Paleolithic Age   300BC - 250 AD

The Japanese Atlantis ? japanese history

Ainu Polynesian Yayoi


Japanese Atlantis ?


Legendary founding


Historical Records


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.


14,000 - 300 BC

Jomon fertility figurine

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.  mon means 'cord marked' in Japanese.


Semi-sedentary hunters-gatherers and fishermen. Middens 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.


Yayoi  Period 弥生時代

300BC - 250 AD

Yayoi period stone sword

stone knives


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 Jomon period, where most are buried in the same manner.


Evidence of tattooing and teeth-pulling of the front teeth.


Kofun  Period 古墳時代 

250 - 500 AD

kofun keyhole tomb

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 represent the 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


Asuka Period


Shitennoji temple

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. Country 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


Nara Period  


Chinese monk Ganjin


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


Heian Period 


Heian beauties

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


 Kamakura Period  


Gempei warrior

1185 - 1333


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




Muromachi court

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

Noh theater

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


Azuchi -Momoyama


Imjin war sea battle

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

(倭寇 wako)

Japanese pirates raids reached their heyday from 1545-1560


Edo  江戸時代




Edo castle

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

Neo-Confucian influence

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




Meiji fashion

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


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Paleolithic Age