Japan: Geography • Japan consists of a chain of islands off the coast of China. • It is composed of four main islands • Hokkaido • Honshu • Shikoku • Kyushu
Japan: Geography • Most of Japan is covered by mountains. • About 188 of Japans mountains are volcanoes. • Japan experiences a lot of seismic activity each year. • Because of the mountains, only about 20% of Japan’s land can be farmed. • Traditionally this land is the most fought over.
Japan: Geography • Because of the geography of the islands, many people have to live by the sea. • This allowed Japanese people to easily travel down the coast to see one another. However, it also kept them separated from other cultures for many years. • As a result, Japan developed its own society, art, economy, and culture.
Jomon • The first people in the country of Japan were called the Jomon. • They came to the islands around 10000 B.C. • Most of what we know about them comes from artifacts and pottery. • They were mostly nomadic hunters that followed game onto the islands.
Yayoi • Around 300 B.C., a new culture appeared in Japan. They were called the Yayoi. • These are the ancestors of the modern day Japanese. • They had may skills that they had learned over time from the Chinese and the Koreans. • They were skilled at many thing including metalworking and the making of religious bells.
Yayoi cont. • The Yayoi organized themselves into clans. • This was very similar to the clan design that many Japanese still have today. • They buried their leaders in large mounds known as kofun. • These kofun were larger than the Egyptian pyramids.
Beginning of time • Just as every other culture has, the Japanese has a myth about the beginning of time. • They believe that at the beginning of time two gods dipped their wooden spears into the ocean and as drops of seawater fell off of them the islands of Japan were formed. • These two gods then made the sun goddess Amaterasu, and the storm god Susanowo to rule over the earth.
Susanowo: • Susanowo is supposedly the father of the Japanese people. • Amaterasu sent her grandson to rule over them. She gave him a jewel and a sword to help him rule. • These are still symbols of leadership in Japan today.
Beginning of modern day Japan • Around A.D. 500, the Yamato clan became strong enough to rule Japan. • The other clans still held their land, but had to give their loyalty to the Yamato. • Legend says that a Yamato leader named Jimmu, took the name “emperor of heaven.” He founded a line of rulers in Japan that has not been broken to this day.
Shotoku • He was a Yamato emperor who took charge of the government from his aunt. • He wanted to create a more powerful government and he looked to China for guidance. • He created a constitution. • He also created a bureaucracy where the emperor was able to appoint officials. • He made Japan’s government similar to China. • This was the first strong central government in Japan.
Shinto • Japanese believed that all things have their own spirit. This idea is called animism. • In order to worship these spirits, the Japanese built shrines. • These early Japanese beliefs developed into the religion of Shinto. • Shinto means “way of the spirits.”
Nara Period • In A.D. 700 the Japanese emperor moved the capital of Japan to Nara. It stayed in this city for around 100 years. The city itself is molded after the then capital of China at Changan. • During this period Buddhist culture came into Japan and the emperors continued to improve and organize the government.