Knowing The History Makes You Like Japan More

Knowing The History Makes You Like Japan More

Japanese history is referred to by different names depending on the period.

It is difficult to remember because there are so many...
"Old Stone Age," "Jomon Period," "Yayoi Period," "Kofun Period," "Asuka Period," "Nara Period," "Heian Period," "Kamakura Period," "Nanboku-cho Period," "Muromachi Period (Sengoku Period)," "Azuchi-Momoyama Period," "Edo Period," "Meiji Period," "Taisho Period," "Showa Period," "Heisei Period," and now, 2021 currently the "Reiwa Period."

Although there are various ways to divide the eras, it is now a rule in Japan that each time an emperor is succeeded, a new name is given to the period with a wish for the new period.
In fact, each period has many dramatic stories to tell, and all are an essential part of Japanese history.

In this article, we will take you back to the very beginning of Japan's history.

Old Stone Age - Yayoi Period

The history of Japan began several hundred thousand years ago during the Old Stone Age.
In those days, people hunted with tools made of stone and moved from place to place without settling down.
As time went on, tools and weapons were developed, and people began to build dwellings for permanent settlement.

About 500 years ago, civilization had developed to the point where people could grow their own crops and rice has been filling the stomachs of Japanese people since that time.

Kofun Period - Asuka Period

Around the 3rd century, "kofun" (burial mounds) began to be actively founded.
Kofun were the tombs of influential figures of the time and came in a variety of sizes and shapes; the 500-meter-long Nintoku-Tenno-Ryo Tumulus, built over a period of 20 years, is one of Japan's largest and most famous tourist attractions.

From around the 6th century, Japan's first capital was established in Asuka, Nara Prefecture.
This was the beginning of full-scale national development under the influence of China.
One of the most famous figures of the Asuka period was Prince Shotoku.
He was entrusted with one of the most important posts in the government, and numerous legends have been passed down through the generations, such as that he spoke from birth, and that he could understand 10 people talking at the same time.
As you can see, there are many legends and anecdotes about people and events in Japanese history, and one way to enjoy the history of Japan is to use them as hints to imagine the circumstances and thoughts of the people of that time.

Nara Period - Heian Period

The period of about 400 years from the 8th century was a time of great social stability.
This was a time of elegance and culture, when influential people called "Heian aristocrats" read poems and made fancy kimonos.
It was during this period that Japanese hiragana was born.

However, around the end of the Heian period, the center of politics shifted from the aristocracy to the samurai.
The samurai, who were initially paid protection, gradually became powerful enough to overthrow the aristocrats.

Kamakura Period - Sengoku Period

The most famous era of Japanese history is probably the time of the samurai and warlords.

Samurai warriors first came to dominance in earnest during the Kamakura period, which began in 1192.
For the next several hundred years, Japan was moved by the samurai.
The Sengoku period, which began in the late 1400s, was a particularly turbulent period in which warlords competed with each other in various parts of Japan.
The drama that emerged and the unique characters of the warlords have fascinated enthusiasts in Japan and abroad.

Azuchi-Momoyama Period - Edo period

In 1573, the Azuchi-Momoyama period of Japanese history began to take off.
The most famous historical figures, Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi, made their appearance.
Their remarkable success story of unifying the country is vital to the history of Japan.
There are many movies and books about these two men, so for anyone who is interested, you can enjoy while reflecting on the history of those times.

Then, following in the path of Nobunaga and Hideyoshi, Tokugawa Ieyasu ruled over the country.
The Edo period, with Ieyasu as the first shogun, lasted for more than 260 years from 1603, bringing peace to Japan for quite a long period of time.

However, an era must always come to an end.
Japan, which had rejected diplomacy at the time, reluctantly opened its doors to the world under pressure from foreign countries.
The start of diplomacy led to a sudden change in the course of world affairs.
Amidst the various complications that ensued, distrust of the shogunate gradually grew, and the Edo period came to an end when the 15th shogun, Yoshinobu Tokugawa, returned political power to the emperor.
The end of the Edo period meant the end of the samurai era, and from then on, Japan's new government, led by the emperor, began a new chapter in its history.

Meiji Period - Showa Period

In 1868, the Meiji Period began, and Japan's efforts to modernize quickly accelerated.
One of the reforms of the Meiji Period was the molding of the foundations of the Japanese Constitution and the establishment of 47 prefectures in Japan.
Japan was also completely liberated from isolation and actively and eagerly absorbed foreign cultures.
Through the modernization of the Meiji Period, Japan quickly grew into one of the world's leading economic powers.

In 1912, as Japan entered the Taisho Period, democracy became prominent not only in politics, but also in education, the arts, and many other areas.
Movements to take freedom into one's own hands flourished.

In 1926, the Showa period began.
The most significant event of the Showa period was probably the Second World War.
Japan was defeated by the atomic bombings.
Since then, Japan is the only country in the world to have been exposed to atomic bombs during war.
Even today, the Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima, which still remains in its original form, is visited by many people from Japan and abroad every year to learn the horrors and lessons of war.
Although Japan went through such a tragic event, its postwar recovery was phenomenal.
In no time at all, the streets were restored to their original appearance, and TVs, washing machines, and refrigerators, known as the "three sacred treasures," became commonplace in homes.
The country developed into a state similar to that of today's Japan.

Heisei Period - Reiwa Period

Since 1989, we have been in the Heisei Period.
Although Japan was in the Heisei Period until a few years ago, it was a tragic period marked by many disasters: the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake in 1995, the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, the Kumamoto Earthquake in 2016, and a number of other large-scale disasters that claimed many lives.
Still today, reconstruction efforts are underway in many parts of Japan.

In this situation, Japan has turned over a new leaf, starting in 2019 under a new period, Reiwa.
I believe that this is the time to show the world Japan's undeniable resilience, as we successfully held the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics a year late, even while battling the unprecedented fear of COVID-19.

The more you know about Japanese history, the more fascinating it becomes

In this article, we have divided the history of Japan into different periods.
However, what we have been able to describe here is only a small part of the entire history.
There are still many exciting dramas to be discovered.

If you like, why don't you start with what you are interested in, whether it is a specific person, a building, or a time period, and then research the history of that period.
Many people have come all the way to Japan because they fell in love with Japan while learning about its history.
It seems that Japan's deep history has a mysterious power to arouse one's curiosity.