Japanese Empire Leaders: Tokugawa Starting technologies: Fishing The Wheel Unique unit: Samurai Unique building: Shale Plant
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First colony: Korea Empire
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It is not known when humans first settled on the Japanese archipelago, but the Jomon people might be called proto-Japanese, and they were spread throughout the archipelago by 250 BC. The Yayoi culture that arose in Kyushu, while the Jomon culture was still evolving, spread gradually eastward, overwhelming the Jomon. Culturally, the Yayoi represented a notable advance and flourished for some five or six centuries, from the 3rd century BC to the 3rd century AD. The unification of Japan under the Yamato court, with the tenno ("Emperor of Heaven") at its center, occurred around the mid-4th century. The 6th century reign of Kentai (507-531 AD) represented a decline of Yamato influence both at home and abroad the period can be characterized by the growing accumulation of power by regional leaders and a weakening of royal influence.
It was during this Yamato period that Japan first began to experience significant contact with the mainland. Buddhism was introduced to Japan by Korean monks around 530 and was shortly adopted by the emperor`s court. Rather than displacing Japan`s native Shinto religion, Buddhism would eventually merge with it to form the synthesis the characterizes modern Shintoism. Chinese influences were also particularly strong in Japan at this time Prince Shotoku is said to have written the Constitution of Seventeen Articles promoting moral and political principles of the Chinese court. In the year 710, the first permanent Japanese capital was established in Nara, a city modeled after the Chinese capital. Buddhist monasteries near Nara became so influential that the court was moved to Kyoto in 794, which would remain the capital for the next thousand years.
This Heian Period (794-1185) was characterized by a slow decline of Chinese influence in favor of the development of native Japanese customs. In the late Heian period, the more powerful of the Samurai gathered in or near the capital, where they served both the military needs of the emperor and also as bodyguards for the great noble houses. Emerging from provincial warrior bands, the aristocratic Samurai caste of the Kamakura period (1192-1333), with their military skills and deep pride in their stoicism, developed a disciplined culture distinct from the earlier, quiet refinement of the imperial court.
Under the growing influence of Zen Buddhism during the Muromachi period (1338-1573), the samurai culture produced many uniquely Japanese arts that continue today. Although Japan was nominally united under the emperor and the shogun in Kyoto, the reality was that by the end of the Muromachi period the power of the government in Kyoto had declined to practically nothing. Japan disintegrated into a hodgepodge of warring feudal states, each presided over by a daimyo, or feudal lord. Many of the most famous stories of the samurai date from this "Sengoku" Period. Eventually, Japan was reunited through the efforts of three men: Oda Nobunaga, his general Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Hideyoshi`s successor Tokugawa Ieyasu. Tokugawa founded the Edo shogunate (1603-1867), which ended the incessant conflicts and brought reform and peace to the islands. The following two and half centuries of peace brought prosperity to Japan, but the isolationist policy of the shoguns left the nation backwards technologically.
Although small numbers of Spanish and Portuguese traders had been in Japan since the mid-1500s, it was the arrival of a squadron of U.S. warships commanded by Commodore Matthew C. Perry in Uraga Bay in July 1853 that finally opened the nation to Western influence. The opening up of Japan brought pressure for political reforms and a national identity that the oudated shogunate was unable to meet, leading to a revolution in the 1860s. The Meiji government that followed the overthrow of the shogunate set about the task of westernization and the creation of a modern state, and moved Japan onto the world stage. Japan`s stunning victories over China (1894-95) and Russia (1904-05) announced its presence as a world power, but the same nationalistic forces that led to Japan`s resurgence also caused xenophobia and violent excesses against non-Japanese peoples. Japanese aggression in the 1930s and 1940s resulted in invasions of China, Vietnam, Indonesia, and eventually the bombing of Pearl Harbor. After initial successes in World War II, the summer of 1945 brought disaster for the Japanese: the Americans took Okinawa in a bloody invasion, in August the Soviet Union declared war and swept over Manchuria, and atomic bombs largely destroyed the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, respectively. The Pacific War came to an end on August 14, with the formal surrender signed on September 2 in Tokyo Bay aboard the battleship USS Missouri. With postwar American aid, from 1952 to 1973 Japan experienced accelerated economic growth and social change. By the 1990s, Japan was again a first-class power, the senior partner in the emerging Asian economic bloc.