JAPAN Origins and History Overview
Japan: Origins • According to Shinto Myth: Izanagi and Izanami were given a jewel tipped spear by the gods of Creation, Order, and Chaos. They took the spear to earth and dipped the tip into the sea. As drops of water fell from the tip, they created the islands. Together they create the gods of Storms, Fire, Water, and Thunder.
More Origins • The Sun goddess, attacked and fearful of her brother, the Storm god, hides in a cave. The other gods tried to coax her out, but she would not come out. So, they tricked her by getting a mirror and positioning it at the entrance, making the light shine, as she came out, they grabbed her and brought her back to the sky.
Meaning of Origins • These myths tell the story of the kinds of lives the Japanese have faced and the beginning of the Imperial line • Understanding Storms, Volcanoes, the Sea, Earthquakes, and the Sun are important to figuring out how to live in this harsh environment. • These stories also provide the basis for the divine lineage of the Emperor.
Reality • Japan sits on the Western edge of the Pacific Ocean and is an archipelago nation • It is marked by its position on the Ring of Fire—makingit susceptible to Volcanic eruptions and strong earthquakes (much like the Western U.S.) • Its location on the ocean also puts it in the path of hurricanes, called cyclones
Japan is made up of 4 islands: Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu. It has 150 volcanoes, 60 of which are active. Its location has helped to keep Japan isolated from the rest of the world
Ancient Japan • The first people to arrive on Japan were hunter-gatherers some 10,000 years ago. • The Ainu who live on Hokkaido are the descendents of the original inhabitants • Other early cultures were Jomon from Korea and the Yayoi, who settled on Honshu • The Yayoi brought rice to Japan and introduced metal tools and irrigation to the people • The early religion was Shinto • Around 400, the first emperor arose
Buddhism was introduced to Japan in 552 CE • In 593, Prince Shotoku began encouraging the spread of Buddhism • Shotoku also brought many other ideas and inventions from China into Japan • After Shotoku’s death, the government brought about the Taika Reforms which declared all farmland the property of the emperor • The land was then divided up among the ruling clans • In 710, the new govt. set up a new capital called Nara
Changing Culture • new capital at Kyoto created in 794 after Buddhist clergy became too powerful in Nara (Heian) • Fujiwara clan gained great power with emperor and served as regents between 858 and 1185 • During this time, the court and nobility flourished and produced art and literature adopted from China • Japanese developed their own writing based on Chinese writing in order to make it their own • The Tale of Genji becomes a huge hit • While nobles were involved in court life, provincial leaders began taking bits of land for themselves • They set up estates separate from the govt. and built up armies--many peasants looked to them for protection
Rise of the Shogun • As control was lost in the provinces, the govt had to turn to provincial leaders with strong armies to put down revolts • many of these provincial leaders had more money and power • 1185, Minamoto clan had overthrown the government • In 1192, he was given the title of Shogun, or “great general” • He created a headquarter at Kamakura while the emperor stayed in Kyoto
The shogun were supported by nobles who owned large estates in the provinces--the Daimyo • The Daimyo needed the protection of the warriors and rewarded them with land and rice • These warriors were the Samurai, or, “those who serve” • Samurai often became important officials in the provinces
The new shogun government brought stability and trade was going well with China • In 1274, Kublai Khan launched an attack on Japan, but were turned back • In 1281, Mongol forces landed on Kyushu with 150,000 soldiers • The samurai were able to win with the help of a typhoon they called, “kamikaze,” or, divine wind • After the battles, the government was destabilized and the samurai revolted • They attacked Kamakura and burnt it to the ground
After the sacking of Kamakura, a shogunate was founded by the Ashikaga family • In 1392, they moved the shogun headquarters back to Kyoto and adopted the ways of the nobles • The Kamakura and Ahikaga shogunates from 1185 to 1600 make up the medieval period of Japan
Religious sects • During this time, Buddhism in Japan took different forms • Amida Buddhists believed in finding happiness in the afterlife • Pure Land Buddhism made finding enlightenment simple and appealed to peasants. • Nichiren Buddhists believed in the “Truth” of the Lotus Sutra and were fervent believers, attacking all other types of Buddhism • Zen Buddhists concerned themselves with individual enlightenment, stressing physical and mental discipline and was very popular with the samurai
Unified and Isolated • By late 1400’s the Ashikaga shogunate weakened from too much court life • The Daimyo fought for control of the country again • Oda Nobunaga rose to power using guns provided by the Portuguese • By his death, he controlled more than a third of Japan • Toyotomi Hideyoshi took over and completed the conquest • When he died in 1598, another power struggle broke out • 1600 Tokugawa Ieyasu won and became shogun in 1603
Ieyasu moved his headquarters to Edo, now Tokyo • In 1605, he gave the shogunate to his son, setting up a line of succession • The Tokugawa shogunate would last for 250 years • The Tokugawa required the Daimyo to swear an oath of loyalty to them and serve in Edo once every other year • In 1542, Portuguese traders brought Christian missionaries to Japan • The Tokugawa saw these foreigners as a threat and between 1612 and 1635, they issued decrees outlawing Christianity, restricting travel, and nearly banned European trade • Japan would not open its doors until 1854
Social Classes • There were four official classes under the shogun and daimyo: samurai, artisans, peasants, and merchants • Daimyo had to swear loyalty to the shogun, the samurai began to be paid by the shogun as well • Artisans had no restrictions • Peasants were not allowed to travel and had to pay heavy taxes • Merchants had to live in towns and were not allowed to get involved in politics • Despite restrictions, the merchants grew strong and wealthy as the services they provided became more needed and money became more popular