Facts of Japan - Important History Events Part I
The Age of Hunting
The Jomon Culture
The Paleolithic age started around 35000 years ago and people from Asian mainland settled in Japan. It is only at the end of Ice Age, around 10000 years ago, the Jomon culture developed in Japan. The Jomon came to Japan’s North and South Archipelago through the ice bridge that connected Northern Japan and Siberia.
Known as Jomon Pottery, the Jomon created the oldest known potteries of the world. This pottery is also known as ‘Jomon Doki’ which means ‘rope pattern’. They lived in pits and caves and gathered their food by fishing and hunting.
The Jomon culture lasted for so long. Initial Jomon existed from 8000 to 5000 BC. Early Jomon period existed from 5000 BC to 2500 BC. The Middle Jomon followed it from 2500 BC to 1500 BC. The Late Jomon continued from 1500 BC to 1000 BC. The Final Jomon existed from 1000 BC to 300 BC.
The Yayoi Culture
At the end of this Jomon period the Yayoi period evolved. Settlements from many new arrivals at the end of Jomon period co-existed for some time. And these new settlements influenced the Jomon and a new culture started evolving with the sophisticated rice-paddy farming. Not only this but also many new cultural variations started mingling in this period. Particular among them are Shinto religion, new marriage customs, other architectural styles, many technological developments, textiles, metal and glass works. The Yayoi culture is the new beginning of true Japan culture and it lasted from 400 BC until 250 AD.
The Yayoi lived a life in clans called Uji. They had no writing systems or money. Marriage is usually polygamous and women had important place in the family. Till the Chinese influence began in 200 AD the Yayoi ruled with much complexity.
The Kofun Period
Kofun means burial grounds and hence in this period large burial mounds appeared at many places. This Kofun period started around 250 AD. It saw the strongest establishment of military states which were centered mostly on the powerful clans which are called as ‘Zoku’. From 3rd Century AD to 7th Century the Yamato polity was established in Yamato and Kawachi provinces. In the 5th Century Japan started sending tributes to the Imperial China.and established relationships with the Three Kingdoms of Korea as well.
Age of City Building and the Classical Japan
The Asuka Period started from 538 AD and lasted till 710 AD. The Yamato polity emerged and became a clearly centralized state. The Taika Reforms and the Taiho Code were defined for governing laws. The major event that happened in this period was the introduction of Buddhism. This in turn resulted in discontinuity of the largest Kofun.
Baekje introduced Buddhism in Japan in 53d AD. Japan supported a strong military support for this introduction. Buddhism and Chinese culture were spread with continued ardor in this time. A Confucian styled document, Seventeen-article constitution was introduced. It is in this period Japan sought equal footage with China that angered Chinese.
The 8th Century saw the emergence of the strongest Japanese state and is mostly known as the Golden Era. Japan had transformed from a loose federation of Uji into an Emperor. With the power of an absolute monarchy, a new state and government theory was developed. Aristocracy emerged and taxes were very efficiently collected.
The Capital was moved in this period from Heijo-Kyo to Nara in 710 AD. In 784 the capital was again moved Nagaoka-Kyo and then once again to Heian-Kyo, the present day Kyoto, in 794 AD. The massive chronicles, the Kojiki known as The Record of Ancient Matters and the Nihon Shoki known as Chronicles of Japan emerged and are known today as Japanese Mythology.
Heian Period was one of those great epochs in the history of Japan, which can be compared only to the time of Tokugawa in later history of Japan. An era characterized by peace and security which are ensured to people living all over Japan. During wise rule of Heian dynasty culture of Japan rapidly expanded - as never before.
This period lasted from 794 AD to 1185 AD and together with Nara period were called the Classical Japan.
From the Age of Nobility to the Age of Warriors
The age of Warriors lasted from 1185 AD to 1868 AD.
The Kamakura Period
This Kamakura Period extended from 1185 AD to 1333 AD. The Kamakura Shogunate governed at this period. The Japanese Medieval Era The Emperor and State were kept intact but they were relegated to only ceremonial functions. The Bushi class, called as samurai, mostly controlled all the civil, judicial and military matters. The most power among the Bushi class was truly Shogun.
Between 1274 and 1281, the great Mongolian invasion of Japan occurred. It was so traumatic, in fact. Those Mongol forces were so superior with naval technology and destructive weaponry. They invaded Japan’s islands at full scale. Kamikaze, known as Divine Wind in Japan, a very famous typhoon, devastated Mongol forces and defense. Though Mongolian forces were defeated the invasion had such reverberations and repercussions in Japan and let to the extinction of Kamakura Shogunate.
The Kemmu Restoration
The Kamakura Shogunate was overthrown in 1333 by a coup. It was knows as the Kemmu Restoration and was led by emperor Go-Daigo. But this restoration lasted only three years.
From 1336 to 1573, almost 237 years, the Muromachi period existed. The Shogunate ruled the land ending the great Kemmu restoration. The 15th and the last Shogun was driven out of the capital by Oda Nobunaga.
While the early years were known as Muromachi Period the later years of Muromachi Period from 1467 Ad to 1573 were known as Sengoku Period. Sengoku means a period of warring kingdoms. It was a time of intense war which was more internal. This was the period which saw the first contacts with the western traders, the Portuguese traders called Nanban.
In 1543, the arrival of a Portuguese ship introduced fire arms to Japan. It was the period that ultimately culminated to the Battle of Nagashino. Then many traders from Netherland, Spain and England followed. Another major event is the arrival of Jesuit, Franciscan and Dominican missionaries.
This period approximately ran from 1568 AD to 1603 AD. This is the period of the final warring kingdoms as all the warring kingdoms were brought under a single most political ruler. Military was unified and further stabilized. This newly united Japan tried to invade China, Korea and even India as well. But it was quite unsuccessful at that time.
From the Age of Warriors to the new age of Merchants
The Edo period is also called as Tokugawa Period and it stretched from 1603 AD to 1868 AD. In this period the state administration was shared by nearly 200 Daimyo. The governing federation was called as Tokugawa shogunate. The sub domains saw a very high degree of autonomy in this period.
A number of significantly new policies were introduced in this period. The samurai class was placed above the common public like agriculturists, merchants and artisans. New laws were enacted for hair style, accessories, and dress. The common people were organized into small groups. Prior to the seclusion this 265 year period was called ‘A peaceful State’.
The culture saw the highest growth in this period only. The artistic development peaked at this period as well.
The Seclusion of Japan
The seclusion of Japan started at the earliest part of the 17th century. The shogunate always suspected that the traders and mercenaries were the forerunner to a massive military invasion by all the European Powers. In this period Christianity spread all over, especially among the peasants. Shogunate suspected more about the loyalty of these peasants and severely persecuted them. These persecuted peasants led a revolt in 1637. It was known as Shimabara Rebellion. During siege at Hara Castle more than 100,000 samurai army crushed this rebellion of 30,000 Christians and acted more severely on foreign mercenaries and literally closed its boundaries to any foreign influence.