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Japan Travel Guide

Japan History

This country thanks especially to its geographical separation and social cohesion; Japan is between the world's most perpetual and stable nations. Though the country has really had its share of wild civil wars, coups and one revolution, albeit considerably gentle, Japan has rarely been invaded and never really colonized. Certainly, according to tradition, it possesses the longest-reigning dynasty around the world, with the existent monarch, Emperor Akihito, 125th in a constant line stretching back to the first century BC. The reality is, of course, far more complicated.

The prime human settlements in Japan are calculated to date from the Ice Age, approximately 30,000 years ago. At that time all four main Japanese islands were connected. The southernmost island of Kyushu was united to the Korean peninsula and the northernmost island of Hokkaido to Siberia.

Periods of Japanese History:

Early Japan (until 710)

Under the Jomon Period (13000 BC to 300 BC), the natives of the Japanese islands were collectors, fishers and hunters. Jomon is the name of the era's pottery.

Nara and Heian Periods (710 - 1185)

In the year of 710, the first stable Japanese capital was based in Nara, a city modeled after the Chinese capital. Large Buddhist monasteries were built in the new capital.

Kamakura Period (1192 - 1333)

Durring 1185, the Minamoto family assumed the control over Japan after vanquishing the Taira clan in the Gempei war. Minamoto Yoritomo was nominated Shogun in the year 1192 and based a new government, the Kamakura Bakufu.

Muromachi Period (1333 - 1573)

The emperor Go-Daigo was able to renovate the imperial power in Kyoto and to demolish the Kamakura Bakufu in the year 1333. Nevertheless, the resurgence of the old imperial offices in the Kemmu restoration (1334) did not last for long because the old administration system was out of date and application and the incapable officials failed gaining the support of the powerful landowners.

Azuchi-Momoyama Period (1573 - 1603)

Oda Nobunaga obtained control of the province of Owari (around the modern city of Nagoya) in the year 1559. As many other daimyo, he was very interested in uniting Japan. Strategically advantageously situated, he succeeded in capturing the capital in 1568.

Edo Period (1603 - 1867)

Tokugawa Ieyasu was the most powerful man in all Japan after of the government of Hideyoshi when he had died in 1598. Against his promises he did not respect Hideyoshi's successor Hideyori because he wanted to become the absolute governor of Japan.

Meiji Period (1868 - 1912)

During 1867/68, the Tokugawa era had an end in the Meiji Restoration. The emperor Meiji was transferred from Kyoto to Tokyo which became the new capital; his imperial power was renewed.

Militarism and WW2 (1912 - 1945)

In the era of the weak emperor Taisho (1912-26), the political power changed from the oligarchic clique (genro) to the parliament and the democratic parties.

Postwar (since 1945)

When the World War II finished, Japan was ruined. All the big cities (with the exception of Kyoto), the industries and the transportation networks were hardly damaged. An extreme shortage of food continued for many years.

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