Japan is a chain of many islands. The populationis concentrated on four main islands: Hokkaido,Honshu (the main island), Kyushu, and Shikoku.Japan is mountainous; the mountains werevolcanic in origin. Only about 11% of Japan’sland can be farmed. The area is also prone toearthquakes!Because they were isolated by their geography,the Japanese grew independent of other Asianinfluences and believed they had a destinydifferent from people on the continent.
The Ancient Japanese settled primarily in theYamato Plain (in red on map) sometime near thefirst century of the common era.Their society was based on clans and the peoplewere divided between a small aristocratic class(the rulers) and a large population of rice farmers,artisans, and household servants. The local rulerwas responsible for protecting the population and Prince Shotoku centralized thein return was given a share of the harvest or an government under a supremeartisan’s wares. ruler so he could limit the power of the aristocrats andIn the early seventh century, Shotoku Taishi, a enhance the ruler’s power. HeYamato prince, tried to unify the clans of Japan so portrayed the ruler as a divinethe Japanese could resist invasion by the Chinese. figure and the symbol of the Japanese nation.Shotoku sent representatives to China to learn howthey ran their government. He then began tocreate a new centralized government in Japan.
After Shotoku’s death in 622, the Fujiwara clantook over, although a Yamato was still emperor.A new capital was established at Nara in 710.The central government had difficulty collectingtaxes from the aristocracy, who kept the taxesfor themselves.In 794 the capital was moved to Heian (presentday Kyoto). The Fujiwara clan still controlled theemperor.The government decentralized, with wealthylandowners collecting taxes, confiscating landsfrom the poor, and protecting their interests.
Aristocrats were responsible for protecting theirinterests: land, farmers, and small towns in theirdomain. They employed military servants whose purpose was to protect the security and property of their employers Called samurai, they resembled the knights of Europe They fought on horseback Wore helmets & armor Lived by a strict warrior code called Bushido Loyal to the aristocratic lords
By the end of the 12th century, Japanesearistocratic families (clans) were in a state ofalmost constant civil war.Minamoto Yoritmo defeated several rivals andset up a new capital near the modern city ofTokyo.He created a more centralized governmentunder a powerful military leader known as theshogun. In this new system – called a shogunate One of the first tests of the– the emperor remained ruler in name only; it Shogunate was an invasion y thewas the Shogun who actually exercised power. Mongols. In 1281, Kublai Khan invaded Japan with 150,000The Kamakura Shogunate was founded in 1192 soldiers. Fortunately for theand lasted until 1333. The system worked will, Japanese, nearly all of Khan’s fleetwith a strong central government backed up by as destroyed in a massive typhoon.military power. Japan was not invaded again until World War II in 1945!
Aristocrats continued to grow in power during the 14th and 15thcenturies Heads of noble families, called daimyo, controlled vast land estates that paid no taxes to the governmentDaimyo’s relied on samurai for protection and political powerbecame concentrated in the hands of a loose coalition of noblefamiliesBy 1500, Japan was again in chaos Onin War: 1467 – 1477, a civil war that destroyed Kyoto from armies moving back and forth, burning temples and palaces Central authority disappeared Aristocrats became increasingly powerful and seized large territories that they ruled as kings Rivalries among families created a state of almost constant warfare
Early Japan was mostly a farmingsociety. The primary crop waswet rice, which could be grown inthe mountainous regions. Theabundant rainfall flooded fields,making them perfect for rice.Manufacturing began to developduring the Kamakura period;markets appeared in larger townsand industries such as ironcasting, paper making, andporcelain emerged.Foreign trade developed in the11th century, mainly with Koreaand China; Japan exported rawmaterials, paintings, swords, andmanufactured items in exchangefor silk, porcelain, books, andcopper coins.
In early Japan, women were equal to men;women could inherit and own property, ordivorce and remarry.In later Japan, women became subordinate tomen Wives were divorced for not producing male children or committing adultery They could also be divorced for talking too much, being jealous, or having a serious illness!Women played an active role in society; wealthywomen were prominent at court, or were artistsor writers
Early Japanese people worshipped spirits called Kami,whom they believed lived in trees, rivers, streams, andmountainsThey also believed the spirits of their ancestors werepresent in the air around themEventually a state religion based on these beliefs wasformed, called Shinto, and is still practiced today Shinto is nature-based religionBuddhism became popular in Japan in the sixthcentury A sect of Buddhists called Zen became popular with the samurai
Women were most productive story writers inJapan from the 9th to the 12th centuries Primarily because aristocrats thought prose was vulgar, and thus beneath them.The Tale of the Genji was written around 1000CE, by Murasaki Shikibu (a woman); it isconsidered one of the world’s greatest novelsIn art and architecture, nature and landscapeplays an important role and is a means ofexpression Japanese seek harmony with nature and natural surroundings
The Korean Peninsula, between China andJapan, is relatively mountainous.Korea was heavily influenced by the Chinese. In109 CE, the northern part of Korea came underthe control of the Chinese. By the third century,the Koreans drove the Chinese out. Threekingdoms emerged afterwards: Goguryeo (alsospelled Koguryo), in the north, Paekche in theSouthwest (Baekje), and Silla in the southeast.Eventually, the kingdom of Silla gained control of In the 13th century, the Mongols seizedthe entire Korean Peninsula, but the king was northern Korea and the Koryo dynastyassassinated. After the assassination, Korea was fell under Mongol power. Koreansembroiled in civil war. suffered under Mongol rule, as many were forced off their farms and intoBy the tenth century, a new dynasty called the labor for the MongolsKoryo (Korea) came to power and instituted a Finally, in 1392, Yi Song-gye seized powerChinese-style government. The Koryo remained and reunited Korea under the Yi dynasty.in power for 400 years.