Timeline and History Overview
- 2500 to 300 - The Jomon Period when the first settlements appeared in Japan.
- 300 - The start of the Yayoi Period. The Yayoi introduced the farming of rice.
- 100 - Metal tools are made from bronze and iron. The primary religion is Shinto.
Classical Japan is a period when the Yamato clan rose to power and became Japan's first dynasty. It includes the Asuka, Nara, and Heian Periods.
- 500s - Japanese culture is influenced by China. Chinese writing and characters are introduced.
- 538 -The religion of Buddhism comes to Japan.
- 593 - Prince Shotoku comes into power. He promotes Buddhism and brings peace to Japan.
- 752 - The Great Buddha statue at Nara is completed.
- 781 - Emperor Kammu reigns over Japan.
- 794 - The capital city is moved from Nara to Kyoto.
This period is sometimes referred to as the feudal period of Japan. The land was ruled by powerful warlords called "daimyo" and their leader, called "shogun." These warlords often battled each other.
- 1192 - The Kamakura Shogunate government is formed when Yoritomo is appointed the first Shogun.
- 1274 - The Mongols, led by Kublai Khan, attempt to invade Japan, but fail when a typhoon destroys much of the Mongol navy.
- 1333 - The Kemmu Restorations occurs when the Kamakura Shoganate is overthrown.
- 1336 - The Ashikaga Shogunate takes power.
- 1467 - The Onin war occurs.
- 1543 - The Portuguese arrive in Japan bringing firearms.
- 1549 - Christianity is introduced by Francis Xavier.
- 1590 - Japan is unified under the leadership of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. He establishes the Edo Shogunate.
The Edo Period was a time of relative peace and prosperity with a centralized government under the Shogun. Merchants became more powerful as the economy improved.
- 1592 - Japan invades Korea.
- 1614 - Christianity is banned in Japan and Christian priests are forced to leave.
- 1635 - Japan becomes isolated from the world restricting all foreigners except for a few Chinese and Dutch merchants. This period of isolation will last for more than 200 years.
- 1637 - The Shimabara Rebellion occurs in protest to the persecution of Christians.
- 1703 - Forty-Six ronin (samurai warriors with no master) are ordered to commit seppuku (kill themselves) for exacting revenge.
- 1707 - Mount Fuji erupts.
- 1854 - Commodore Matthew Perry of the United States arrives in Japan and signs a treaty opening trade with Japan. Japan's isolationism comes to an end.
- 1862 - British merchant Charles Richardson is killed starting a conflict between Britain and Japan.
The Buddha at Nara
During this time Japan becomes a unified state ruled by the emperor. It also expands, colonizing and conquering nearby lands such as Taiwan and Korea.
- 1868 - Emperor Meiji takes over when the Edo Shogunate loses power. The Empire of Japan is formed.
- 1869 - Emperor Meiji moves to the city of Edo renaming it Tokyo.
- 1894 - Japan and China go to war. The Japanese win and gain territory including Taiwan.
- 1904 - Japan goes to war with Russia. Japan wins emerging as a major world power.
- 1910 - Korea is officially annexed as a Japanese colony.
- 1914 - World War I begins. Japan joins in the alliance with the Allied Powers against Germany.
- 1918 - World War I ends. Japan gains a seat on the Council of the League of Nations.
- 1923 - The Great Kanto Earthquake destroys much of Tokyo and Yokohama.
- 1926 - Hirohito becomes emperor.
- 1931 - Japan invades and conquers Manchuria.
- 1937 - Japan launches a major invasion of China capturing major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai.
- 1939 - World War II begins.
- 1941 - Japan allies with Germany and attacks the United States at Pearl Harbor.
- 1945 - The United States drops atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japan surrenders and World War II comes to an end. The United States occupies Japan.
The Atomic Bomb
- 1947 - The Constitution of Japan goes into effect.
- 1952 - The United States occupation comes to an end. Japan regains independence.
- 1964 - The summer Olympics are held in Tokyo.
- 1968 - Japan becomes the second largest economic power in the world.
- 1972 - The United States returns Okinawa to Japan.
- 1989 - Emperor Hirohito dies.
- 2011 - Earthquake and Tsunami cause extensive damage including radiation leaks from a nuclear plant.
Japan is an island nation that has well over 6000 islands. The four largest islands make up by far the majority of the country's land. In the 8th century, Japan became unified into a strong state ruled by an emperor. In 794, Emperor Kammu moved the capital to what is today Kyoto. This started Japan's Heian period where much of today's distinct Japanese culture emerged including art, literature, poetry, and music.
In the 10th and 11th centuries Japan entered into a feudal era. During this time the samurai, a ruling class of warriors, came into power. The leader of the most powerful clan of samurais was called the shogun. In 1467 a civil war broke out call the Onin War. It was between the shogun and the feudal warlords, called daimyo. Japan was once again unified in 1590 under Toyotomi Hideyoshi.
During the 1500s the Portuguese arrived in Japan. They began to trade and learn about European society and the west. However, in the 1630s the shogun closed the country to outside contact and trade. This policy was called sakoku. Japan would remain closed to foreigners for over 200 years. In 1854, Commodore Matthew Perry of the United States forced Japan to reopen relations with the rest of the world. Japan became an empire ruled by an emperor.
In World War II Japan allied with the Axis Powers of Germany and Italy. On December 7, 1941 Japan attacked the United States bombing Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. This caused the United States to enter the war on the side of the Allies. Japan surrendered in 1945 when the US dropped atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In 1947 Japan adopted a constitution with a democratic government. Since then Japan has grown into a powerful nation with one of the world's largest economies.
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