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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
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


  • 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
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
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.