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Concise Timeline of Japanese History. Reform Period 552-710 CE 17 Point Constitution Taika Reform Nara Period 710-784 Introduction of Buddhism Heian Period 794-1185 Fujiwara (10 th -11 th centuries) Kamakura (1185-1333), and Ashikaga Shogunates (1336-1573) Unification Period 1568-1600

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Concise timeline of japanese history
Concise Timeline of Japanese History

  • Reform Period 552-710 CE

    • 17 Point Constitution

    • Taika Reform

  • Nara Period 710-784

    • Introduction of Buddhism

  • Heian Period 794-1185

    • Fujiwara (10th -11th centuries)

  • Kamakura (1185-1333), and Ashikaga Shogunates (1336-1573)

  • Unification Period 1568-1600

  • Tokugawa (Edo) Period 1600-1867

  • Meiji Period 1867-1912

Nippon land of the rising sun
Nippon - “Land of the Rising Sun”

  • The Japanese flag depicts a red sun on a white ground.

  • The Chinese view of Japan – to the East

  • Japanese legend suggests their origins begin with the sun Goddess, Amaterasu, who sent her grandson to Earth.

Geography of japan
Geography of Japan

  • Japan is separated from its nearest neighbor (Korea) by 120 miles of ocean

  • Japan is made of approximately 4,000 islands called an archipelago, or island group

  • The group is about 1,200 miles long (from Canada to Florida)

  • Japan has a varied climate, from mild with plenty of rain to mountainous and snow

  • Only 15% is suitable for farming

  • Natural resources include (but they are in short supply):

    • Coal

    • Oil

    • Iron

  • Threats such as typhoons( or hurricanes), Earthquakes, and tidal waves can occur

Japanese farming inventive use of limited arable land
Japanese FarmingInventive use of limited arable land

Early japan
Early Japan

  • The first historic mention of Japan comes from Chinese writings in A.D. 300 – land of the rising sun to the East of China

  • Japan was controlled by hundreds of clans within their own territories

  • Each clan worshipped its own nature gods

  • The variety of worship eventually became Japan’s first religion - Shinto

    • Shinto - meaning “way of the gods”

      • Had no complex rituals or philosophy

      • Based on respect for the forces of nature and the worship of ancestors

      • Anything unusual or beautiful was considered home for a kami, or divine spirit

  • Amaterasu

  • The Sun Goddess – created

  • when Izanagi cleared his left

  • eye in a pool of water.

  • Tsukuyomi, the moon god

  • Sarutahiko, kami of earth

  • Izanagi, the first man

  • Izanami, the first woman

  • Susanoo, god of storms, created from

  • the nose of Izangi

Music of japan
Music of Japan

  • Music of early Japan reflects connection with and inspiration from nature.

  • Can you guess the titles of the following songs?

  • Many Japanese instruments fall into these categories:

    • Percussion (gongs, drums)

    • Wind (flutes)

    • Strings (lutes, zithers, banjo-type instruments etc)

  • Song One (s)

  • Song Two (w)


  • Song One = Cherry Blossoms (Sakura)

  • Song Two = The Wind in the Pine Tree

Flowers of edo c 1880 woman playing the long necked banjo
Flowers of Edo (c 1880)(Woman playing the long-necked banjo

Japanese emperors
Japanese Emperors

  • The Yamato clan came to power and claimed to be the emperors of Japan mid-6th century

    • Enacted reforms that gave state control over all land

    • Vinigi was the grandson of Amaterasu of myth

    • The sacred regalia surrounding Vinigi (bronze mirror, sword, and a curved jewel) gave the emperor’s the right to rule.

  • Early on the emperors did not control the entire country, and became a figurehead; He “reigned, but did not rule”

  • Clans (uji) fought over the right to control the emperor and fought in his name

  • Dual Structure of Japanese government from this Nara period (named after the town of Nara) through the 20th century

Cultural adaptation
Cultural Adaptation

  • During the sixth century Koreans migrated to Japan bringing Chinese culture with them

  • Powerful T’ang dynasty heavily influenced Japan as well, as a model of a centralized state

  • Buddhism became a heavy influence on Shintoism in the 6th century, causing Shintoism to evolve

    • Some Japanese even converted to Buddhism, including Prince Shotoku in the early 7th century

  • The Japanese were highly influenced by T’ang

    • Adopting the Chinese system of writing

    • Paintings were done in a Chinese manner

      • Also… cooking, gardening, drinking tea, and hairdressing

  • The Japanese continued to learn from the Chinese for approximately 200 years

Prince shotoku 574 622
Prince Shotoku (574-622)

  • Heavily influenced by Buddhism and Confucianism – Chinese T’ang influences

    • Humanist, as was Confucius

  • 17 Article Constitution (604 AD)

    • Government should be ethical, and people should obey for moral reasons rather than being forced to do so

    • Set up behavior for ruling class – an effort to use a written constitution to enforce emperor’s authority.

      • “Harmony should be prized”

      • “Ministry should obey imperial commands”

      • “Behave decorously”

      • “Reject covetous desires”

      • “Attend court every morning”

Heian period
Heian Period

  • The noble families move the capital from Nara to Heian (modern day Kyoto) in 794 AD

  • Nobles flocked to Heian and spent their days in the pursuit of ritual and artistic activities

  • Etiquette dictated everything from sword length, the color of robes, even the number of skirts worn by women.

  • Aristocrats looked down upon the common people

  • Historical records typically came from the diaries and accounts of women in the noble court (will be discussed later in these notes)

Feudalism disrupts the empire
Feudalism Disrupts the Empire

  • In the 11th century noble families lost interest in governing and power began to fade

  • Taika Reform (645 AD) established militia units to protect small counties

    • Large landowners, mounted warriors, began to setup their own private armies

    • Beginning of a distinct warrior class in Japan

  • They protected farmers and continued to gain power.

  • These Landowners became known as warlords

  • The feudal system was being established

Feudal Society

The emperor reigned, but did not always rule!

DO NOW in your notes:

Why are Merchants

and Artisans in the

lowest classes?

Feudal Society

The samurai
The Samurai

  • The warlords surrounded themselves with loyal body-gaurds called samurai

    • Samurai - one who serves

    • Riding, and the use of the Bow and Sword essential to the training of Samurai

  • Samurai lived according to a strict code of behavior

    • This code will later be called Bushido or “the way of the warrior”

  • Samurais were expected to show reckless courage, reverence for the gods, fairness, and generosity to those weaker than himself

  • Dying honorably was more important than living a long life

Examining the samurai s code
Examining the Samurai’s Code

  • A Samurai’s first allegiance was to his feudal lord

  • “death before dishonor” meaning Samurai preferred suicide to capture by an enemy

  • The Samurai will adapt their tactics and arms over time

    • Ex: from arrows to bullets, single combat to advancing in groups

  • Samurai women - wives and daughters, were expected to observe the same strict code

    • Some women became skilled in the martial arts and fought in battle

  • Samurai will become adept in nonmilitary arts like poetry, calligraphy, and the tea ceremony.

The code of bushido
The Code of Bushido

  • Fidelity

  • Politeness

  • Virility

  • Simplicity



The shogun
The Shogun

  • After years of war one warlord gained control

  • The emperor gave him the title of Shogun or “supreme general of the emperors army”

    • The shogun was essentially a military dictator

    • Even though the emperor ruled from Kyoto the shogun had the real power from their headquarters.

  • The Shogunate or rule of the shoguns lasted until 1868.

  • The shogun controlled the land by giving power to governors called daimyo or “Great Lords”

  • The Shoguns were able to defend Japan from the Mongol invasions of the late 13th century

    • Soon after their control began to weaken leaving local lords in control

Periods and names of the shoguns
Periods and Names of the Shoguns

  • Fujiwara – name of the family that held the Shogunate (10th-11th centuries)

  • Kamakura – name of the city in which the Shogun lived (1185-1333)

  • Ashikaga – name of the family that held the Shogunate (1336-1573)

The tale of genji by lady murasaki
The Tale of Genji”by Lady Murasaki

Considered the Worlds first novel – written around 1000 AD

Tale of genji
Tale of Genji

  • Murasaki Shikibu (978-1016) was also a lady-in-waiting

  • 54 Chapters, 2 parts

    • Part One: Genji is the son of the emperor and is called “The Shining One”

      • Pursuit of love is his vocation

    • Part Two: What life is like after Genji’s death – is life empty without a centralizing person?

    • The whole book focuses on the meaning of life and the nature of love

The pillow book by sei shonagon diary
The Pillow Book”by Sei Shonagon (diary)

Pillow book
Pillow Book”

  • A book kept in a wooden pillow

    • Essentially a diary

    • Loose stories of verse, poem-tales, and diary entries

  • Sei Shonagon was a lady-in-waiting, a woman kept at court to be married off to a suitor.