go-Daigo, then, moved to the town of Yoshino
Yoshino
Yoshino may refer to:* Somei Yoshino, a flowering cherry tree Prunus × yedoensis* Japanese cruiser Yoshino- Places :* Yoshino, Nara, a town located in Yoshino District, Nara Prefecture, Japan...

 and established the new capital of the Southern Court there. This ended the attempted restoration of the powers of the throne—the Kemmu restoration. The early years (1336 to 1392) of the Muromachi period are known as the Nanboku-chō (Northern and Southern court) period because the imperial court was split in two. In 1392, the Northern court and the southern Court were finally merged and Emperor Kogon was placed on the throne. There was an agreement that, heretofore, succession to the throne would alternate between candidates of the Northern court and candidates of the Southern Court. However, this agreement was never acted upon.

Rule of the Ashikaga Bakufu looked a lot like the rule of the Kamakura Bakufu, as the Ashikaga clan made few changes in the offices and councils of the prior government. However, the Ashikaga Shogunate dominated the Imperial throne more than the Kamakura Shogunate ever did. Nonetheless, the Ashikaga Shogunate was never able to centralized its power over the regional warlords as much as the prior Kamakura government. The Ashikaga Shogunate was based on a coalition of a loose majority of the various regional warlords across the country. As a consequence, the Ashikaga Shogunate was unable to do anything about the problem of the pirates who were operating off their own shores, despite repeated requests to do so by both Korea and Ming dynasty China. Warlord clans, like the Kotsuna clan and the Kiyomori branch of the Taira clan, that lived along the coast of the Inland Sea
Inland Sea
The , often shortened to Inland Sea, is the body of water separating Honshū, Shikoku, and Kyūshū, three of the main islands of Japan. It serves as an international waterway, connecting the Pacific Ocean to the Sea of Japan. It connects to Osaka Bay and provides a sea transport link to industrial...

, made money from the pirates and supported them.

In 1368, the Ming Dynasty
Ming Dynasty
The Ming Dynasty, also Empire of the Great Ming, was the ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644, following the collapse of the Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty. The Ming, "one of the greatest eras of orderly government and social stability in human history", was the last dynasty in China ruled by ethnic...

 replaced the Yuan Dynasty
Yuan Dynasty
The Yuan Dynasty , or Great Yuan Empire was a ruling dynasty founded by the Mongol leader Kublai Khan, who ruled most of present-day China, all of modern Mongolia and its surrounding areas, lasting officially from 1271 to 1368. It is considered both as a division of the Mongol Empire and as an...

 of the Mongols
Mongols
Mongols ) are a Central-East Asian ethnic group that lives mainly in the countries of Mongolia, China, and Russia. In China, ethnic Mongols can be found mainly in the central north region of China such as Inner Mongolia...

 in China. Japanese trade with China had been frozen since the second and final attempt by Mongol China to invade Japan in 1281. Now a new trade relationship began with the new Ming rulers in China. Part of the new trade with China was the coming to Japan of Zen Buddhist monks. During the Ashikaga Shogunate Zen Buddhism came to have a great influence with the ruling class in Japan.

The Muromachi period ended in 1573 when the 15th and last shōgun, Ashikaga Yoshiaki
Ashikaga Yoshiaki
was the 15th shogun of the Ashikaga shogunate in Japan who reigned from 1568 to 1573. His father, Ashikaga Yoshiharu was the twelfth shogun, and his brother, Ashikaga Yoshiteru was the thirteenth shogun....

, was driven out of the capital in Kyoto by Oda Nobunaga
Oda Nobunaga
was the initiator of the unification of Japan under the shogunate in the late 16th century, which ruled Japan until the Meiji Restoration in 1868. He was also a major daimyo during the Sengoku period of Japanese history. His opus was continued, completed and finalized by his successors Toyotomi...

.

In the viewpoint of a cultural history, Kitayama period (14th end-15th first half) and Higashiyama period (15th second half-16th first half) exist in Muromachi period.

Sengoku period




The later years of the Muromachi period, 1467 to 1573, are also known as the Sengoku period
Sengoku period
The or Warring States period in Japanese history was a time of social upheaval, political intrigue, and nearly constant military conflict that lasted roughly from the middle of the 15th century to the beginning of the 17th century. The name "Sengoku" was adopted by Japanese historians in reference...

 (Period of Warring Kingdoms), a time of intense internal warfare, and correspond with the period of the first contacts with the West—the arrival of Portuguese
Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

 "Nanban" traders.

In 1543, a Portuguese ship, blown off its course to China, landed on Tanegashima Island
Tanegashima
is an island lying to the south of Kyushu, in southern Japan, and is part of Kagoshima Prefecture. The island is the second largest of the Ōsumi Islands....

. Firearms introduced by the Portuguese would bring the major innovation of the Sengoku period, culminating in the Battle of Nagashino
Battle of Nagashino
The ' took place in 1575 near Nagashino Castle on the plain of Shitaragahara in the Mikawa province of Japan. Forces under Takeda Katsuyori had besieged the castle since the 17th of June; Okudaira Sadamasa , a Tokugawa vassal, commanded the defending force...

 where reportedly 3,000 arquebus
Arquebus
The arquebus , or "hook tube", is an early muzzle-loaded firearm used in the 15th to 17th centuries. The word was originally modeled on the German hakenbüchse; this produced haquebute...

es (the actual number is believed to be around 2,000) cut down charging ranks of samurai. During the following years, traders from Portugal, the Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

, England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, and Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 arrived, as did Jesuit
Society of Jesus
The Society of Jesus is a Catholic male religious order that follows the teachings of the Catholic Church. The members are called Jesuits, and are also known colloquially as "God's Army" and as "The Company," these being references to founder Ignatius of Loyola's military background and a...

, Dominican
Dominican Order
The Order of Preachers , after the 15th century more commonly known as the Dominican Order or Dominicans, is a Catholic religious order founded by Saint Dominic and approved by Pope Honorius III on 22 December 1216 in France...

, and Franciscan
Franciscan
Most Franciscans are members of Roman Catholic religious orders founded by Saint Francis of Assisi. Besides Roman Catholic communities, there are also Old Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, ecumenical and Non-denominational Franciscan communities....

 missionaries.

Azuchi-Momoyama period



The Azuchi-Momoyama period
Azuchi-Momoyama period
The came at the end of the Warring States Period in Japan, when the political unification that preceded the establishment of the Tokugawa shogunate took place. It spans the years from approximately 1573 to 1603, during which time Oda Nobunaga and his successor, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, imposed order...

 runs from approximately 1568 to 1603. The period, regarded as the late Warring Kingdoms period, marks the military reunification and stabilization of the country under a single political ruler, first by the campaigns of Oda Nobunaga
Oda Nobunaga
was the initiator of the unification of Japan under the shogunate in the late 16th century, which ruled Japan until the Meiji Restoration in 1868. He was also a major daimyo during the Sengoku period of Japanese history. His opus was continued, completed and finalized by his successors Toyotomi...

 (1534–1582) who almost united Japan. Nobunaga decided to reduce the power of the Buddhist priests, and gave protection to Christianity. He slaughtered many Buddhist priests and captured their fortified temples. He was killed in a revolt in 1582.

Unification was finally achieved by one of Nobunaga's generals, Toyotomi Hideyoshi
Toyotomi Hideyoshi
was a daimyo warrior, general and politician of the Sengoku period. He unified the political factions of Japan. He succeeded his former liege lord, Oda Nobunaga, and brought an end to the Sengoku period. The period of his rule is often called the Momoyama period, named after Hideyoshi's castle...

.

After having united Japan, Hideyoshi invaded Korea in an attempt to conquer Korea and points beyond. However, after two unsuccessful campaigns towards the allied forces of Korea and China and his death, his forces returned to Japan in 1598. Following his death, Japan experienced a short period of succession conflict. Tokugawa Ieyasu
Tokugawa Ieyasu
 was the founder and first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan , which ruled from the Battle of Sekigahara  in 1600 until the Meiji Restoration in 1868. Ieyasu seized power in 1600, received appointment as shogun in 1603, abdicated from office in 1605, but...

, one of the regents for Hideyoshi's young heir, emerged victorious at the Battle of Sekigahara
Battle of Sekigahara
The , popularly known as the , was a decisive battle on October 21, 1600 which cleared the path to the Shogunate for Tokugawa Ieyasu...

 and seized political power.

Christian missions



Catholic Jesuit missionaries led by Francis Xavier
Francis Xavier
Francis Xavier, born Francisco de Jasso y Azpilicueta was a pioneering Roman Catholic missionary born in the Kingdom of Navarre and co-founder of the Society of Jesus. He was a student of Saint Ignatius of Loyola and one of the first seven Jesuits, dedicated at Montmartre in 1534...

 (1506–1552) arrived in 1549 and were welcomed in Kyoto. Their aggressive proselytizing was most successful in Kyushu, with about 100,000 to 200,000 converts, including many daimyo. In 1587, Hideyoshi reversed course and decided the Christian presence was divisive and might present the Europeans with an opportunity to disrupt Japan. The Christians missionaries were a threat; the Portuguese merchants were allowed to continue their operations. The edict was not immediately enforced but restrictions grew tighter in the next three decades until a full-scale government persecution destroyed the Christian community by the 1620s. The Jesuits were expelled, churches and schools were torn down, and the daimyo were forbidden to become Christians. Converts who did not reject Christianity were killed. Many Christians went underground, becoming , but their communities died out. Christianity left no permanent imprint on Japanese society and not until the 1870s was Christianity re-established in Japan.

Edo ("Tokugawa") period (1603–1868)


The Edo or Tokugawa era saw power centralized in the hands of a hereditary shogunate that took control of religion, regulated the entire economy, subordinated the nobility, and set up uniform systems of taxation, government spending and bureaucracies. It avoided international involvement and wars, established a national judiciary and suppressed protest and criticism. The Tokugawa era brought peace, and that brought prosperity to a nation of 31 million.

Economy


About 80% of the people were rice farmers. Rice production increased steadily, but population remained stable, so prosperity increased. Rice paddies grew from 1.6 million chō in 1600 to 3 million by 1720. Improved technology helped farmers control the all-important flow of irrigation to their paddies. The daimyos operated several hundred castle towns, which became loci of domestic trade. Large-scale rice markets developed, centered on Edo and Osaka. In the cities and towns, guilds of merchants and artisans met the growing demand for goods and services. The merchants, while low in status, prospered, especially those with official patronage. Merchants invented credit instruments to transfer money, currency came into common use, and the strengthening credit market encouraged entrepreneurship.

The samurai, forbidden to engage in farming or business but allowed to borrow money, borrowed too much. One scholar observed that the entire military class was living "as in an inn, that is, consuming now and paying later". The bakufu and daimyos raised taxes on farmers, but did not tax business, so they too fell into debt. By 1750 rising taxes incited peasant unrest and even revolt. The nation had to deal somehow with samurai impoverishment and treasury deficits. The financial troubles of the samurai undermined their loyalties to the system, and the empty treasury threatened the whole system of government. One solution was reactionary—with prohibitions on spending for luxuries. Other solutions were modernizing, with the goal of increasing agrarian productivity. The eighth Tokugawa shogun, Tokugawa Yoshimune
Tokugawa Yoshimune
was the eighth shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan, ruling from 1716 until his abdication in 1745. He was the son of Tokugawa Mitsusada, the grandson of Tokugawa Yorinobu, and the great-grandson of Tokugawa Ieyasu.-Lineage:...

 (in office 1716–1745) had considerable success, though much of his work had to be done again between 1787 and 1793 by the shogun's chief councilor Matsudaira Sadanobu
Matsudaira Sadanobu
Japanese daimyo of the mid-Edo period, famous for his financial reforms which saved the Shirakawa Domain, and the similar reforms he undertook during his tenure as chief senior councilor of the Tokugawa Shogunate, from 1787 to 1793....

 (1759–1829). Others shoguns debased the coinage to pay debts, which caused inflation.

By 1800 the commercialization of the economy grew rapidly, bringing more and more remote villages into the national economy. Rich farmers appeared who switched from rice to high-profit commercial crops and engaged in local money-lending, trade, and small-scale manufacturing. Some wealthy merchants sought higher social status by using money to marry into the samurai class.

A few domains, notably Chōsū and Satsuma, used innovative methods to restore their finances, but most sunk further into debt. The financial crisis provoked a reactionary solution near the end of the "Tenpō Reforms
Tenpo reforms
The were an array of economic policies introduced in 1842 by the Tokugawa Shogunate in Japan.These reforms were efforts to resolve perceived problems in military, economic, agricultural, financial and religious systems....

" (1830–1843) promulgated by the chief counselor Mizuno Tadakuni
Mizuno Tadakuni
was a daimyō during late-Edo period Japan, who later served as chief senior councilor in service to the Tokugawa Shogunate. He is remembered for having instituted the Tenpo Reform.-Biography:...

. He raised taxes, denounced luxuries and tried to impede the growth of business; he failed and it appeared to many that the continued existence of the entire Tokugawa system was in jeopardy.

Social structure


Japanese society had an elaborate social structure, in which everyone knew their place and level of prestige. At the top were the emperor and the court nobility, invincible in prestige but weak in power. Next came the "bushi" of shogun, daimyo and layers of feudal lords whose rank was indicated by their closeness to the Tokugawa. They had power. The "daimyo" comprised about 250 local lords of local "han" with annual outputs of 50,000 or more bushels of rice. The upper strata was much given to elaborate and expensive rituals, including elegant architecture, landscaped gardens, nō drama, patronage of the arts, and the tea ceremony.

Samurai


Then came the 400,000 warriors, called "samurai", in numerous grades and degrees. A few upper samurai were eligible for high office; most were foot soldiers (ashigaru) with minor duties. The samurai were affiliated with senior lords in a well-established chain of command. The shogun had 17,000 samurai retainers; the daimyo each had hundreds. Most lived in modest homes near their lord's headquarters, and lived off hereditary rights to collect rents and stipends. Together these high status groups comprised Japan's ruling class making up about 6% of the total population.

Lower orders


Lower orders divided into two main segments—the peasants—80% of the population—whose high prestige as producers was undercut by their burden as the chief source of taxes. They were illiterate and lived in villages controlled by appointed officials who kept the peace and collected taxes. Peasants and villagers frequently engaged in unlawful and disruptive protests, especially after 1780.

Merchants and artisans


Near the bottom of the prestige scale—but much higher up in terms of income and life style—were the merchants and artisans of the towns and cities. They had no political power, and even rich merchants found it difficult to rise in the world in a society in which place and standing were fixed at birth. Finally came the entertainers, prostitutes, day laborers and servants, and the thieves, beggars and hereditary outcasts. They were tightly controlled by local officials and were not allowed to mingle with higher status people.

Literacy


Literacy was highly prized, albeit made difficult by the writing system. Wood block printing had been standard for centuries; after 1500 Japanese printers experimented with movable type, but reverted to the wood blocks. By the 1780s Japan was publishing 3000 books a year (compared with 400 in Russia). By the 1850s the major new trend was the translation of western scientific and geographical books, which reached a wide audience. By 1860 about 40% of the men and 10% of the women were literate in rural areas, with much higher rates in the cities, such as 80% in Edo (Tokyo). Universal compulsory education only began in 1871.

Government



During the Edo period
Edo period
The , or , is a division of Japanese history which was ruled by the shoguns of the Tokugawa family, running from 1603 to 1868. The political entity of this period was the Tokugawa shogunate....

, also called the Tokugawa period, the administration of the country was shared by over two hundred daimyō
Daimyo
is a generic term referring to the powerful territorial lords in pre-modern Japan who ruled most of the country from their vast, hereditary land holdings...

 in a federation governed by the Tokugawa shogunate
Tokugawa shogunate
The Tokugawa shogunate, also known as the and the , was a feudal regime of Japan established by Tokugawa Ieyasu and ruled by the shoguns of the Tokugawa family. This period is known as the Edo period and gets its name from the capital city, Edo, which is now called Tokyo, after the name was...

. The Tokugawa clan
Tokugawa clan
The was a powerful daimyo family of Japan. They nominally descended from Emperor Seiwa and were a branch of the Minamoto clan by the Nitta clan. However, the early history of this clan remains a mystery.-History:...

, leader of the victorious eastern army in the Battle of Sekigahara, was the most powerful of them and for fifteen generations monopolized the title of Sei-i Taishōgun (often shortened to shōgun). With their headquarters at Edo
Edo
, also romanized as Yedo or Yeddo, is the former name of the Japanese capital Tokyo, and was the seat of power for the Tokugawa shogunate which ruled Japan from 1603 to 1868...

 (present-day Tokyo
Tokyo
, ; officially , is one of the 47 prefectures of Japan. Tokyo is the capital of Japan, the center of the Greater Tokyo Area, and the largest metropolitan area of Japan. It is the seat of the Japanese government and the Imperial Palace, and the home of the Japanese Imperial Family...

), the Tokugawa commanded the allegiance of the other daimyō, who in turn ruled their domains with a rather high degree of autonomy.

The Tokugawa shogunate carried out a number of significant policies. They placed the samurai class above the commoners: the agriculturists, artisans, and merchants. They enacted sumptuary laws limiting hairstyle, dress, and accessories. They organized commoners into groups of five and held all responsible for the acts of each individual. To prevent daimyō from rebelling, the shōguns required them to maintain lavish residences in Edo and live at these residences on a rotating schedule; carry out expensive processions to and from their domains; contribute to the upkeep of shrines, temples, and roads; and seek permission before repairing their castles.

This 265-year span was called "A peaceful state". Cultural achievement was high during this period, and many artistic developments took place. Most significant among them were the ukiyo-e
Ukiyo-e
' is a genre of Japanese woodblock prints and paintings produced between the 17th and the 20th centuries, featuring motifs of landscapes, tales from history, the theatre, and pleasure quarters...

form of wood-block print and the kabuki
Kabuki
is classical Japanese dance-drama. Kabuki theatre is known for the stylization of its drama and for the elaborate make-up worn by some of its performers.The individual kanji characters, from left to right, mean sing , dance , and skill...

and bunraku
Bunraku
, also known as Ningyō jōruri , is a form of traditional Japanese puppet theater, founded in Osaka in 1684.Three kinds of performers take part in a bunraku performance:* Ningyōtsukai or Ningyōzukai—puppeteers* Tayū—the chanters* Shamisen players...

theaters. Also, many of the most famous works for the koto
Koto (musical instrument)
The koto is a traditional Japanese stringed musical instrument, similar to the Chinese guzheng, the Mongolian yatga, the Korean gayageum and the Vietnamese đàn tranh. The koto is the national instrument of Japan. Koto are about length, and made from kiri wood...

and shakuhachi
Shakuhachi
The is a Japanese end-blown flute. It is traditionally made of bamboo, but versions now exist in ABS and hardwoods. It was used by the monks of the Fuke school of Zen Buddhism in the practice of...

date from this time period.

"Sakoku" --seclusion from the outside world



During the early part of the 17th century, the shogunate suspected that foreign traders and missionaries were actually forerunners of a military conquest by European powers. Christianity had spread in Japan, especially among peasants, and the shogunate suspected the loyalty of Christian peasants towards their daimyō, severely persecuting them. This led to a revolt by persecuted peasants and Christians in 1637 known as the Shimabara Rebellion
Shimabara Rebellion
The was an uprising largely involving Japanese peasants, most of them Catholic Christians, in 1637–1638 during the Edo period.It was one of only a handful of instances of serious unrest during the relatively peaceful period of the Tokugawa shogunate's rule...

 which saw 30,000 Christians, rōnin
Ronin
A or rounin was a Bushi with no lord or master during the feudal period of Japan. A samurai became masterless from the death or fall of his master, or after the loss of his master's favor or privilege....

, and peasants facing a massive samurai army of more than 100,000 sent from Edo. The rebellion was crushed at a high cost to the shōgun's army.

After the eradication of the rebels at Shimabara, the shogunate placed foreigners under progressively tighter restrictions. It monopolized foreign policy and expelled traders, missionaries, and foreigners with the exception of the Dutch and Chinese merchants who were restricted to the man-made island of Dejima
Dejima
was a small fan-shaped artificial island built in the bay of Nagasaki in 1634. This island, which was formed by digging a canal through a small peninsula, remained as the single place of direct trade and exchange between Japan and the outside world during the Edo period. Dejima was built to...

 in Nagasaki Bay and several small trading outposts outside the country. However, during this period of isolation (Sakoku
Sakoku
was the foreign relations policy of Japan under which no foreigner could enter nor could any Japanese leave the country on penalty of death. The policy was enacted by the Tokugawa shogunate under Tokugawa Iemitsu through a number of edicts and policies from 1633–39 and remained in effect until...

) that began in 1635, Japan was much less cut off from the rest of the world than is commonly assumed, and some acquisition of western knowledge occurred under the Rangaku
Rangaku
Rangaku is a body of knowledge developed by Japan through its contacts with the Dutch enclave of Dejima, which allowed Japan to keep abreast of Western technology and medicine in the period when the country was closed to foreigners, 1641–1853, because of the Tokugawa shogunate’s policy of national...

 system. Russian encroachments from the north led the shogunate to extend direct rule to Hokkaidō, Sakhalin
Sakhalin
Sakhalin or Saghalien, is a large island in the North Pacific, lying between 45°50' and 54°24' N.It is part of Russia, and is Russia's largest island, and is administered as part of Sakhalin Oblast...

 and the Kuriles
Kuril Islands
The Kuril Islands , in Russia's Sakhalin Oblast region, form a volcanic archipelago that stretches approximately northeast from Hokkaidō, Japan, to Kamchatka, Russia, separating the Sea of Okhotsk from the North Pacific Ocean. There are 56 islands and many more minor rocks. It consists of Greater...

 in 1807, but the policy of exclusion continued.

End of seclusion




The policy of isolation lasted for more than 200 years. In 1844, William II of the Netherlands
William II of the Netherlands
William II was King of the Netherlands, Grand Duke of Luxembourg, and Duke of Limburg from 7 October 1840 until his death in 1849.- Early life and education :...

 sent a message urging Japan to open its doors which was rejected by the Japanese. On July 8, 1853, Commodore Matthew Perry of the United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

 with four warship
Warship
A warship is a ship that is built and primarily intended for combat. Warships are usually built in a completely different way from merchant ships. As well as being armed, warships are designed to withstand damage and are usually faster and more maneuvrable than merchant ships...

s—the Mississippi
USS Mississippi (1841)
USS Mississippi, a paddle frigate, was the first ship of the United States Navy to bear that name. She was named for the Mississippi River. Her sister ship was . Her keel was laid down by the Philadelphia Navy Yard in 1839; built under the personal supervision of Commodore Matthew Perry. She was...

, Plymouth
USS Plymouth (1844)
USS Plymouth was a sloop-of-war constructed and commissioned just prior to the Mexican-American War. She was heavily gunned, and traveled to Japan as part of Commodore Matthew C. Perry’s effort to force Japan to open her ports to international trade...

, Saratoga
USS Saratoga (1842)
USS Saratoga, a sloop-of-war, was the third ship of the United States Navy to be named for the Battle of Saratoga of the American Revolutionary War. Her keel was laid down in the summer of 1841 by the Portsmouth Navy Yard...

, and Susquehanna—steamed into the bay in Yokohama
Yokohama
is the capital city of Kanagawa Prefecture and the second largest city in Japan by population after Tokyo and most populous municipality of Japan. It lies on Tokyo Bay, south of Tokyo, in the Kantō region of the main island of Honshu...

 and displayed the threatening power of his ships' cannons during a Christian burial which the Japanese observed. He requested that Japan open to trade with the West. These ships became known as the kurofune, the Black Ships
Black Ships
The Black Ships was the name given to Western vessels arriving in Japan in the 16th and 19th centuries.In 1543 Portuguese initiated the first contacts, establishing a trade route linking Goa to Nagasaki...

.

The following year at the Convention of Kanagawa
Convention of Kanagawa
On March 31, 1854, the or was concluded between Commodore Matthew C. Perry of the U.S. Navy and the Tokugawa shogunate.-Treaty of Peace and Amity :...

 on March 31, 1854, Perry returned with seven ships and demanded that the shōgun sign the Treaty of Peace and Amity, establishing formal diplomatic relations between Japan and the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. Within five years, Japan had signed similar treaties with other Western countries. The Harris Treaty
Treaty of Amity and Commerce (United States-Japan)
The , also called Harris Treaty, between the United States and Japan was signed at the Ryōsen-ji in Shimoda on July 29, 1858. It opened the ports of Yokohama and four other Japanese cities to American trade and granted extraterritoriality to foreigners, among other stipulations.-The Treaty:The...

 was signed with the United States on July 29, 1858. These treaties were unequal, having been forced on Japan through gunboat diplomacy
Gunboat diplomacy
In international politics, gunboat diplomacy refers to the pursuit of foreign policy objectives with the aid of conspicuous displays of military power — implying or constituting a direct threat of warfare, should terms not be agreeable to the superior force....

, and were interpreted by the Japanese as a sign of Western imperialism
Imperialism
Imperialism, as defined by Dictionary of Human Geography, is "the creation and/or maintenance of an unequal economic, cultural, and territorial relationships, usually between states and often in the form of an empire, based on domination and subordination." The imperialism of the last 500 years,...

 taking hold of the rest of the Asian continent. Among other measures, they gave the Western nations unequivocal control of tariffs on imports and the right of extraterritoriality
Extraterritoriality
Extraterritoriality is the state of being exempt from the jurisdiction of local law, usually as the result of diplomatic negotiations. Extraterritoriality can also be applied to physical places, such as military bases of foreign countries, or offices of the United Nations...

 to all of their visiting nationals. They would remain a sticking point in Japan's relations with the West up to the turn of the century.

Empire of Japan (1868–1945)



Beginning in 1868, Japan undertook political, economic, and cultural transformations emerging as a unified and centralized state, the Empire of Japan
Empire of Japan
The Empire of Japan is the name of the state of Japan that existed from the Meiji Restoration on 3 January 1868 to the enactment of the post-World War II Constitution of...

 (also Imperial Japan or Prewar Japan). This 77-year period, which lasted until 1945, was a time of rapid economic growth. Japan became an imperial power, colonizing Korea
Korea under Japanese rule
Korea was under Japanese rule as part of Japan's 35-year imperialist expansion . Japanese rule ended in 1945 shortly after the Japanese defeat in World War II....

 and Taiwan
Taiwan under Japanese rule
Between 1895 and 1945, Taiwan was a dependency of the Empire of Japan. The expansion into Taiwan was a part of Imperial Japan's general policy of southward expansion during the late 19th century....

. Starting in 1931 it began the takeover of Manchuria and China, in defiance of the League of Nations and the United States. Escalating tension with the U.S.--and western control of Japan's vital oil supplies—led to World War II. Japan launched multiple successful attacks on the U.S. as well as British and Dutch territories in 1941–42. But after a series of great naval battles it was defeated by a much larger industrial power, as its cities were systematically demolished by strategic bombing. Japan surrendered in 1945, and was occupied and transformed by the U.S.

Meiji Restoration




Renewed contact with the West precipitated a profound alteration of Japanese society. Importantly, within the context of Japan's subsequent aggressive militarism, the signing of the treaties was viewed as profoundly humiliating and a source of national shame. The Tokugawa shōgun was forced to resign, and soon after the Boshin War
Boshin War
The was a civil war in Japan, fought from 1868 to 1869 between forces of the ruling Tokugawa shogunate and those seeking to return political power to the imperial court....

 of 1868, the emperor was restored to power, beginning a period of fierce nationalism and intense socio-economic restructuring known as the Meiji Restoration
Meiji Restoration
The , also known as the Meiji Ishin, Revolution, Reform or Renewal, was a chain of events that restored imperial rule to Japan in 1868...

. The Tokugawa system was abolished, the military was modernized, and numerous Western institutions were adopted–including a Western legal system and quasi-parliamentary constitutional government as outlined in the Meiji Constitution
Meiji Constitution
The ', known informally as the ', was the organic law of the Japanese empire, in force from November 29, 1890 until May 2, 1947.-Outline:...

. This constitution was modeled on the constitution of the German Empire
German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

. While many aspects of the Meiji Restoration were adopted directly from Western institutions, others, such as the dissolution of the feudal system and removal of the shogunate, were processes that had begun long before the arrival of Perry. Nonetheless, Perry's intervention is widely viewed as a pivotal moment in Japanese history.


Russian pressure from the north appeared again after Muraviev
Mikhail Nikolayevich Muravyov
Count Mikhail Nikolayevich Muravyov was a Russian statesman who advocated transferring the attention of Russian foreign policy from Europe to the Far East...

 had gained Outer Manchuria
Outer Manchuria
Outer Manchuria , is the territory ceded by China to Russia in the Treaty of Aigun in 1858 and the Treaty of Peking in 1860. . The northern part of the area was also in dispute between 1643 and 1689...

 at Aigun
Treaty of Aigun
The Treaty of Aigun was a 1858 treaty between the Russian Empire, and the empire of the Qing Dynasty, the sinicized-Manchu rulers of China, that established much of the modern border between the Russian Far East and Manchuria , which is now known as Northeast China...

 (1858) and Peking
Convention of Peking
The Convention of Peking or the First Convention of Peking is the name used for three different unequal treaties, which were concluded between Qing China and the United Kingdom, France, and Russia.-Background:...

 (1860). This led to heavy Russian pressure on Sakhalin which the Japanese eventually yielded in exchange for the Kuril islands (1875). The Ryukyu Islands
Ryukyu Islands
The , also known as the , is a chain of islands in the western Pacific, on the eastern limit of the East China Sea and to the southwest of the island of Kyushu in Japan. From about 1829 until the mid 20th century, they were alternately called Luchu, Loochoo, or Lewchew, akin to the Mandarin...

 were similarly secured in 1879, establishing the borders within which Japan would "enter the World". In 1898, the last of the unequal treaties
Unequal Treaties
“Unequal treaty” is a term used in specific reference to a number of treaties imposed by Western powers, during the 19th and early 20th centuries, on Qing Dynasty China and late Tokugawa Japan...

 with Western powers was removed, signaling Japan's new status among the nations of the world. In a few decades by reforming and modernizing social, educational, economic, military, political and industrial systems, the Emperor Meiji
Emperor Meiji
The or was the 122nd emperor of Japan according to the traditional order of succession, reigning from 3 February 1867 until his death...

's "controlled revolution" had transformed a feudal and isolated state into a world power. Significantly, the impetus for this change was the belief that Japan had to compete with the West both industrially and militarily to achieve equality.

Wars with China and Russia



Japanese intellectuals of the late-Meiji period
Meiji period
The , also known as the Meiji era, is a Japanese era which extended from September 1868 through July 1912. This period represents the first half of the Empire of Japan.- Meiji Restoration and the emperor :...

 espoused the concept of a "line of advantage", an idea that would help to justify Japanese foreign policy at the turn of the century. According to this principle, embodied in the slogan fukoku kyōhei
Fukoku kyohei
, originally a phrase from the ancient Chinese historical work on the Warring States Period, Zhan Guo Ce , was Japan's national slogan during the Meiji Era, replacing sonnō jōi ....

, Japan would be vulnerable to aggressive Western imperialism unless it extended a line of advantage beyond its borders which would help to repel foreign incursions and strengthen the Japanese economy. Emphasis was especially placed on Japan's "preeminent interests" in the Korean Peninsula, once famously described as a "dagger pointed at the heart of Japan". It was tensions over Korea and Manchuria
Manchuria
Manchuria is a historical name given to a large geographic region in northeast Asia. Depending on the definition of its extent, Manchuria usually falls entirely within the People's Republic of China, or is sometimes divided between China and Russia. The region is commonly referred to as Northeast...

, respectively, that led Japan to become involved in the first Sino-Japanese War with China in 1894–1895 and the Russo-Japanese War
Russo-Japanese War
The Russo-Japanese War was "the first great war of the 20th century." It grew out of rival imperial ambitions of the Russian Empire and Japanese Empire over Manchuria and Korea...

 with Russia in 1904–1905.

The war with China made Japan the world's first Eastern, modern imperial power, and the war with Russia proved that a Western power could be defeated by an Eastern state. The aftermath of these two wars left Japan the dominant power in the Far East
Far East
The Far East is an English term mostly describing East Asia and Southeast Asia, with South Asia sometimes also included for economic and cultural reasons.The term came into use in European geopolitical discourse in the 19th century,...

 with a sphere of influence extending over southern Manchuria and Korea, which was formally annexed as part of the Japanese Empire in 1910. Japan had also gained half of Sakhalin Island from Russia. The results of these wars established Japan's dominant interest in Korea, while giving it the Pescadores Islands, Formosa (now Taiwan
Taiwan
Taiwan , also known, especially in the past, as Formosa , is the largest island of the same-named island group of East Asia in the western Pacific Ocean and located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. The island forms over 99% of the current territory of the Republic of China following...

), and the Liaodong Peninsula in Manchuria, which was eventually retroceded in the "humiliating" Triple Intervention
Triple Intervention
The was a diplomatic intervention by Russia, Germany, and France on 23 April 1895 over the terms of the Treaty of Shimonoseki signed between Japan and Qing dynasty China that ended the First Sino-Japanese War.-Treaty of Shimonoseki:...

.

Over the next decade, Japan would flaunt its growing prowess, including a very significant contribution to the Eight-Nation Alliance
Eight-Nation Alliance
The Eight-Nation Alliance was an alliance of Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States whose military forces intervened in China to suppress the anti-foreign Boxers and relieve the siege of the diplomatic legations in Beijing .- Events :The...

 formed to quell China's Boxer Rebellion
Boxer Rebellion
The Boxer Rebellion, also called the Boxer Uprising by some historians or the Righteous Harmony Society Movement in northern China, was a proto-nationalist movement by the "Righteous Harmony Society" , or "Righteous Fists of Harmony" or "Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists" , in China between...

. Many Japanese, however, believed their new empire was still regarded as inferior by the Western powers, and they sought a means of cementing their international standing. This set the climate for growing tensions with Russia, which would continually intrude into Japan's "line of advantage" during this time.

Anglo-Japanese Alliance



The Anglo-Japanese Alliance
Anglo-Japanese Alliance
The first was signed in London at what is now the Lansdowne Club, on January 30, 1902, by Lord Lansdowne and Hayashi Tadasu . A diplomatic milestone for its ending of Britain's splendid isolation, the alliance was renewed and extended in scope twice, in 1905 and 1911, before its demise in 1921...

 treaty was signed between the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 and Japan on January 30, 1902, and announced on February 12, 1902. It was renewed in 1905 and 1911 before its demise in 1921 and its termination in 1923. It was a military alliance between the two countries that threatened Russia and Germany. Due to this alliance, Japan entered World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 on the side of Great Britain. Japan attacked German bases in China and sent troops to the Mediterranean in 1917. Through this treaty, there was also great cultural exchange between the two countries.

World War I



In a manner perhaps reminiscent of its participation in quelling the Boxer Rebellion at the turn of the century, Japan entered World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 and declared war on the Central Powers
Central Powers
The Central Powers were one of the two warring factions in World War I , composed of the German Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Bulgaria...

. Though Japan's role in World War I was limited largely to attacking German colonial outposts in East Asia, it took advantage of the opportunity to expand its influence in Asia and its territorial holdings in the Pacific. Acting virtually independently of the civil government, the Japanese navy seized Germany's Micronesia
Micronesia
Micronesia is a subregion of Oceania, comprising thousands of small islands in the western Pacific Ocean. It is distinct from Melanesia to the south, and Polynesia to the east. The Philippines lie to the west, and Indonesia to the southwest....

n colonies. It also attacked and occupied the German coaling port of Qingdao
Qingdao
' also known in the West by its postal map spelling Tsingtao, is a major city with a population of over 8.715 million in eastern Shandong province, Eastern China. Its built up area, made of 7 urban districts plus Jimo city, is home to about 4,346,000 inhabitants in 2010.It borders Yantai to the...

 in the Chinese Shandong
Shandong
' is a Province located on the eastern coast of the People's Republic of China. Shandong has played a major role in Chinese history from the beginning of Chinese civilization along the lower reaches of the Yellow River and served as a pivotal cultural and religious site for Taoism, Chinese...

 peninsula.

Japan went to the peace conference at Versailles
Paris Peace Conference, 1919
The Paris Peace Conference was the meeting of the Allied victors following the end of World War I to set the peace terms for the defeated Central Powers following the armistices of 1918. It took place in Paris in 1919 and involved diplomats from more than 32 countries and nationalities...

 in 1919 as one of the great military and industrial powers of the world and received official recognition as one of the "Big Five" of the new international order. It joined the League of Nations
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...

 and received a mandate over Pacific islands north of the Equator formerly held by Germany. Japan was also involved in the post-war Allied intervention in Russia, occupying Russian (Outer) Manchuria and also north Sakhalin (which held Japan's limited oil reserves). It was the last Allied power to withdraw from the interventions against Soviet Russia (doing so in 1925).

The post–World War I era brought Japan unprecedented prosperity.

Fascism in Japan



During the 1910s and 1920s, Japan progressed towards democracy movements known as 'Taishō
Taisho period
The , or Taishō era, is a period in the history of Japan dating from July 30, 1912 to December 25, 1926, coinciding with the reign of the Taishō Emperor. The health of the new emperor was weak, which prompted the shift in political power from the old oligarchic group of elder statesmen to the Diet...

 Democracy'. However, parliamentary government was not rooted deeply enough to withstand the economic and political pressures of the late 1920s and 1930s during the Depression period, and its state became increasingly militarized. This was due to the increasing powers of military leaders and was similar to the actions some European nations were taking leading up to World War II. These shifts in power were made possible by the ambiguity and imprecision of the Meiji Constitution, particularly its measure that the legislative body was answerable to the Emperor and not the people. The Kodoha, a militarist faction, even attempted a coup d'état
Coup d'état
A coup d'état state, literally: strike/blow of state)—also known as a coup, putsch, and overthrow—is the sudden, extrajudicial deposition of a government, usually by a small group of the existing state establishment—typically the military—to replace the deposed government with another body; either...

 known as the February 26 Incident
February 26 Incident
The was an attempted coup d'état in Japan, from February 26 to 29, 1936 carried out by 1,483 troops of the Imperial Japanese Army. Several leading politicians were killed and the center of Tokyo was briefly occupied by the rebelling troops...

, which was crushed after three days by Hirohito, the Emperor Shōwa.

Party politics came under increasing fire because it was believed they were divisive to the nation and promoted self-interest where unity was needed. As a result, the major parties voted to dissolve themselves and were absorbed into a single party, the Imperial Rule Assistance Association (IRAA), which also absorbed many prefectural organizations such as women's clubs and neighborhood associations. However, this umbrella organization did not have a cohesive political agenda and factional in-fighting persisted throughout its existence, meaning Japan did not devolve into a totalitarian state. The IRAA has been likened to a sponge, in that it could soak everything up, but there is little one could do with it afterwards. Its creation was precipitated by a series of domestic crises, including the advent of the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

 in the 1930s and the actions of extremists such as the members of the Cherry Blossom Society, who enacted the May 15 Incident
May 15 Incident
The ' was an attempted coup d'état in Japan, on May 15, 1932, launched by radical elements of the Imperial Japanese Navy, aided by cadets in the Imperial Japanese Army and civilian remnants of the League of Blood Incident. Prime Minister Inukai Tsuyoshi was assassinated by 11 young naval officers...

.

Second Sino-Japanese War


Under the pretext of the Manchurian Incident
Mukden Incident
The Mukden Incident, also known as the Manchurian Incident, was a staged event that was engineered by Japanese military personnel as a pretext for invading the northern part of China known as Manchuria in 1931....

, Lieutenant Colonel Kanji Ishiwara invaded Inner (Chinese) Manchuria in 1931, an action the Japanese government ratified with the creation of the puppet state of Manchukuo
Manchukuo
Manchukuo or Manshū-koku was a puppet state in Manchuria and eastern Inner Mongolia, governed under a form of constitutional monarchy. The region was the historical homeland of the Manchus, who founded the Qing Empire in China...

 under the last Chinese emperor, Pu Yi. As a result of international condemnation of the incident, Japan resigned from the League of Nations in 1933. After several more similar incidents fueled by an expansionist military, the second Sino-Japanese War began in 1937 after the Marco Polo Bridge Incident
Marco Polo Bridge Incident
The Marco Polo Bridge Incident was a battle between the Republic of China's National Revolutionary Army and the Imperial Japanese Army, often used as the marker for the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War .The eleven-arch granite bridge, Lugouqiao, is an architecturally significant structure,...

.

From 1937–45, Emperor Hirohito was supreme commander of the Imperial General Headquarters
Imperial General Headquarters
The as part of the Supreme War Council was established in 1893 to coordinate efforts between the Imperial Japanese Army and Imperial Japanese Navy during wartime...

, by which the military decisions were made. This ad-hoc body consisted of the chief and vice chief of the Army, the minister of the Army, the chief and vice chief of the Navy, the minister of the Navy, the inspector general of military aviation, and the inspector general of military training.

Having joined the Anti-Comintern Pact
Anti-Comintern Pact
The Anti-Comintern Pact was an Anti-Communist pact concluded between Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan on November 25, 1936 and was directed against the Communist International ....

 in 1936, Japan formed the Axis Pact with Germany and Italy on September 27, 1940. Many Japanese politicians believed war with the Occident to be inevitable due to inherent cultural differences and Western imperialism. Japanese imperialism was then justified by the revival of the traditional concept of hakko ichiu
Hakko ichiu
was a Japanese political slogan that became popular from the Second Sino-Japanese War to World War II, and was popularized in a speech by Prime Minister of Japan Fumimaro Konoe on January 8, 1940.-Outline:...

, the divine right of the emperor to unite and rule the world.

Japan was defeated by Soviet Union in 1938 in large-scale but localized battles at Battle of Lake Khasan
Battle of Lake Khasan
The Battle of Lake Khasan and also known as the Changkufeng Incident in China and Japan, was an attempted military incursion of Manchukuo into the territory claimed by the Soviet Union...

 and in 1939 in the Battle of Khalkhin Gol
Battle of Khalkhin Gol
The Battles of Khalkhyn Gol was the decisive engagement of the undeclared Soviet–Japanese Border Wars fought among the Soviet Union, Mongolia and the Empire of Japan in 1939. The conflict was named after the river Khalkhyn Gol, which passes through the battlefield...

. The Army no longer wanted to fight the Soviets, so a Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact was signed. It treaty held until August 1945 when the Soviets attacked.

World War II



Tensions were mounting with the U.S. as a result of public outcry over Japanese aggression and reports of atrocities in China, such as the infamous Nanjing Massacre. The U.S. strongly supported China with money, airmen, supplies and threats against Japan. In retaliation to the invasion of French Indochina
French Indochina
French Indochina was part of the French colonial empire in southeast Asia. A federation of the three Vietnamese regions, Tonkin , Annam , and Cochinchina , as well as Cambodia, was formed in 1887....

 the U.S. began an embargo on such goods as petroleum products and scrap iron. On July 25, 1941, all Japanese assets in the US were frozen. Because Japan's military might, especially the Navy, was dependent on their dwindling oil reserves, this action had the contrary effect of increasing Japan's dependence on and hunger for new acquisitions.

Many civil leaders of Japan, including Prime Minister Konoe Fumimaro, believed a war with America would end in defeat, but felt the concessions demanded by the U.S. would almost certainly relegate Japan from the ranks of the World Powers, leaving it prey to Western collusion. Civil leaders offered political compromises in the form of the "Amau Doctrine," dubbed the "Japanese Monroe Doctrine
Monroe Doctrine
The Monroe Doctrine is a policy of the United States introduced on December 2, 1823. It stated that further efforts by European nations to colonize land or interfere with states in North or South America would be viewed as acts of aggression requiring U.S. intervention...

" that would have given the Japanese free rein with regards to war with China. These offers were flatly rejected by the U.S.; the military leaders instead vied for quick military action.

Most military leaders such as Osami Nagano, Kotohito Kan'in
Prince Kan'in Kotohito
, wasthe sixth head of a cadet branch the Japanese imperial family, and a career army officer who served as Chief of the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff from 1931 to 1940.-Early years:...

, Hajime Sugiyama and Hideki Tōjō
Hideki Tōjō
Hideki Tōjō was a general of the Imperial Japanese Army , the leader of the Taisei Yokusankai, and the 40th Prime Minister of Japan during most of World War II, from 17 October 1941 to 22 July 1944...

 believed that war with the Occident was inevitable. They finally convinced the Emperor to sanction on November 1941 an attack plan against U.S., Great Britain and the Netherlands. However, there were dissenters in the ranks about the wisdom of that option, most notably Admiral Yamamoto and Prince Takamatsu
Prince Takamatsu
was the third son of HIM Emperor Taishō and HIM Empress Teimei and a younger brother of the HIM Emperor Shōwa . He became heir to the Takamatsu-no-miya , one of the four shinnōke or branches of the imperial family entitled to inherit the Chrysanthemum throne in default of a direct heir...

. They pointedly warned that at the beginning of hostilities with the US, the Empire would have the advantage for six months, after which Japan's defeat in a prolonged war with an enemy with a much larger economy would be almost certain.


The Americans were expecting an attack in the Philippines
Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

 and sent bombers to deter Japan. On Yamamoto's advice, Japan made the decision to attack the main American fleet at Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor, known to Hawaiians as Puuloa, is a lagoon harbor on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, west of Honolulu. Much of the harbor and surrounding lands is a United States Navy deep-water naval base. It is also the headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Fleet...

 in Hawaii. American strategists believed that Japan would never be so bold as to attack so close to its home base, and the US was taken completely by surprise.

The attack on Pearl Harbor
Attack on Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...

, initially appeared to be a major success that knocked out the American battle fleet—but it missed the aircraft carriers that were at sea and ignored vital shore facilities whose destruction could have crippled US Pacific operations. Ultimately, the attack proved a long-term strategic disaster that actually inflicted relatively little significant long-term damage while provoking the United States to seek revenge. At the same time as the Pearl Harbor attack, the Japanese army attacked British Hong Kong and occupied
Japanese occupation of Hong Kong
The Japanese occupation of Hong Kong began after the Governor of Hong Kong, Sir Mark Young, surrendered the territory of Hong Kong to Japan on 25 December 1941 after 18 days of fierce fighting by British and Canadian defenders against overwhelming Japanese Imperial forces. The occupation lasted...

 it for nearly four years.

While Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 was in the middle of its Blitzkrieg
Blitzkrieg
For other uses of the word, see: Blitzkrieg Blitzkrieg is an anglicized word describing all-motorised force concentration of tanks, infantry, artillery, combat engineers and air power, concentrating overwhelming force at high speed to break through enemy lines, and, once the lines are broken,...

through Europe, Japan was following suit in Asia. The Japanese Army invaded and captured most of the coastal Chinese cities such as Shanghai. Japan took over French Indochina
French Indochina
French Indochina was part of the French colonial empire in southeast Asia. A federation of the three Vietnamese regions, Tonkin , Annam , and Cochinchina , as well as Cambodia, was formed in 1887....

 (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia), British Malaya
British Malaya
British Malaya loosely described a set of states on the Malay Peninsula and the Island of Singapore that were brought under British control between the 18th and the 20th centuries...

 (Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore) as well as the Dutch East Indies
Dutch East Indies
The Dutch East Indies was a Dutch colony that became modern Indonesia following World War II. It was formed from the nationalised colonies of the Dutch East India Company, which came under the administration of the Netherlands government in 1800....

 (Indonesia) while Thailand
Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

 entered into an alliance with Japan. Japanese forces overwhelmed the British in Burma (thus cutting off supplies to China) and reached the borders of India and Australia. Its air raids devastated Darwin, Australia. Japan had soon established an empire stretching over much of the Pacific.


However as Admiral Yamamoto warned, Japan's six-month window of military advantage after Pearl Harbor ended with the Japanese Navy's offensive ability being crippled at the hands of the American Navy in the Battle of Midway
Battle of Midway
The Battle of Midway is widely regarded as the most important naval battle of the Pacific Campaign of World War II. Between 4 and 7 June 1942, approximately one month after the Battle of the Coral Sea and six months after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States Navy decisively defeated...

, which turned the tide against them. It became a war of production and logistics, with the U.S. rebuilding a far stronger navy, much more numerous warplanes, and building a far superior logistics system. The Japanese had stretched too far and were unable to supply its forward bases—many soldiers died of starvation. American submarines destroyed the Japanese tankers, causing a severe shortage of fuel oil for ships and aviation gasoline. Japan built warplanes in large quantity but the quality plunged, and the performance of poorly trained pilots spiraled downward. The Navy lost a series of major battles, from Midway (1942) to the Philippine Sea (1944) and Leyte Gulf (1945), which put American long-range B-29 bombers in range. A series of massive raids burned out much of Tokyo and other major industrial cities beginning in March 1945 while Operation Starvation
Operation Starvation
Operation Starvation was an American naval mining operation conducted in World War II by the Army Air Force, in which vital water routes and ports of Japan were mined by air in order to disrupt enemy shipping.-Operation:...

 seriously disrupted the nation's vital internal shipping lanes. Regardless of how the war was becoming hopeless, the circle around the Emperor held fast and refused to open negotiations. Finally in August, two atomic bombs and the Soviet invasion of Manchuria demonstrated the cause was futile, and Hirohito authorized a surrender whereby he kept his throne.

Total Japanese military fatalities between 1937 and 1945 were 2.1 million; most came in the last year of the war. Starvation or malnutrition-re­lated illness accounted for roughly 80 percent of Japanese military deaths in the Philippines, and 50 percent of military fatalities in China. The aerial bombing of a total of 65 Japanese cities appears to have taken a minimum of 400,000 and possibly closer to 600,000 civilian lives (over 100,000 in Tokyo alone, over 200,000 in Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined, and 80,000–150,000 civilian deaths in the battle of Okina­wa). Civilian death among settlers who died attempting to re­turn to Japan from Manchuria in the winter of 1945 were probably around 100,000.

Childhood transformed


Childhood as a distinct phase of life was apparent in the early modern period, when social and economic changes brought increased attention to children, the growth of schooling and child-centered rituals. A modern concept of childhood emerged in Japan after 1850 as part of its engagement with the West. Meiji era leaders decided the nation-state had the primary role in mobilizing individuals – and children – in service of the state. The Western-style school was introduced as the agent to reach that goal. By the 1890s, schools were generating new sensibilities regarding childhood. After 1890 Japan had numerous reformers, child experts, magazine editors, and well-educated mothers who bought into the new sensibility. They taught the upper middle class a model of childhood that included children having their own space where they read children's books, played with educational toys and, especially, devoted enormous time to school homework. These ideas rapidly disseminated through all social classes

Postwar Japan (1945–present)



After the collapse of the Empire of Japan
Empire of Japan
The Empire of Japan is the name of the state of Japan that existed from the Meiji Restoration on 3 January 1868 to the enactment of the post-World War II Constitution of...

, Japan was transformed into a democratic state with a revised democratic Constitution of Japan
Constitution
A constitution is a set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed. These rules together make up, i.e. constitute, what the entity is...

. During the postwar period, Japan became an economic power state. This period is characterized by the US-Japan Alliance such as the United States Forces Japan
United States Forces Japan
The refers to the various divisions of the United States Armed Forces that are stationed in Japan. Under the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan, the United States is obliged to defend Japan in close cooperation with the Japan Self-Defense Forces for...

.

Occupation of Japan



As a result of its defeat of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, the Empire of Japan
Empire of Japan
The Empire of Japan is the name of the state of Japan that existed from the Meiji Restoration on 3 January 1868 to the enactment of the post-World War II Constitution of...

 was dissolved, Japan lost all of its overseas possessions and retained only the home islands. Manchukuo was dissolved, and Inner Manchuria and Taiwan
Taiwan
Taiwan , also known, especially in the past, as Formosa , is the largest island of the same-named island group of East Asia in the western Pacific Ocean and located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. The island forms over 99% of the current territory of the Republic of China following...

 were returned to the Republic of China
Republic of China
The Republic of China , commonly known as Taiwan , is a unitary sovereign state located in East Asia. Originally based in mainland China, the Republic of China currently governs the island of Taiwan , which forms over 99% of its current territory, as well as Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu and other minor...

; Korea was taken under the control of the UN; southern Sakhalin and the Kuriles were occupied by the U.S.S.R.; and the United States became the sole administering authority of the Ryukyu
Ryukyu Islands
The , also known as the , is a chain of islands in the western Pacific, on the eastern limit of the East China Sea and to the southwest of the island of Kyushu in Japan. From about 1829 until the mid 20th century, they were alternately called Luchu, Loochoo, or Lewchew, akin to the Mandarin...

, Bonin, and Volcano Islands
Ogasawara Islands
The Bonin Islands, known in Japan as the are an archipelago of over 30 subtropical and tropical islands, some directly south of Tokyo, Japan. Administratively, they are part of Ogasawara Municipality of Ogasawara Subprefecture, Tokyo...

. The International Military Tribunal for the Far East
International Military Tribunal for the Far East
The International Military Tribunal for the Far East , also known as the Tokyo Trials, the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal, or simply the Tribunal, was convened on April 29, 1946, to try the leaders of the Empire of Japan for three types of crimes: "Class A" crimes were reserved for those who...

 (Tokyo Trial), an international war crime
War crime
War crimes are serious violations of the laws applicable in armed conflict giving rise to individual criminal responsibility...

s tribunal, was held, in which seven politicians were executed. Emperor Hirohito
Hirohito
, posthumously in Japan officially called Emperor Shōwa or , was the 124th Emperor of Japan according to the traditional order, reigning from December 25, 1926, until his death in 1989. Although better known outside of Japan by his personal name Hirohito, in Japan he is now referred to...

 was not convicted, but instead was enthroned as the emperor of the new state.

The 1972 reversion of Okinawa completed the United States' return of control of these islands to Japan. Japan continues to protest for the corresponding return of the Kuril Islands
Kuril Islands
The Kuril Islands , in Russia's Sakhalin Oblast region, form a volcanic archipelago that stretches approximately northeast from Hokkaidō, Japan, to Kamchatka, Russia, separating the Sea of Okhotsk from the North Pacific Ocean. There are 56 islands and many more minor rocks. It consists of Greater...

 from Russia.

Defeat came for a number of reasons. The most important is probably Japan's underestimation of the military capabilities of the U.S. The U.S. recovered from its initial setback at Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor, known to Hawaiians as Puuloa, is a lagoon harbor on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, west of Honolulu. Much of the harbor and surrounding lands is a United States Navy deep-water naval base. It is also the headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Fleet...

 much quicker than the Japanese expected, and their sudden counterattack came as a blow to Japanese morale. U.S. output of military products was also much higher than Japanese counterparts over the course of the war. Another reason was factional in-fighting between the Army and Navy, which led to poor intelligence and cooperation. This was compounded as the Japanese forces found they had overextended themselves, leaving Japan itself vulnerable to attack. Another important factor is Japan's underestimation of resistance in China, which Japan claimed would be conquered in three months. The prolonged war was both militarily and economically disastrous for Japan.

After the war, Japan was placed under international control of the American-led Allied powers in the Asia-Pacific region through General Douglas MacArthur
Douglas MacArthur
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur was an American general and field marshal of the Philippine Army. He was a Chief of Staff of the United States Army during the 1930s and played a prominent role in the Pacific theater during World War II. He received the Medal of Honor for his service in the...

 as Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers
Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers
Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers was the title held by General Douglas MacArthur during the Occupation of Japan following World War II...

. This was the first time since the unification of Japan that the island nation was successfully occupied by a foreign power. Some high officers of the Shōwa regime were prosecuted and convicted by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East
International Military Tribunal for the Far East
The International Military Tribunal for the Far East , also known as the Tokyo Trials, the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal, or simply the Tribunal, was convened on April 29, 1946, to try the leaders of the Empire of Japan for three types of crimes: "Class A" crimes were reserved for those who...

. However, Emperor Shōwa, all members of the imperial family implicated in the war such as prince Asaka, prince Chichibu
Prince Chichibu
, also known as Prince Yasuhito, was the second son of Emperor Taishō and a younger brother of the Emperor Shōwa. As a member of the Imperial House of Japan, he was the patron of several sporting, medical, and international exchange organizations...

, prince Takeda
Prince Tsuneyoshi Takeda
was the second and last heir of the Takeda-no-miya collateral branch of the Japanese Imperial Family.- Early life :Prince Takeda Tsuneyoshi was the only son of Prince Takeda Tsunehisa and Princess Tsune-no-miya Masako , the sixth daughter of Emperor Meiji...

, prince Higashikuni, prince Fushimi
Prince Fushimi Hiroyasu
was a scion of the Japanese imperial family and was a career naval officer who served as chief of staff of the Imperial Japanese Navy from 1932 to 1941.-Early life:...

, as well as Shirō Ishii
Shiro Ishii
was a Japanese microbiologist and the lieutenant general of Unit 731, a biological warfare unit of the Imperial Japanese Army responsible for human experimentation and war crimes during the Second Sino-Japanese War.-Early years:...

 and all members of unit 731
Unit 731
was a covert biological and chemical warfare research and development unit of the Imperial Japanese Army that undertook lethal human experimentation during the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War II. It was responsible for some of the most notorious war crimes carried out by Japanese...

 were exonerated from criminal prosecutions by MacArthur.

Entering the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

 with the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

, Japan came to be seen as an important ally of the US government. Political, economic, and social reforms were introduced, such as an elected Japanese Diet (legislature) and expanded suffrage. The country's constitution took effect on May 3, 1947. The United States and 45 other Allied nations signed the Treaty of Peace with Japan
Treaty of San Francisco
The Treaty of Peace with Japan , between Japan and part of the Allied Powers, was officially signed by 48 nations on September 8, 1951, at the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco, California...

 in September 1951. The U.S. Senate
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 ratified the treaty on March 20, 1952, and under the terms of the treaty, Japan regained full sovereignty on April 28, 1952.

Under the terms of the peace treaty and later agreements, the United States maintains naval bases at Sasebo, Okinawa and at Yokosuka. A portion of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, including one aircraft carrier (currently USS George Washington (CVN-73)
USS George Washington (CVN-73)
USS George Washington is an American nuclear-powered supercarrier, the sixth ship in the Nimitz class and the fourth United States Navy ship to be named after George Washington, the first President of the United States...

), is based at Yokosuka. This arrangement is partially intended to provide for the defense of Japan, as the treaty and the new Japanese constitution imposed during the occupation severely restrict the size and purposes of Japanese Self-Defense Forces in the modern period.

After occupation during the Cold War



After a series of realignment of political parties, the conservative Liberal Democratic Party
Liberal Democratic Party (Japan)
The , frequently abbreviated to LDP or , is a centre-right political party in Japan. It is one of the most consistently successful political parties in the democratic world. The LDP ruled almost continuously for nearly 54 years from its founding in 1955 until its defeat in the 2009 election...

 (LDP) and the leftist Social Democratic Party
Social Democratic Party (Japan)
The Social Democratic Party The Social Democratic Party The Social Democratic Party (社会民主党 Shakai Minshu-tō, often abbreviated to 社民党 Shamin-tō; also known as the Social Democratic Party of Japan (abbreviated to SDPJ or SDP in English) is a political party that advocates for the establishment of a...

 (SDP) were formed in 1955. The political map in Japan had been largely unaltered until early 1990s and LDP had been the largest political party in the national politics. LDP politicians and government bureaucrats focused on economic policy. From the 1950s to the 1980s, Japan experienced its rapid development into a major economic power, through a process often referred to as the Japanese post-war economic miracle
Japanese post-war economic miracle
The Japanese post-war economic miracle is the name given to the historical phenomenon of Japan's record period of economic growth following World War II, spurred mainly by Japanese economic policy, in particular through the Ministry of International Trade and Industry...

.

Japan's biggest postwar political crisis took place in 1960 over the revision of the Japan-United States Mutual Security Assistance Pact. As the new Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security was concluded, which renewed the United States role as military protector of Japan, massive street protests and political upheaval occurred, and the cabinet resigned a month after the Diet's ratification of the treaty. Thereafter, political turmoil subsided. Japanese views of the United States, after years of mass protests over nuclear armaments and the mutual defense pact, improved by 1972 with the reversion of United States-occupied Okinawa to Japanese sovereignty and the winding down of the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

.

Japan had reestablished relations with the Republic of China
Republic of China
The Republic of China , commonly known as Taiwan , is a unitary sovereign state located in East Asia. Originally based in mainland China, the Republic of China currently governs the island of Taiwan , which forms over 99% of its current territory, as well as Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu and other minor...

 after World War II, and cordial relations were maintained with the nationalist government when it was relocated to Taiwan
Taiwan
Taiwan , also known, especially in the past, as Formosa , is the largest island of the same-named island group of East Asia in the western Pacific Ocean and located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. The island forms over 99% of the current territory of the Republic of China following...

, a policy that won Japan the enmity of the People's Republic of China, which was established in 1949. After the general warming of relations between China and Western countries, especially the United States, which shocked Japan with its sudden rapprochement with Beijing in 1971, Tokyo established relations with Beijing in 1972. Close cooperation in the economic sphere followed. Japan's relations with the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 continued to be problematic after the war, but a Joint Declaration between Japan and the USSR ending the state of war and reestablishing diplomatic relations was signed October 19, 1956. The main object of dispute was the Soviet occupation of what Japan calls its Northern Territories
Kuril Islands dispute
The Kuril Islands dispute , also known as the , is a dispute between Japan and Russia over sovereignty over the South Kuril Islands. The disputed islands, which were occupied by Soviet forces during the Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation at the end of World War II, are under Russian...

, the two most southerly islands in the Kurils (Etorofu
Iturup
Iturup is the largest island of the South Kuril Islands. It is the northernmost island in the southern Kuril/Chishima islands, and though it is presently controlled by Russia, Japan also claims this island...

 and Kunashiri
Kunashir Island
Kunashir Island , possibly meaning Black Island or Grass Island in Ainu, is the southernmost island of the Kuril Islands, which are controlled by Russia and claimed by Japan ....

) and Shikotan
Shikotan
Shikotan, in Russian , Japanese , or シコタㇴ), is one of the bigger islands of the Kuril Islands, which are controlled by Russia. It is one of the four southernmost islands which Japan maintains a claim for...

 and the Habomai Islands
Khabomai
The Habomai Islands are a group of islets in the southernmost Kuril Islands...

, which were seized by the Soviet Union in the closing days of World War II.

Throughout the postwar period, Japan's economy continued to boom, with results far outstripping expectations. Given a massive boost by the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

, in which it acted as a major supplier to the UN force, Japan's economy embarked on a prolonged period of extremely rapid growth, led by the manufacturing sectors. Japan emerged as a significant power in many economic spheres, including steel working, car manufacturing and the manufacturing of electronic
Electronics
Electronics is the branch of science, engineering and technology that deals with electrical circuits involving active electrical components such as vacuum tubes, transistors, diodes and integrated circuits, and associated passive interconnection technologies...

 goods. Japan rapidly caught up with the West in foreign trade, GNP
GNP
Gross National Product is the market value of all products and services produced in one year by labor and property supplied by the residents of a country...

, and general quality of life
Quality of life
The term quality of life is used to evaluate the general well-being of individuals and societies. The term is used in a wide range of contexts, including the fields of international development, healthcare, and politics. Quality of life should not be confused with the concept of standard of...

. These achievements were underscored by the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games and the Osaka International Exposition
Expo '70
was a World's Fair held in Suita, Osaka, Japan between March 15 and September 13, 1970. The theme of the Expo was "Progress and Harmony for Mankind." In Japanese Expo '70 is often referred to as Ōsaka Banpaku...

 in 1970. The high economic growth and political tranquility of the mid to late 1960s were tempered by the quadrupling of oil prices by the OPEC
OPEC
OPEC is an intergovernmental organization of twelve developing countries made up of Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela. OPEC has maintained its headquarters in Vienna since 1965, and hosts regular meetings...

 in 1973. Almost completely dependent on imports for petroleum, Japan experienced its first recession since World War II. Another serious problem was Japan's growing trade surplus, which reached record heights during Nakasone
Nakasone
Nakasone is a Japanese family name.People with the name include:*Yasuhiro Nakasone , 71st to 73rd Prime Minister of Japan*Hirofumi Nakasone , former Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs, son of Yasuhiro Nakasone...

's first term. The United States pressured Japan to remedy the imbalance, demanding that Tokyo raise the value of the yen and open its markets further to facilitate more imports from the United States.

After the Cold War



Japan after the Cold War is also called as the Heisei period, which starts from the year of the Revolutions of Eastern Europe
Revolutions of 1989
The Revolutions of 1989 were the revolutions which overthrew the communist regimes in various Central and Eastern European countries.The events began in Poland in 1989, and continued in Hungary, East Germany, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia and...

. 1989 marked one of the most rapid economic growth spurts in Japanese history. With a strong yen and a favorable exchange rate with the dollar, the Bank of Japan
Bank of Japan
is the central bank of Japan. The Bank is often called for short. It has its headquarters in Chuo, Tokyo.-History:Like most modern Japanese institutions, the Bank of Japan was founded after the Meiji Restoration...

 kept interest rates low, sparking an investment boom that drove Tokyo property values up sixty percent within the year. Shortly before New Year's Day, the Nikkei 225
Nikkei 225
The , more commonly called the Nikkei, the Nikkei index, or the Nikkei Stock Average , is a stock market index for the Tokyo Stock Exchange . It has been calculated daily by the Nihon Keizai Shimbun newspaper since 1950. It is a price-weighted average , and the components are reviewed once a year...

 reached its record high of 39,000. By 1991, it had fallen to 15,000, signifying the end of Japan's famed bubble economy. Unemployment ran reasonably high, but not at crisis levels. Rather than suffer large-scale unemployment and lay-offs, Japan's labor market suffered in more subtle, yet no less profound effects that were nonetheless difficult to gauge statistically. During the prosperous times, jobs were seen as long term even to the point of being life long. In contrast, Japan during the lost decade saw a marked increase in temporary and part time work which only promised employment for short periods and marginal benefits. This also created a generational gap, as those who had entered the labor market prior to the lost decade usually retained their employment and benefits, and were effectively insulated from the economic slowdown, whereas younger workers who entered the market a few years later suffered the brunt of its effects.

In a series of financial scandals of the LDP, a coalition led by Morihiro Hosokawa
Morihiro Hosokawa
is a Japanese politician who was the 79th Prime Minister of Japan from August 9, 1993 to April 28, 1994. His coalition was the first non-Liberal Democratic Party government since 1955.- Early life :...

 took power in 1993. Hosokawa succeeded to legislate a new plurality voting
Plurality voting system
The plurality voting system is a single-winner voting system often used to elect executive officers or to elect members of a legislative assembly which is based on single-member constituencies...

 election law instead of the stalemated multi-member constituency election system
Single non-transferable vote
The single non-transferable vote or SNTV is an electoral system used in multi-member constituency elections.- Voting :In any election, each voter casts one vote for one candidate in a multi-candidate race for multiple offices. Posts are filled by the candidates with the most votes...

. However, the coalition collapsed the next year as parties had gathered to simply overthrow LDP and lacked a unified position on almost every social issue. The LDP returned to the government in 1996, when it helped to elect Social Democrat Tomiichi Murayama
Tomiichi Murayama
is a retired Japanese politician who served as the 81st Prime Minister of Japan from June 30, 1994 to January 11, 1996. He was the head of the Social Democratic Party of Japan and the first Socialist prime minister in nearly fifty years...

 as prime minister.

The Great Hanshin earthquake
Great Hanshin earthquake
The Great Hanshin earthquake, or Kobe earthquake, was an earthquake that occurred on Tuesday, January 17, 1995, at 05:46 JST in the southern part of Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan. It measured 6.8 on the moment magnitude scale , and Mj7.3 on JMA magnitude scale. The tremors lasted for approximately 20...

 hit Kobe
Kobe
, pronounced , is the fifth-largest city in Japan and is the capital city of Hyōgo Prefecture on the southern side of the main island of Honshū, approximately west of Osaka...

 on January 17, 1995. 6,000 people were killed and 44,000 were injured. 250,000 houses were destroyed or burned in a fire. The amount of damage totaled more than ten trillion yen. In March of the same year the doomsday cult
Cult
The word cult in current popular usage usually refers to a group whose beliefs or practices are considered abnormal or bizarre. The word originally denoted a system of ritual practices...

 Aum Shinrikyo
Aum Shinrikyo
Aum Shinrikyo was a Japanese new religious movement. The group was founded by Shoko Asahara in 1984. The group gained international notoriety in 1995, when it carried out the Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway....

 attacked
Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway
The Sarin attack on the Tokyo subway, usually referred to in the Japanese media as the , was an act of domestic terrorism perpetrated by members of Aum Shinrikyo on March 20, 1995....

 on the Tokyo subway
Tokyo Subway
The is an integral part of the world's most extensive rapid transit system in a single metropolitan area, Greater Tokyo. While the subway system itself is largely within the city center, the lines extend far out via extensive through services onto suburban railway lines.- Networks :As of June...

 system with sarin
Sarin
Sarin, or GB, is an organophosphorus compound with the formula [2CHO]CH3PF. It is a colorless, odorless liquid, which is used as a chemical weapon. It has been classified as a weapon of mass destruction in UN Resolution 687...

 gas, killing 12 and injuring hundreds more. An investigation later revealed that the cult was responsible for dozens of murders that occurred prior to the gas attacks.

Junichiro Koizumi
Junichiro Koizumi
is a Japanese politician who served as Prime Minister of Japan from 2001 to 2006. He retired from politics when his term in parliament ended.Widely seen as a maverick leader of the Liberal Democratic Party , he became known as an economic reformer, focusing on Japan's government debt and the...

 was president of the LDP and Prime Minister of Japan from April 2001 to September 2006. Koizumi enjoyed high approval ratings. He was known as an economic reformer and he privatized the national postal system. Koizumi also had an active involvement in the War on Terrorism
War on Terrorism
The War on Terror is a term commonly applied to an international military campaign led by the United States and the United Kingdom with the support of other North Atlantic Treaty Organisation as well as non-NATO countries...

, sending 1,000 soldiers of the Japan Self-Defense Forces
Japan Self-Defense Forces
The , or JSDF, occasionally referred to as JSF or SDF, are the unified military forces of Japan that were established after the end of the post–World War II Allied occupation of Japan. For most of the post-war period the JSDF was confined to the islands of Japan and not permitted to be deployed...

 to help in Iraq's reconstruction after the Iraq War, the biggest overseas troop deployment since World War II.

The ruling coalition is formed by the liberal Democratic Party of Japan
Democratic Party of Japan
The is a political party in Japan founded in 1998 by the merger of several opposition parties. Its socially liberal platform is generally considered center-left in the Japanese political spectrum...

 (DPJ), the leftist Social Democratic Party
Social Democratic Party (Japan)
The Social Democratic Party The Social Democratic Party The Social Democratic Party (社会民主党 Shakai Minshu-tō, often abbreviated to 社民党 Shamin-tō; also known as the Social Democratic Party of Japan (abbreviated to SDPJ or SDP in English) is a political party that advocates for the establishment of a...

 and the conservative People's New Party
People's New Party
The People's New Party is a centre-right, Conservative, Japanese political party formed on 17 August 2005 in the aftermath of the defeat of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's Japan Post privatisation bills which led to a snap election.-History:The Kokumin Shinto, headed by Shizuka Kamei, includes...

. The opposition is formed by the liberal conservative
Liberal conservatism
Liberal conservatism also known as progressive conservatism is a variant of political conservatism which incorporates liberal elements. As "conservatism" and "liberalism" have had different meanings over time and across countries, the term "liberal conservatism" has been used in quite different...

 Liberal Democratic Party
Liberal Democratic Party (Japan)
The , frequently abbreviated to LDP or , is a centre-right political party in Japan. It is one of the most consistently successful political parties in the democratic world. The LDP ruled almost continuously for nearly 54 years from its founding in 1955 until its defeat in the 2009 election...

 (LDP). Other parties are the New Komeito Party
New Komeito Party
The , New Kōmei Party, or NKP is a centre-right political party in Japan founded by members of the Nichiren Buddhist organization Sōka Gakkai. The leadership and financing of the two groups are currently independent...

, a theocratic Buddhist political party based on the Buddhist sect Sōka Gakkai and the Japanese Communist Party
Japanese Communist Party
The Japanese Communist Party is a left-wing political party in Japan.The JCP advocates the establishment of a society based on socialism, democracy and peace, and opposition to militarism...

. On 2 June 2010 Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama
Yukio Hatoyama
is a Japanese politician who served as Prime Minister of Japan between 16 September 2009 and 2 June 2010, and was the first ever Prime Minister from the modern Democratic Party of Japan....

 officially resigned from his position as leader of the DPJ, citing the failure to fulfill his campaign promise of removing a U.S. base from the island of Okinawa as his main reason for stepping down.

On March 11, 2011, Japan suffered the strongest earthquake
2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami
The 2011 earthquake off the Pacific coast of Tohoku, also known as the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, or the Great East Japan Earthquake, was a magnitude 9.0 undersea megathrust earthquake off the coast of Japan that occurred at 14:46 JST on Friday, 11 March 2011, with the epicenter approximately east...

 in its recorded history, affecting the north-east area of Honshū. The magnitude 9.0 quake was aggravated by a tsunami and also caused numerous fires and damaged several nuclear reactors. Damage to Fukushima Nuclear Plant
Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster
The is a series of equipment failures, nuclear meltdowns, and releases of radioactive materials at the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, following the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami on 11 March 2011. The plant comprises six separate boiling water reactors originally designed by General Electric ,...

 led to meltdown
Nuclear meltdown
Nuclear meltdown is an informal term for a severe nuclear reactor accident that results in core damage from overheating. The term is not officially defined by the International Atomic Energy Agency or by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission...

 of three reactors and release of radioactive material, in the largest nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster
Chernobyl disaster
The Chernobyl disaster was a nuclear accident that occurred on 26 April 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine , which was under the direct jurisdiction of the central authorities in Moscow...

.

Periodization


One commonly accepted periodization
Periodization
Periodization is the attempt to categorize or divide time into named blocks. The result is a descriptive abstraction that provides a useful handle on periods of time with relatively stable characteristics...

 of Japanese history:
Dates Period Period Subperiod Main government
30,000–10,000 BC Japanese Paleolithic
Japanese Paleolithic
The began around 50,000 to 30,000 BC, when the earliest stone tool implements have been found, and continued to around 14,000 BC, at the end of the last ice age, which corresponds to the beginning of the Mesolithic Jōmon period...

  unknown
10,000–300 BC Ancient Japan Jōmon
Jomon period
The is the time in Japanese prehistory from about 14,000 BC to 300 BC.The term jōmon means "cord-patterned" in Japanese. This refers to the pottery style characteristic of the Jōmon culture, and which has markings made using sticks with cords wrapped around them...

  local clans
900 BC – 250 AD (overlaps) Yayoi
Yayoi period
The is an Iron Age era in the history of Japan traditionally dated 300 BC to 300 AD. It is named after the neighbourhood of Tokyo where archaeologists first uncovered artifacts and features from that era. Distinguishing characteristics of the Yayoi period include the appearance of new...

 
c. 250–538 AD Kofun
Kofun period
The is an era in the history of Japan from around 250 to 538. It follows the Yayoi period. The word kofun is Japanese for the type of burial mounds dating from this era. The Kofun and the subsequent Asuka periods are sometimes referred to collectively as the Yamato period...

  Yamato clans
Yamato people
is a name for the dominant native ethnic group of Japan. It is a term that came to be used around the late 19th century to distinguish the residents of the mainland Japan from other minority ethnic groups who have resided in the peripheral areas of Japan, such as the Ainu, Ryukyuan, Nivkh, Ulta, as...

538–710 AD Classical Japan Asuka
Asuka period
The , was a period in the history of Japan lasting from 538 to 710 , although its beginning could be said to overlap with the preceding Kofun period...

710–794 Nara
Nara period
The of the history of Japan covers the years from AD 710 to 794. Empress Gemmei established the capital of Heijō-kyō . Except for 5 years , when the capital was briefly moved again, it remained the capital of Japanese civilization until Emperor Kammu established a new capital, Nagaoka-kyō, in 784...

  Emperor of Japan
Emperor of Japan
The Emperor of Japan is, according to the 1947 Constitution of Japan, "the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people." He is a ceremonial figurehead under a form of constitutional monarchy and is head of the Japanese Imperial Family with functions as head of state. He is also the highest...

794–1185 Heian
Heian period
The is the last division of classical Japanese history, running from 794 to 1185. The period is named after the capital city of Heian-kyō, or modern Kyōto. It is the period in Japanese history when Buddhism, Taoism and other Chinese influences were at their height...

 
1185–1333 Feudal Japan Kamakura
Kamakura period
The is a period of Japanese history that marks the governance by the Kamakura Shogunate, officially established in 1192 in Kamakura by the first shogun Minamoto no Yoritomo....

  Kamakura shogunate
Kamakura shogunate
The Kamakura shogunate was a military dictatorship in Japan headed by the shoguns from 1185 to 1333. It was based in Kamakura. The Kamakura period draws its name from the capital of the shogunate...

1333–1336 Kemmu Restoration
Kemmu restoration
The is the name given to both the three year period of Japanese history between the Kamakura period and the Muromachi period, and the political events that took place in it...

  Emperor of Japan
Emperor of Japan
The Emperor of Japan is, according to the 1947 Constitution of Japan, "the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people." He is a ceremonial figurehead under a form of constitutional monarchy and is head of the Japanese Imperial Family with functions as head of state. He is also the highest...

1336–1392 Muromachi
Muromachi period
The is a division of Japanese history running from approximately 1336 to 1573. The period marks the governance of the Muromachi or Ashikaga shogunate, which was officially established in 1338 by the first Muromachi shogun, Ashikaga Takauji, two years after the brief Kemmu restoration of imperial...

Nanboku-cho
Nanboku-cho
The , spanning from 1336 to 1392, was a period that occurred during the formative years of the Muromachi bakufu of Japan's history.During this period, there existed a Northern Imperial Court, established by Ashikaga Takauji in Kyoto, and a Southern Imperial Court, established by Emperor Go-Daigo in...

Ashikaga shogunate
Ashikaga shogunate
The , also known as the , was a Japanese feudal military regime, ruled by the shoguns of the Ashikaga clan.This period is also known as the Muromachi period and gets its name from Muromachi Street of Kyoto where the third shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu established his residence...

1392–1467  
1467–1573 Sengoku period
Sengoku period
The or Warring States period in Japanese history was a time of social upheaval, political intrigue, and nearly constant military conflict that lasted roughly from the middle of the 15th century to the beginning of the 17th century. The name "Sengoku" was adopted by Japanese historians in reference...

Ashikaga shogunate
Ashikaga shogunate
The , also known as the , was a Japanese feudal military regime, ruled by the shoguns of the Ashikaga clan.This period is also known as the Muromachi period and gets its name from Muromachi Street of Kyoto where the third shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu established his residence...

, daimyō
Daimyo
is a generic term referring to the powerful territorial lords in pre-modern Japan who ruled most of the country from their vast, hereditary land holdings...

s, Oda Nobunaga
Oda Nobunaga
was the initiator of the unification of Japan under the shogunate in the late 16th century, which ruled Japan until the Meiji Restoration in 1868. He was also a major daimyo during the Sengoku period of Japanese history. His opus was continued, completed and finalized by his successors Toyotomi...

, Toyotomi Hideyoshi
Toyotomi Hideyoshi
was a daimyo warrior, general and politician of the Sengoku period. He unified the political factions of Japan. He succeeded his former liege lord, Oda Nobunaga, and brought an end to the Sengoku period. The period of his rule is often called the Momoyama period, named after Hideyoshi's castle...

1573–1603 Azuchi-Momoyama
Azuchi-Momoyama period
The came at the end of the Warring States Period in Japan, when the political unification that preceded the establishment of the Tokugawa shogunate took place. It spans the years from approximately 1573 to 1603, during which time Oda Nobunaga and his successor, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, imposed order...

1603–1868 Early Modern Japan
Edo period
The , or , is a division of Japanese history which was ruled by the shoguns of the Tokugawa family, running from 1603 to 1868. The political entity of this period was the Tokugawa shogunate....

Edo
Edo period
The , or , is a division of Japanese history which was ruled by the shoguns of the Tokugawa family, running from 1603 to 1868. The political entity of this period was the Tokugawa shogunate....

  Tokugawa shogunate
Tokugawa shogunate
The Tokugawa shogunate, also known as the and the , was a feudal regime of Japan established by Tokugawa Ieyasu and ruled by the shoguns of the Tokugawa family. This period is known as the Edo period and gets its name from the capital city, Edo, which is now called Tokyo, after the name was...

1868–1912 Modern Japan
Empire of Japan
The Empire of Japan is the name of the state of Japan that existed from the Meiji Restoration on 3 January 1868 to the enactment of the post-World War II Constitution of...

Prewar
Empire of Japan
The Empire of Japan is the name of the state of Japan that existed from the Meiji Restoration on 3 January 1868 to the enactment of the post-World War II Constitution of...

Meiji
Meiji period
The , also known as the Meiji era, is a Japanese era which extended from September 1868 through July 1912. This period represents the first half of the Empire of Japan.- Meiji Restoration and the emperor :...

Emperor of Japan
Emperor of Japan
The Emperor of Japan is, according to the 1947 Constitution of Japan, "the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people." He is a ceremonial figurehead under a form of constitutional monarchy and is head of the Japanese Imperial Family with functions as head of state. He is also the highest...

1912–1926 Taishō
Taisho period
The , or Taishō era, is a period in the history of Japan dating from July 30, 1912 to December 25, 1926, coinciding with the reign of the Taishō Emperor. The health of the new emperor was weak, which prompted the shift in political power from the old oligarchic group of elder statesmen to the Diet...

1926–1945 Prewar Shōwa
Showa period
The , or Shōwa era, is the period of Japanese history corresponding to the reign of the Shōwa Emperor, Hirohito, from December 25, 1926 through January 7, 1989.The Shōwa period was longer than the reign of any previous Japanese emperor...

1945–1952 Contemporary Japan
Postwar Japan
Postwar Japan refers to the period in Japanese history immediately following the end of World War II in 1945 to the present day. Before and during the war Japan was known as an empire but is now officially the .-Occupation and democratization:...

Postwar
Postwar Japan
Postwar Japan refers to the period in Japanese history immediately following the end of World War II in 1945 to the present day. Before and during the war Japan was known as an empire but is now officially the .-Occupation and democratization:...

Occupied Japan
Occupied Japan
At the end of World War II, Japan was occupied by the Allied Powers, led by the United States with contributions also from Australia, India, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. This foreign presence marked the first time in its history that the island nation had been occupied by a foreign power...

 (Postwar Shōwa)
Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers
Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers
Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers was the title held by General Douglas MacArthur during the Occupation of Japan following World War II...

1952–1989 Post-occupation
Post-Occupation Japan
Post-Occupation Japan is a phrase used to describe the period in the history of Japan which started at the end of the Allied occupation in 1952.During this period, Japan re-established itself as a global economic and political power....

 (Postwar Shōwa)
Parliamentary democracy
1989–present Heisei
Heisei
is the current era name in Japan. The Heisei era started on 8 January 1989, the first day after the death of the reigning Emperor, Hirohito. His son, Akihito, succeeded to the throne...


Regnal years


Regnal year
Regnal year
A regnal year is a year of the reign of a sovereign, from the Latin regnum meaning kingdom, rule.The oldest dating systems were in regnal years, and considered the date as an ordinal, not a cardinal number. For example, a monarch could have a first year of rule, a second year of rule, a third, and...

s (Gengō
Japanese era name
The Japanese era calendar scheme is a common calendar scheme used in Japan, which identifies a year by the combination of the and the year number within the era...

) in Japan
Regnal years are commonly used in Japan as an alternative to the Gregorian calendar
Gregorian calendar
The Gregorian calendar, also known as the Western calendar, or Christian calendar, is the internationally accepted civil calendar. It was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII, after whom the calendar was named, by a decree signed on 24 February 1582, a papal bull known by its opening words Inter...

. For example, in censuses, birthdays are written using regnal years. Dates of newspapers and official documents are also written using regnal years.
Regnal years are changed upon the enthronement of each new Tennō since Meiji
Meiji
Meiji may refer to:* Meiji Restoration, the revolution that ushered in the Meiji period* Meiji period - the period in Japanese history when the Meiji Emperor reigned...

 until the Postwar Constitution
Constitution of Japan
The is the fundamental law of Japan. It was enacted on 3 May, 1947 as a new constitution for postwar Japan.-Outline:The constitution provides for a parliamentary system of government and guarantees certain fundamental rights...

 was enacted (1868–1947).
But, in 1979, the Regnal Years Law was enacted, regnal years are changed upon the enthronement of each new Tennō once more.
Until Keio
Keio
was a after Genji and before Meiji. The period spanned the years from April 1865 to September 1868. The reigning emperors were and .-Change of era:...

, regnal years were changed on a whim.


Regnal years since 1800
  • Kansei
    Kansei
    was a after Tenmei and before Kyōwa. This period spanned the years from January 1789 through February 1801. The reigning emperor was .-Change of era:...

     (1789–1801)
  • Kyōwa
    Kyowa
    was a after Kansei and before Bunka. This period spanned the years from February 1801 through February 1804. The reigning emperor was .-Change of era:...

     (1801–1804)
  • Bunka
    Bunka
    was a after Kyōwa and before Bunsei. The period spanned the years from January 1804 to April 1818. The reigning emperors were and .-Change of era:...

     (1804–1818)
  • Bunsei
    Bunsei
    was a after Bunka and before Tenpō. This period spanned the years from April 1818 through December 1830. The reigning emperor was .-Change of era:...

     (1818–1830)
  • Tenpō
    Tenpo
    was a , also known as Tempō, after Bunsei and before Kōka. The period spanned the years from December 1830 through December 1844...

     (1830–1844)
  • Kōka
    Koka
    was a after Tenpō and before Kaei. This period spanned the years from December 1844 through February 1848. The reigning emperors were and .-Change of era:...

     (1844–1848)
  • Kaei
    Kaei
    was a after Kōka and before Ansei. This period spanned the years from February 1848 through November 1854. The reigning emperor was .-Change of era:...

     (1848–1854)
  • Ansei
    Ansei
    was a after Kaei and before Man'en. This period spanned the years from November 1854 through March 1860. The reigning emperor was .- Change of era :...

     (1854–1860)
  • Man'en (1860–1861)
  • Bunkyū
    Bunkyu
    was a after Man'en and before Genji. This period spanned the years from February 1861 through February 1864. The reigning emperor was .-Change of era:...

     (1861–1864)
  • Genji
    Genji
    was a after Bunkyū and before Keiō. This period spanned only slightly more than a single year from February 1864 through April 1865. The reigning emperor was .-Change of era:...

     (1864–1865)
  • Keiō
    Keio
    was a after Genji and before Meiji. The period spanned the years from April 1865 to September 1868. The reigning emperors were and .-Change of era:...

     (1865–1867)
  • Meiji
    Meiji period
    The , also known as the Meiji era, is a Japanese era which extended from September 1868 through July 1912. This period represents the first half of the Empire of Japan.- Meiji Restoration and the emperor :...

     (1868–1912)
  • Taishō
    Taisho period
    The , or Taishō era, is a period in the history of Japan dating from July 30, 1912 to December 25, 1926, coinciding with the reign of the Taishō Emperor. The health of the new emperor was weak, which prompted the shift in political power from the old oligarchic group of elder statesmen to the Diet...

     (1912–1926)
  • Shōwa
    Showa period
    The , or Shōwa era, is the period of Japanese history corresponding to the reign of the Shōwa Emperor, Hirohito, from December 25, 1926 through January 7, 1989.The Shōwa period was longer than the reign of any previous Japanese emperor...

     (December 25, 1926 – January 7, 1989)
  • Heisei
    Heisei
    is the current era name in Japan. The Heisei era started on 8 January 1989, the first day after the death of the reigning Emperor, Hirohito. His son, Akihito, succeeded to the throne...

     (January 8, 1989–present)


For example :
  • 1820 was the 3rd year of Bunsei.
  • 1855 was the 2nd year of Ansei.
  • 1900 was the 33rd year of Meiji.
  • 1945 was the 20th year of Shōwa.
  • 2000 was the 12th year of Heisei.
  • 1848 was the 5th year of Kōka through March 31, but on April 1, it became the 1st year(Gan-nen) of Kaei.
  • 1989 was the 64th year of Shōwa through to January 7, but on January 8, it became the 1st year(Gan-nen) of Heisei.

Other eras

  • During the pre–World War II period
    Empire of Japan
    The Empire of Japan is the name of the state of Japan that existed from the Meiji Restoration on 3 January 1868 to the enactment of the post-World War II Constitution of...

    , Jimmu era (Kōki) is also used in common that the year of enthronement of first Tennō (Jimmu-Tennō) is defined as First Year. (= 660 BCE) For example, 2010 is 2670 Jimmu era.

  • During the post–World War II period
    Postwar Japan
    Postwar Japan refers to the period in Japanese history immediately following the end of World War II in 1945 to the present day. Before and during the war Japan was known as an empire but is now officially the .-Occupation and democratization:...

    , postwar era (sengo) has been used as a private era, which starts from 1946 (1945 being the 0th postwar year). It is seen in media and books. For example, 2010 is 65 postwar.

See also


  • Timeline of Japanese history
    Timeline of Japanese history
    This is a timeline of Japanese history. To read about the background to these events, see History of Japan. See also the list of Emperors of Japan and Prime Ministers of Japan and the list of years in Japan....

  • History of Asia
    History of Asia
    The history of Asia can be seen as the collective history of several distinct peripheral coastal regions such as, East Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East linked by the interior mass of the Eurasian steppe....

    • History of East Asia
      History of East Asia
      -Prehistory:In East Asia, the Neolithic period may have begun as early as 7500 BC. The earliest evidence suggests the existence of the Pengtoushan culture in northern Hunan province from about 7500 BC to 6100 BC and of the Peiligang culture in Henan province around from about 7000 BC to 5000...

  • List of Emperors of Japan
  • List of Prime Ministers of Japan
  • Politics of Japan
    Politics of Japan
    The politics of Japan is conducted in a framework of a parliamentary representative democratic monarchy, where Prime Minister of Japan is the head of government. Japanese politics uses a multi-party system. Executive power exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in the Diet, with...

  • Rikkokushi
    Rikkokushi
    is a general term for Japan's six national histories chronicling the mythology and history of Japan from the earliest times to AD 887. The six histories were written at the imperial court during the eighth and ninth centuries, under order of the Emperors...

    , six imperially commissioned Japanese national histories
  • 1980s in Japan
    1980s in Japan
    In Japan during the 1980s, the economy was in a boom where buyers found themselves paying the highest prices for goods and commodities. As of March 2010, the unemployment rate in Japan is 4.9%; a very low number compared to the unemployment rate during the height of the 1990s...


Further reading

  • Allinson, Gary D. The Columbia Guide to Modern Japanese History. (1999). 259 pp. excerpt and text search
  • Allinson, Gary D. Japan's Postwar History. (2nd ed 2004). 208 pp. excerpt and text search
  • Beasley, William G.
    William G. Beasley
    William Gerard Beasley CBE FBA was a British academic, author, editor, translator and Japanologist. He was Emeritus Professor of the History of the Far East at the School of Oriental and African Studies of London University.-Career:...

     The Modern History of Japan (1963)
  • Clement, Ernest Wilson. A Short History of Japan (1915)
  • Cullen, Louis M.
    Louis Cullen
    Louis Michael Cullen is an Irish historian, academic and author, specialising in economic history, who has also worked as an Irish diplomat....

     A History of Japan, 1582–1941: Internal and External Worlds (2003)
  • Edgerton, Robert B. Warriors of the Rising Sun: A History of the Japanese Military. (1999). 384 pp. excerpt and text search
  • Gordon, Andrew
    Andrew Gordon (historian)
    Andrew Gordon is a prominent scholar of modern Japanese history. He is Lee and Juliet Folger Fund Professor of History at Harvard University and former chair of the Department of History there from 2004–2007. He was Director of the Edwin O...

    . A Modern History of Japan: From Tokugawa Times to the Present (2003) ISBN 0195110617
  • Hall John Whitney
    John Whitney Hall
    John Whitney Hall , the Tokyo-born son of missionaries in Japan, grew up to become a pioneer in the field of Japanese studies and one of the most respected historians of Japan of his generation. His life work was recognized by the Japanese government...

    . Japan: From Prehistory to Modern Times. 1970.
  • Hane, Mikiso. Modern Japan: A Historical Survey (2nd ed 1992)
  • Huffman, James L., ed. Modern Japan: An Encyclopedia of History, Culture, and Nationalism. (1998).
  • Hunter Janet. Concise Dictionary of Modern Japanese History. 1984.
  • Jansen, Marius B.
    Marius Jansen
    Marius Berthus Jansen was an American academic, historian, and Emeritus Professor of Japanese History at Princeton University....

     The Making of Modern Japan (2002) ISBN 0674009916
  • McClain, James L. Japan: A Modern History. (2001) ISBN 039397720X
  • Perez, Louis G. The History of Japan (1998)
  • Perkins, Dorothy. Encyclopedia of Japan: Japanese History and Culture, from Abacus to Zori. (1991).
  • Reischauer, Edwin O.
    Edwin O. Reischauer
    Edwin Oldfather Reischauer was the leading U.S. educator and noted scholar of the history and culture of Japan, and of East Asia. From 1961–1966, he was the U.S. ambassador to Japan.-Education and academic life:...

     Japan: The Story of a Nation. 1990.
  • Stockwin, J. A. A. Dictionary of the Modern Politics of Japan. (2003).
  • Tipton, Elise. Modern Japan: A Social and Political History (2002) excerpt and text search

External links