Japanese did not have letters until chinese introduced their letters in second or third century. After then the japanese started using chinese letters. Of course ancient japanese used these letters for learning chinese progressed culture. As you know, chinese letters are basically ideograms that were originally pictograph and every single letter has its own meaning.
For example, the letter for turtle is 亀 . This letter is simplified one as compared to original one but still the shape of turtle is obvious. Roughly saying, average japanese can read letters of 5,000 or more but can write down 2,000 or less. At elementary school and junior high school, 1,800 of letters are taught.
Classical literature ( koten bungaku ), meaning literature from the earliest times up to the Meiji Restoration of 1868, is customarily divided by literary scholars into four major periods: jōdai (antiquity) , chūko (middle antiquity) , chūsei (the middle ages) , and kinsei (the recent past) .
Written literature in Japan dates from the Nara period, although an oral tradition existed well before that time. The work that is usually taken to reveal the process of change from an oral to a written tradition and from communal to personal concerns is the collection of poems known as the Man ‘yōshū (The Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves).
The collection contains 265 chōka (long poems), 4,207 tanka (short poems), one tanrenga (short connecting poem), one bussokusekika (poems on the Buddha's footprints at Yakushi-ji in Nara), four kanshi (Chinese poems), and 22 Chinese prose passages.
Earlier poems have Confucian or Taoist themes and later poems reflecting on Buddhist teachings.
It is important for using one of the earliest Japanese writing systems
It was influential enough to give the writing system its name: "the kana of the Man'yōshū ". This system uses Chinese characters in a variety of functions: their usual ideographic or logographic senses
Literature in the early Heian period flourished under Chinese (Tang) influence, but became more expressive of native sentiments as Japan withdrew into itself and political institutions based on Chinese models either collapsed or were molded into more congenial forms.
Chinese poetry was supplanted by the wak a (literally, "Japanese song") as the preeminent literary form. Imperial collections of poetry were compiled, and prose works, most by women, were written in the newly developed phonetic kana script.
The decline of the aristocracy toward the end of the period was paralleled by a loss of creative energy and a growing sense of pessimism, although collections of folktales and popular songs signalled the involvement of a new social class in the production of works of recognized literary value.
Traditionally waka in general has had no concept of rhyme (indeed, certain arrangements of rhymes, even accidental, were considered dire faults in a poem), or even of line. Instead of lines, waka has the unit ( 連 ) and the phrase ( 句 ). ( Units or phrases are often turned into lines when poetry is translated or transliterated into Western languages, however.)
In the Heian period the lovers would exchange waka in the morning when lovers met at the woman's home.
The exchanged waka were called Kinuginu ( 後朝 ), because it was thought the man wanted to stay with his lover and when the sun rose he had almost no time to put on his clothes on which he had lain instead of a mattress (it being the custom in those days).
Themes were determined and a chosen poet from each team wrote a waka for a given theme. The judge appointed a winner for each theme and gave points to the winning team. The team which received the largest sum was the winner.
The political turbulence associated with the Gempei Wars of 1180 to 1185 and the establishment of the Kamakura bakufu (1192) gave rise to a literature that both centered on military exploits and often expressed disillusion with such exploits.
Mujō (impermanence, transience) became a key concept underlying the literature of this period, although at the same time groups devoted to the composition of renga (linked verse) were turning to literature for the purpose of seeking pleasure there.
The Edo period was characterized by the growing cultural influence exercised by samurai and townspeople. The commercial class in particular benefited from various economic and technological developments, the result of which was a great flowering of culture in the Genroku period (1688-1704).
The haikai master Matsuo Bashō, the novelist Ihara Saikaku, and the dramatist Chikamatsu Monzaemon are all associated with this enormous outburst of creative activity. The nation's cultural center shifted from the Kyoto-Osaka region to Edo in the second half of the eighteenth century, leading to the production of large quantities of gesaku (frivolous works) by the writers who constituted the last literary generation before the advent of Western influence.
The basis for the periodization of modern literature ( kindai bungaku ) is gradually becoming problematic as the "modern" period grows ever longer. The most common division is the one based on the reigns of the emperors who have ruled since 1868: Meiji (1868-1912) , Taishō (1912-1926) , Shōwa (1926-1989) , and Heisei (from 1989) .
The Meiji period was when Japan, under Western influence, took the first steps toward developing a modern literature. The major hallmarks up to the time of the Russo-Japanese War are considered to be Tsubouchi Shōyō's theoretical study The Essence of the Novel (Shōsetsu shinzui, 1885)
because of its advocacy of psychological realism, and Futabatei Shimei's Drifting Cloud (Ukigumo, 1887), both for its realistic character portrayal and because the narrative medium is an approximation of everyday speech. Counterpoints are offered by the highly stylized prose of the Ken'yūsha (Friends of the Inkstone) group centering on Ozaki Kōyō, and the kind of romanticism evident in the early stories of Mori Ōgai and,
especially, the poetry of Kitamura Tōkoku, Shimazaki Tōson, and Yosano Tekkan. The movement known as Japanese Naturalism gained prominence with the publication of Shimazaki Tōson's novel The Broken Commandment , (Hakai, 1906) and Tayama Katai's short story "The Quilt" (Futon, 1907).
Naturalism predominated on the literary scene until around 1910, although such authors as Natsume Sōseki, Mori Ōgai, and Nagai Kafū were not associated with it and might even be considered antagonistic. The humanistic idealism of the Shirakaba (White Birch) writers is taken to mark a turn away from Naturalism and toward a broader definition of literature.
The intellectual aestheticism of Akutagawa Ryūnosuke and decadence of Tanizaki Jun'ichirō characterize this short period, as do (toward its end) the introduction of elements of Western literary modernism in the early work of Yokomizo Riichi and Kawabata Yasunari and the first stirrings of proletarian literature. The Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 is sometimes taken as a major cultural divide in this process.
Proletarian literature was the chief literary movement of the 1920s, supplemented by the uniquely Japanese genre of autobiographical fiction known as the "I novel" ( shishōsetsu or watakushi shōsetsu ).
Government suppression of proletarian literature in the 1930s was attended by the publication of "conversion" ( tenkō ) novels by writers compelled to renounce their communist ideals. The subsequent patriotic writings of the war years have largely been forgotten.
The end of the war witnessed a resurgent cosmopolitanism that has resulted in a striking literary diversity and has led to a reassessment of the way in which tradition and modernity can be said to contribute to the Japanese sense of identity.
This process of reevaluation can be seen in the choice of the two postwar Japanese winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature: Kawabata Yasunari (1968), who titled his acceptance speech "Japan the Beautiful and Myself," and Ōe Kenzaburō (1994), who in deliberate contrast chose the title "Japan the Ambiguous and Myself."
The government of Japan is a constitutional monarchy where the power of the Emperor is very limited. As a ceremonial figurehead, he is defined by the [[Constitution of Japan|constitutionby the Prime Minister of Japan and other elected members of the Diet, while sovereignty is vested in the Japanese people. The Emperor effectively acts as the head of state on diplomatic occasions. Akihito is the current Emperor of Japan. Naruhito, Crown Prince of Japan, stands as next in line to the throne.