Japan

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History of Japan


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Perspective


The history of Japan begins with the arrival of the first humans in the Japanese islands around 30,000 BCE. This gave rise to Jōmon period, known for its cord-marked pottery. This was followed by the Yayoi period in which people from the mainland introduced iron technology and agriculture. With a productive rice culture, the Yayoi grew rapidly and overwhelmed the indigenous Jōmon people, who were hunter-gatherers. Then, from the fourth through ninth centuries, Japan’s many kingdoms and tribes became unified in a centralized government ruled by an emperor in a ceremonial role. In 794, a new imperial capital was established at Heian-kyō (now Kyoto). And so began the Heian period, a golden age of classical Japanese culture. During this time, Japanese religion became a mix of animist Shinto beliefs and Buddhism.

Over the following centuries, the power of the imperial house waned and passed first to great civilian clans like the Fujiwara, and then to the military clans and their samurai defenders. After seizing power, the Minamoto clan set up their capital in Kamakura and their leader Yoritomo took the title of shōgun. This Kamakura shogunate repelled two Mongol invasions only to be toppled by a rival claimant to the shogunate in 1333. Regional warlords called daimyō grew in power at the expense of the shōgun.

Eventually, Japan descended into civil war, but was reunified in the late 16th century under the prominent daimyō Oda Nobunaga and his successors, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu. Their Tokugawa shogunate governed from Edo (now Tokyo) and presided over the prosperous and peaceful Edo period (1600–1868). But the Tokugawa also imposed a strict class system on Japanese society and cut off almost all contact with the outside world.

The history of Japan was altered forever in 1543, when the Portuguese became the first Europeans to reach Japan. They had a significant impact on Japan by introducing firearms. Then the American Admiral Perry arrived in 1853 to demand an end to Japan’s seclusion and Western access. This precipitated the fall of the shogunate and the rise of new national government in the Meiji period.  The Meiji opened Japan to the outside world and brought it to adopt Western models in pursuit of great power status. Although both democracy and a vibrant civilian culture prospered during the Taishō period (1912–26), Japan’s powerful military overwhelmed Japan’s civilian leaders and invaded Manchuria in 1931. Soon, the conflict grew into a long war with China, and Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 led to war with the United States and its allies. Japan’s armed forces soon became overextended, but held out in spite of devastating Allied air attacks that culminated with the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japan surrendered on August 15, 1945.

The Americans occupied Japan until 1952 and transformed Japan into a constitutional monarchy. Japan experienced very high economic growth under the Liberal Democratic Party, and became a global economic powerhouse. But ever since the Lost Decade of the 1990s, economic growth has stagnated and its relations with its Asian neighbors have deteriorated over recurring historical animosities.


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Index

Japan Index | Origins | Jomon Period | Yayoi Period | Kofun Period | Classical Period: SocietyCultureReligionShintoBuddhismPower | Nara Period: SocietyCultureArchitectureDramaRitualScholarship | Heian Period: SocietyCultureArchitectureLiteratureReligionPower | Kamakura Period: Power | Muromachi Period: SocietyClassPowerEconomy: InfrastructureTrade | Warring States Period: SocietyReligionPower | Edo Period: SocietyConflictPolicyReformsClassWomenCultureArchitectureArtWoodblock PrintsFloating WorldLiteratureIhara SaikakuPoetryPhilosophyScholarshipTheatreReligionPowerIeyasu: GovernanceForeign AffairsThe WestEconomyCommerceMoneyTrade | Meiji Period: SocietyCulturePower: ProgressionGovernanceEconomy | Taisho Period: SocietyCulturePowerEconomy | Militarism: SocietyPowerWar in Asia: OriginsGoals | Occupation: SocietyPowerEconomy | Modern Japan: SocietyCommunitiesValuesWomenCulturePowerEconomy


history of Japan

Japan: Index


Jomon, Yayoi, and Kofun Periods


Jomon Period

Jomon Period

Jomon Period | origins

Society: Origins

Yayoi Period

Yayoi Period

Kofun Period

Kofun Period


Classical Period


history of Japan | Classical Period

Classical Period: Index

Up to Index

history of Japan | Classical Period: | society

Society

history of Japan | Classical Period |  culture

Culture

history of Japan | religion

Religion

Shinto

Religion: Shinto

history of Japan | religion | Buddhism

Religion: Buddhism

history of Japan | Classical Period | power

Power

Up to Index


Nara Period


Nara Period

Nara Period: Index

Nara Period | society

Society

Nara Period | culture

Culture

Nara Period | architecture

Culture: Architecture

Nara Period | drama

Culture: Drama

Nara Period | ritual

Culture: Ritual

Up to Index

Nara Period | scholarship

Culture: Scholarship


Heian Period


Heian Period

Heian Period: Index

Heian Period | society

Society

Heian Period | culture

Culture

Heian Period | architecture

Culture: Architecture

Heian Period | literature

Culture: Literature

Up to Index

Heian Period | religion

Religion

Heian Period | power

Power


Kamakura Period


Kamakura Period

Kamakura Period


history of Japan | Kamakura Period | power

Power


Muromachi Period


Muromachi Period

Muromachi Period: Index

history of Japan |  Muromachi Period | society

Society

Up to Index

history of Japan | Muromachi Period | class

Society: Class

history of Japan | Muromachi Period | power

Power

history of Japan | Muromachi Period | economy

Economy

history of Japan | Muromachi Period | infrastructure

Economy: Infrastructure

history of Japan | Muromachi Period | trade

Economy: Trade


Warring States Period


Warring States Period

Warring States Period: Index

Up to Index

history of Japan | Warring States Period | society

Society

history of Japan | Warring States Period | religion

Religion

history of Japan | Warring States Period | power

Power


Edo Period


Edo Period

Edo Period: Index

history of Japan | Edo Period | society

Society

history of Japan | Edo Period | conflict

Society: Conflict

Up to Index

history of Japan | Edo Period | policy

Society: Policy

history of Japan | Edo Period | reforms

Society: Reforms

history of Japan | Edo Period | class

Society: Class

history of Japan | Edo Period | women

Society: Women

history of Japan | Edo Period | culture

Culture

history of Japan | Edo Period | architecture

Culture: Architecture

Up to Index

history of Japan | Edo Period | art

Culture: Art

history of Japan | Edo Period | woodblock prints

Art: Woodblock Prints

Edo Period | Floating World

The Floating World of Old Edo

history of Japan | Edo Period | literature

Culture: Literature

Ihara Saikaku

Literature: Ihara Saikaku

history of Japan | Edo Period | poetry

Literature: Poetry

Up to Index

history of Japan | Edo Period | philosophy

Culture: Philosophy

history of Japan | Edo Period | scholarship

Culture: Scholarship

history of Japan | Edo Period | theatre

Culture: Theatre

history of Japan | Edo Period | religion

Religion

history of Japan | Edo Period | power

Power

Tokugawa Ieyasu

Tokugawa Ieyasu

Up to Index

Ieyasu | governance

Ieyasu: Governance

Ieyasu | foreign affairs

Governance: Foreign Affairs

Edo Period | the West

Foreign Affairs: The West

history of Japan | Edo Period | economy

Economy

history of Japan | Edo Period | commerce

Economy: Commerce

history of Japan | Edo Period | money

Economy: Money

Up to Index

history of Japan | Edo Period | trade

Economy: Trade


Meiji Era


Meiji Period

Meiji Period: Index

history of Japan | Meiji Period | society

Society

history of Japan | Meiji Period | culture

Culture

history of Japan | Meiji Period | power

Power

history of Japan | Meiji Period | progression of power

Power: Progression

Up to Index

history of Japan | Meiji Period | governance

Power: Governance

history of Japan | Meiji Period | military

Power: Military

history of Japan | Meiji Period | economy

Economy


Taisho Era


Taisho Period

Taisho Period: Index


history of Japan | Taisho Period | society

Society

history of Japan | Taisho Period | culture

Culture

Up to Index

history of Japan | Taisho Period | power

Power

history of Japan | Taisho Period | economy

Economy


Militarism


Modern Japan | militarism

Militarism: Index

Modern Japan| militarism | society

Society

Modern Japan | militarism | power

Power

Modern Japan | war in Asia

Power: War in Asia

Up to Index

Modern Japan | war in Asia | origins

War in Asia: Origins

Modern Japan | war in Asia | goals

War in Asia: Goals


Occupation


Modern Japan | Occupation

Occupation: Index

Modern Japan | Occupation | society

Occupation: Society

Modern Japan | Occupation  | power

Power


Modern Japan | Occupation   | economy

Economy

Up to Index


Modern Japan


Modern Japan

Modern Japan: Index

history of Modern Japan | society

Society

history of Modern Japan | communities

Society: Communities

history of Modern Japan | values

Society: Values

history of Modern Japan | women

Society: Women

history of Nodern Japan | culture

Culture

history of modern Japan | power

Power

history of modern Japan | economy

Economy


Up to Index

Samples


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