Concise timeline of japanese history
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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

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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 (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”

  • 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

  • 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

Japan and the United States

Japanese FarmingInventive use of limited arable land

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 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

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

  • 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)

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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 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

  • 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

  • Fidelity

  • Politeness

  • Virility

  • Simplicity



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

  • 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 First and Last Shoguns

Heian Court Dress

“The Tale of Genji”by Lady Murasaki

Considered the Worlds first novel – written around 1000 AD

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)

“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.

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