Seas receded during ice ages of the Pleistocene epoch, Japan periodically connected to mainland Asia .Small bands of hunters follow mammoths and other game across these routes.
Earliest stone tools 30,000 BC, Earliest human bones 14,000 BC. Japan's acidic volcanic soil has not preserved many human fossil remains.
World-wide warming trend peaking around 3,000 BC, Japan cut off from Asia.
Finds by an amateur archaeologist pushing back the Japanese Paleolithic period hundred of thousands of years were proven to be a fraud by the newspaper Mainichi Shimbun in 2000.
Jōmon Period 縄文時代
14,000 - 300 BC
Jōmon Dogū(土偶) figurine
Some of the first pottery in the world 14,000 BC. Pots formed by coiling clay and fired in open pits. Jō mon means 'cord marked' in Japanese.
Semi-sedentary hunters-gatherers and fishermen. Middins found near Jōmon sites. These have yielded hooks,nets,Semi-permanent pit dwellings. Some regional trade salt and obsidian.
Dogū figurines appear in the middle period,most are female with 'snow goggle' eyes, some with limbs deliberately broken,perhaps to transfer illness and pain.
Modern Japanese are believed to be descendants of the immigrants mixed with the Jōmon people
660BC legendary date for the founding of Japan under Emperor Jimmu . No critical research disputing this allowed from the 1930s till 1945.
300BC - 250 AD
Yayoi culture from southern Kyūshū to northern Honshū.
Pottery wheel used and kilns. Large jars used for burials. Bronze bells,mirrors,tools and weapons . Weaving appears.Dolmens similar to those in Korea.
Japan first appears in Chinese written records in 57 AD as Wa (倭)
Wet-rice agriculture with introduced from Asian mainland. Rice was stored in raised storehouses. Shamanistic religion.
Social rank more important in burials than in Joman period, where most are buried in the same manner.
Evidence of tattooing and teeth-pulling of the front teeth.
250 - 500 AD
Kofun keyhole tomb
Kofun is Japanese for the type of burial mounds dating from this time. The Nintoku tomb of the 5th cent rivals the pyramids of Egypt in mass. Gradually burials in Buddhist temples replace kofun style tombs.
Haniwa clay figurines buried in tombs,according to the Nihon shoki as a substitute for live people and animals. Horse riding aristocracy using saddles and stirrups.
Bronze and iron being worked by 1st century AD.
Growth of highly aristocratic statelets with militaristic rulers. Clan (uji) and hereditary guilds (be).Yamato clan grows to become main power in southern Japan .Yamato rulers become the origins of the Japanese imperial family and copy Chinese centralized administration. Emperor Kimmei (509-571),the 29th emperor is the first with verifiable historiography.
Yamato court had ties to the Gaya confederacy in Korea. Baekje and Silla sent their princes as hostages to the Yamato court in exchange for military support .
Man'yogana a writing system using Chinese characters to representthe Japanese language developed, will evolve into Hiragana
Japan's imperial household agency which maintains tombs of this period agreed to open some tombs to archaeologists in 2007
A History of Japan R.Mason.
A history of Japan, from the turbulent times of its medieval age to the emergence of modern day Japan as a leading economic power
The Rising Sun John Toland
Classic on the history of Imperial Japan
Japan History Links
500 - 710 AD
538 Buddhism introduced to Japan in 538 by Baekje
573-621 Prince Shōtoku centralizes power on Confucian model with court ranks. Buddhism promoted, Buddhist
Hōryū-ji temple founded 607.
646 Taika Reforms independence of regional officials curtailed, the imperial court becomes a place of appeal for the people.cCuntry divided into provinces ruled by governors appointed by the court. Name of country changed from Wa to Nihon.Large Kofun tombs banned.
660 Yamato's ally in Korea, Baekje,sacked by Silla and Tang China. large number of refugees flee to Japan,including royal family.
708 coining of copper money
710 - 794 AD
710 Capital established at Nara,based on T'ang capital. Before this capital moved on emperor's death.Students sent to T'ang China to study.
Early 700s Kojiki the oldest extant chronicle in Japan written
720 Nihon Shoki Historical record
728 Tōdai-ji Buddhist temple founded. Great Buddha Hall (大仏殿 Daibutsuden), is the largest wooden building in the world
754 Chinese Buddhist priest Ganjin arrives in Japan
794 - 1185
794 Captial moved to Heian (Kyoto) Fujiwara clan controls emperor. High point of Classical Japanese art and literature
Wars against Emishi, descendants of Jōmon people who lived in northern Honshu.
1002 Pillow Book by Lady Sei Shonagon
1010 Tale of Genji by Lady Murasaki
1095 Soldiers monks march through Kyoto
1159 Heiji War Minamoto are defeated
1175 Honen founds Pure Land sect
1180-85 Gempei War Taira defeated by Minamoto
1185 Minamoto Yoritomo est Bakufu at Kamakura
1221 Jokyu War
1250 Tale of Heiki written
1253 Nichiren sect of Buddhism est
1274-81 Mongol invasions repulsed
1333 overthrow of Kamakura Bakufu Northern and Southern courts
Mishima - A Life in Four Chapters
Magnificent costumes, breathtaking settings, and amazingly photographed battle sequences
1333 - 1568
1368-94 Ashikaga Yoshimitsu shogun rule
1392 Yoshimitsu unifies two courts
1467-77 Onin War Japan breaks up into feudal domains ruled by daimyo
Spread of Zen culture
1394 Golden Pavilion built
Tea ceremony develops
1500 Japanese pirates attack China,Korea,SE Asia
1543 Portuguese arrive introduction of firearms
1549 Francis Xavier arrives
1568 - 1600
1568 Oda Nobunga ends Ashikaga shogunate
1573 Nobunga conquers most of Japan
1582 Nobunga assassinated
Toyotomi Hideyoshi unifies Japan, rules as Kampaku
1587 Catholic missionaries banned
1588 sword hunt
1592 Hideyoshi invades Korea to attack China-Imjin War
Japanese pirates raids reached their heyday from 1545-1560
1600 - 1868
1600 Battle of Sekigahara, Tokugawa Ieyasu defeats clans of Western Japan, takes title as Seitaishogun in 1603
Bakufu est in Edo (Tokyo)
1609 Catholicism prohibited
Dutch allowed trading post at Hirado
Kabuki woodblock prints
1615 Siege of Osaka castle
1635 Japanese citizens forbidden to travel abroad
1637 Shimbara Christian rebellion
1701 47 Ronin affair
1781-88 Temmei famine
1853 Capt. Perry and American black ships force Japan open
1868 - 1912
1868 overthrow of Bakufu, imperial restoration
1871 Daimyo lands returned to emperor
1872 Tokyo-Yokohama railroad opened
Emperor Mutsuhito moves court to Edo,reamed Tokyo
1890 Meiji constitution,political parties formed,House of Representatives
1894-5 Sino Japanese War
Taiwan taken from China
1904-5 Russo-Jaoanese War
1910 Japanese annexation of Korea
1912 - 26
1912 Death of Emperor Meiji, Taisho Emperor
Two party civilian government till 1932
1914 Japan declares war on Germany, gains Germany's Pacific colonies and Qingdao
1918-22 70,000 Japanese troops sent to Siberia
1920 Japan admitted to League of Nations
1923 Great Kanto quake
1922 Washington Naval Conference
1924 U.S. Japanese Exclusion Act
1925 radio broadcasts
1926 - 89
1926 Accession of Showa emperor,Hirohito
1931 October Incident failed coup d’etat by rightist Army officers.Thearmy,moving
independently of the government invades Manchuria
1932 Manchukuo puppet state created
1933 Japan withdraws from League of Nations
1936 February 26 Incident, about 1,500 Ultranationalist army troops marched upon central Tokyo,ended by emperor
1937 July 7 Marco Polo Bridge incident Japan declares war on China Nanking Massacre
1939 Japanese forces defeated by Soviets at Nomonhan in Mongolia.Army gives up idea of siezing Siberia,decides to strike south.
1940 Tripartite Pact was signed
1940 Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere announced
1941 July U.S.,U.K. and Dutch gov in exile stop selling oil,iron ore and steel to Japan,due to Japanese invasion of China. .Japan only has enough oil to last a few months.
1941 Japan attacks Pearl Harbor
1942 Battle of Midway
1945-52 Allied Occupation of Japan
1946 Emperor renounces divinity land reforms
1949 MITI created
1953 TV broadcasts
1954 Seven Samurai released
1956 Japan joins United Nations
1964 Bullet train from Tokyo to Osaka 1964 Summer Olympics in Japan
1970 Yukio Mishima commits ritual suicide by seppuku after trying to start a coup d'etat
1972 Okinawa returned to Japanese rule
1974 Lockheed bribery scandal
1988 Seikan tunnel between Honshu and Hokkaido
1989 - now
Hirohito's son, Akihito, succeeds to the throne
1986-91 Bubble economy
1988 Recruit scandal
1995 Kobe Earthquake, Sarin attack on the Tokyo subway by Aum Shinrikyo
1998 Akira Kurosawa dies
2009 Yukio Hatoyama Prime Minister
For almost 20 years, more than 200 reels of microfilmed Japanese naval records remained in the custody of the U.S. Naval History Division, virtually untouched. This unique book draws on those sources and others to tell the story of the Pacific War from the viewpoint of the Japanese
Japanese History Videos
Bushido: The Way of the Samurai