The Emergence of Japan/ Feudal Age

Geography Sets Japan Apart

  • Japan is located on an archipelago about 100 miles off the Asian mainland and east of the Korean peninsula.
  • It's 4 main islands are: Hokkaido, Honshu, Kyushu, and Shikoku
  • Japan is about the size of Montana
  • People settled in narrow river valleys along the coastal plains
  • Mild Climate and sufficient rainfall
  • All the rain helped Japanese farmers make the most of the limited arable land.
  • Surrounding seas have both protected and isolated Japan.
  • The country was close enough to the mainland to learn from Korea and China
  • Japanese sealed themselves off from foreign influences
  • The seas that helped Japan preserve it's identity also served as trade routes
  • The Inland Sea was an especially important link among various Japanese islands.
  • The seas provided many food resources
  • Japan lies in a region know as the Ring of Fire which is a made up chain of volcanoes that encircle the Pacific Ocean.
  • They have frequent volcanic activity and earthquakes

Early Traditions


  • The Japanese slowly pushed the earlier inhabitants.
  • Early Japanese society was divided into clans
  • Each clan had its own chief and a special god or goddess who was known as the ancestor of the clan
  • A.D 500, Yamato Clan came to dominate a corner of Honshu
  • The Yamato plain was the heartland of of Japanese government.
  • They Claimed direct decent from the sun goddess.
  • Japanese Empires were revered as living god
  • Early Japanese clans honored Kami
  • The Japanese language is distantly related to Korean but completely different from China

Japan Looks to China

  • 600's prince Shotoku of the Yamato clan decided to learn about China directly instead of through Korean sources
  • Many Japanese students, monks, traders, and officials visited the Tang court
  • Each visitor to China spent a year or more negotiating , trading, but above all studying
  • The new Bureaucracy had little real authority beyond the royal court
  • 710 the Japanese emperor built a new capital at Nara , modeled on the Tang capital at Chang'an
  • Japanese officials and scholars used Chinese characters to write official histories
  • Buddhism spread the Japanese adopted pagoda architecture
  • The initial enthusiasm for everything Chinese died down
  • 800's as Tang China began to decline, the Japanese court turned away from it's model

The Heian Period

  • Heian court an elegant and sophisticated culture blossomed
  • Men at court still studied Chinese
  • The best known Heian writer was Murasaki Shikibu.
  • While noble men and women strolled through manicured gardens.

Warriors Establish Feudalism

  • Feudal warfare swept Japan in the 1400's
  • The emperor presided over the splendid court at Heian
  • Shogun controlled only a small part of Japan
  • Noblewomen in Japanese feudal society trained in the military arts
  • A few became legendary warriors

The Tokugawa Unite Japan

  • The Karakorum shogunate crumbled in the aftermath of the mongol invasions.
  • Several powerful warriors unite large parts of Japan