Culture & History

The very first people likely arrived in 35,000 BC from Sakhalin.

The earliest known civilization in Japan is from the Jomon period. The word Jomon means cord pattern or rope pattern. This culture dates back to 15000 BC to 300 BC, and is known for their highly detailed and elaborate pottery that they left behind. They were probably direct ancestors of Japan’s indigenous people, the Ainu. The Ainu had a culture of tattoos, and kept bears as pets. The era of the Jomon ended when the Yayoi, people who crossed from Korea, migrated into the archipelago from the mainland, and brought with them Bronze and Iron age technologies as well as advanced farming techniques that greatly increased crop yields and the population.

Sometime before 240 AD, the Yamato clan gained hegemony and were referred as a single kingdom. The Kofun period is marked by the unification of Japan by the Yamato, who still are considered today as the world’s longest reigning dynasty.

One of a Kind History and Unique Culture Unlike Anywhere Else

Around 538 BC Buddhism was introduced to Japan by the Korean kingdom of Bekten. This is known as the Asuka period, and it is named after the capital city of the time. During the Soga rule in 587-645, the name changed from the Chinese Wah to Nihon. The Nara period was between 710-794, and was characterized by droughts. This period also had an increase in the building of Buddhist temples. The Heian period was from 294 to 1185.

The Mongul Invasions occurred in the 1200’s, and the samurai were able to protect Japan from the invasions. The Murumachi period lasted from 1333-1568. From 1467 to 1568, this period was known as the age of the warring states. Nobunanga united most of Japan. His general, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, free most of the slaves in Japan around 1590. The Tokugawa shogunate edo period lasted from 1600- 1868, and it reestablished the shogunate.

This is the period of time where many rural nobility began to employ their own group of samurai warriors. The first shogun was declared in 1192, after a war involving two of the most powerful clans, the Tyra and the Minimoto, with Minimoto winning. In this time, the emperor was relegated to ceremonial status and the shogun had absolute power.

This period was marked with relative peace and prosperity. In 1853, Commander Perry from the US forced Japan to open up trade with the rest of the world. In the Meiji Period, from 1868-1912, power was officially restored to the emperor. Japanese continued to follow an aggressive expanisionist policy through the first and second World Wars. Japan was occupied from 1945-1952. In this time, the modern political system was established.

During the Kamakura period, from 1185-1333, the system developed where the shogun ruled Japan as a military dictator.

One interesting cultural tradition is White Day, which takes place on March 14th. This day, men give gifts to women who gave them gifts on Valentine’s day. Most Westerners recognize manga as well, and it is a big part of the culture.

In the 1920’s, there were more than 80,000 geisha in Japan, and currently there are only 2,000. There is a blend of cultures, both old and new, in Japan and can even exist side by side.

There are thousands of local festivals to celebrate. Japan’s unique cultural history is well preserved in some areas. 

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