Japan is an archipelago that is made up of 6,500 islands. Japan's four main islands are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku. Japan is located in Eastern Asia surround by the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan. Seventy percent of Japan is mountains and hills. Most of the mountains are volcanoes. Japan lies on the pacific region known as the ring of fire. This region is subject to frequent earthquakes and many tsunamis.


In Japan, a small clan (extended family) rose to power and unified much of Japan. Yamato was the clan's name. They became the first royal dynasty of Japan. The clan's family members became the royal court. Their rule started the time period called Classical Japan, which lasted from around 538 CE to 1185 CE. Classical Japan is divided into 3 small time periods called Asuka, Nara, and Heian. In the beginning of this time period. China greatly influenced Japan, but by the end of this time period. Japan developed a separate culture from China. The evidence is in the writing, which is similar to writing found in Korea and China. China also introduced other parts of their culture. Buddhism was also introduced to Japan from China sometime during the Asuka period. At this time Japanese life was very similar to Chinese. Japan's capital city Nara was modeled after Xi'an, the capital city of Tang China. In various other ways, the Japanese upper classes tried to model themselves after the Chinese, including adopting Chinese writing, fashion, and the religion of Buddhism. In 794 CE, the last period of Classical Japan started. This time period is called the Heian period, because the government moved the capital city to Heian. This is often thought of as the “golden age” of Japan because a unique Japanese culture begins to develop. Japanese culture started to be different from Chinese culture in a few ways. The Japanese developed their own writing during this time rather than using Chinese. This period is the beginning of the samurai class, who would soon take control and start the feudal period of Japan


From the beginning of Japanese civilization until 1185 an emperor ruled all of Japan. An emperor is similar to a king, but in Japan he was also a religious leader. However, the emperor began to lose power in a series of wars. A civil war broke out in 1336 that ended the real power of the emperor. The emperor sent armies of what became known as samurai to fight the civil war for him, and when they returned he gave the title Shogun to the leader of the army, so they would not take him over as emperor. This began a new form of control in Japan, where the leaders of different armies controlled smaller pieces of land, rather than one emperor controlling everything. This is usually called Feudalism. The feudalism in Japan was all basically all a fight for more land, more wealth, and above all more power. The shogun ruled the country through daimyo, who were the heads of samurai. Peasants farmed the land in exchange for protection from the samurai.


Shintoism was a religion developed only in Japan. Shinto means '' the way of gods ''. Shintoism is based on the worship of nature. This religion has no holy book. Shintoism is based on feelings of human beings toward the world around them. They believe that "spirits" called kami live in natural places such as in animals, plants, stones, mountains, rivers, people and even the dead. Shrines can be found anywhere in Japan, they are places of worship. Shinto has 3 important symbols which are sword, string of jewels and a mirror. The sword represents wisdom and correct action. The string of jewels represent kindness, generosity, and obedience. The mirror represents truthfulness, peace and happiness.