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Ancient Japan. Japan – Geography. Japan consists of four large islands and thousands of smaller ones Japan faces China & Korea to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east Japan is part of an archipelago Japan has extreme climates Snow in islands to the north

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japan geography
Japan – Geography

Japan consists of four large islands and thousands of smaller ones

Japan faces China & Korea to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east

Japan is part of an archipelago

Japan has extreme climates

Snow in islands to the north

Tropics (almost) in islands to the south

japan geography1
Japan – Geography

Japan is a part of the Ring of Fire

Sits on a plate boundary

Volcanoes and earthquakes

Japan is mountainous

20% is farmable

Most live on coast or few plains


japan religion
Japan – Religion


Native religion of Japan

Means “way of gods”

Each clan worshiped own kami (god/spirit)

Kami found in natural objects (trees)

People built shrines wherever felt the power of kami

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Japan – Religion

Shinto Myth (first emperor)

Sun Goddess and the Storm God (brother)

Each god supported a different clan who wanted to rule Japan

Sun Goddess won and her grandson Ninigi became ruler

She gave him three treasures:

a bronze mirror (symbol of truth)

a sword (symbol of wisdom)

a curved jewel (symbol of kindness)

Niningi passed symbols down to his grandson Jimmu who became first emperor in about 600 B.C.

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Japan - Religion


Entered Japan in 552 from Korea

Many sects

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Japan – Religion

Pure Land Buddhism

Appealed to all classes

Most popular in Japan today

Centers around a bodhisattva known as Amida

He ruled a paradise called Pure Land

Bodhisattva is enlightened being who choose to stay on earth and help others

By placing trust in Amida and repeating his name, followers entered a paradise called Pure Land upon death

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Japan – Religion

Zen Buddhism

Came from China

Stressed meditation – clear mind to achieve spiritual development

Focus on self-control and discipline

Appealed to samurai class


japan achievements
Japan - Achievements

The Tale of Genji

Considered to be the first novel in the world

It is about the romantic adventures of a prince named Genji

It was written by a woman named Murasaki Shikibu – she served the empress

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Japan - Achievements
  • Yamato-e (scroll paintings)
    • Distinctly Japanese
    • Story is told as the scroll is unrolled
    • The story is told with pictures and sometimes words
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Japan - Achievements

Noh drama

Serious and intense style of drama

Used colorful costumes, masks, chants, music, and dance

Feature gods, warriors, beautiful women, mad people, ghosts, and devils

An evening of Noh drama would included several serious plays with funny skits in between

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Japan - Achievements


Around 900, Japanese simplified writing system

New set of symbols called kana

Each kana stood for one syllable


japan politics
Japan - Politics

First Emperor

Historians believe the first emperor appeared around A.D. 200 or 300

Several clans competed/fought for land and power

The Yamato clan gradually gained power over Japan

japan politics1
Japan - Politics

Yamato Clan

The Yamato clan gradually gained power over Japan

They would try to win another clans loyalty through marriage or warfare if necessary

They claimed to be descendants from the Sun Goddess

They believed they were living gods

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Japan - Politics

Prince Shotoku

Took power in 593

He was a regent – a person who governs in the name of a ruler (too young or unable to rule)

Goal was to unite Japan

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Japan - Politics

Prince Shotoku

Goal was to unite Japan

Bring Buddhism to Japan

Reduce power of clan leaders - people looked to clan leaders as Shinto priests

Having one faith would unite the country

Bring Confucianism to Japan

Respect for family and social order

Prince Shotoku gave Japan it’s first constitution or plan of government

It was called the Constitution of Seventeen articles

Based on Buddhist and Confucian thought


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Japan - Politics


Prince Shotoku’s work carried on after his death in 622

Taika Reform – means “great change”

Law that made everyone subject to the emperor

Lands and people controlled by the clans now belonged to the emperor

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Japan - Politics


To carry out the reform, a new law code was issued to the entire country

Called the The Taiho Code

Officially made the Yamato clan leader emperor

Included laws for the organization of local government

Defined crimes and punishments

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Japan - Politics

Two New Capitals

Taika Reform also called for the building of a permanent capitol

The city of Nara was chosen and modeled after Chang’an in China

Buddha influence dominated the capital

Government officials felt threatened by wealth and power of Buddhist monks – moved the capital to Heian-kyo or Koyoto

Monks & monasteries were not allowed to follow

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Japan - Politics

The Fujiwara Family

In the 800’s, the emperors power began to fade

Fujiwara family ran the country

The emperor was a “puppet”

Sisters or daughters would marry princes

Ruled for about 300 years & Japan was unified

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Japan - Politics

The Shoguns

The Taira and Minamoto clans fought together and were able to drive the Fujiwara family from power

Over the years power shifted between the two clans

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Japan - Politics

The Shoguns –

Minamoto Yoritomo

In 1159, the Minamoto clan stormed the palace in Kyoto

In 1185, the two clans fought at sea

Minamoto Yoritomo was the winner and he took the title of Shogun – did not plan to give up the title

A new social order was developed


japan economy
Japan - Economy

Heian Period

Trade increased – economic growth

Towns sprang up

Along trade routes

As artisans created more goods for trading

Around monasteries

Artisans made goods and merchants bought and sold them

Trade increased with China






japan social
Japan - Social

What is feudalism?

Each daimyo relied on peasants to work the land.

In exchange for their labor, he provided protection.

The protection came in the form of samurai warriors

The daimyo would then give money or land to the samurai

japan social1


  • Shogun
  • Daimyo
  • Samurai
  • Peasants/Merchants/Artisans
Japan - Social

A New Social Order

Life under Shoguns was lawless and violent

New social order developed

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Japan - Social

Emperors (during Shoguns)

Had the highest rank, but held no real power

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Japan - Social

2. Shoguns (during Shoguns)

Actual ruler of Japan

Highest military rank

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Japan - Social

3. Daimyo (during Shoguns)

Large landowners who protected peasants in exchange for labor

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Japan - Social

4. Samurai

Highly trained warriors

Trained fiercely, fought bravely, died with honor

Followed a code called the bushido

Bushido means “the way of the warrior”

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Japan - Social

4. Samurai

Personal Honor

Pride in how trained and fought

Pride in appearance (robe, armor, & horse)

Loyalty to one’s lord

More important than family, religion, or emperor

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Japan - Social

5. Peasants/Merchants/Artisans (during Shoguns)

Made up about three fourths of the population