Emergence of Japan

By: Ellison and LeAndra Dave

Geography Sets Japan Apart

  • Japan is located on an chain of islands
  • Four-Fifths of the land is too mountainous to farm
  • Japanese isolated themselves from foreign influences
  • Seas served as trade routes
  • Japan lies in the Ring of Fire

Early Traditions

  • Early Japanese society was divided into clans (uji)
  • Some clan leaders were women and enjoyed a respected position
  • Early Japanese clans honored Kami ( or superior powers)
  • Korean artisans and metalworkers brought sophisticated skills and technology

Japan looks to China

  • Chinese visitors spent a year negotiating, trading,and studying
  • In 710 Japanese empire built a new capital(Nara)
  • Japanese wrote in Japanese , cooked Chinese dishes, and used/participated in Chinese pottery, tea drinking,gardens, music and dance
  • Japanese kept some Chinese ways but discarded others (selective borrowing)

The Heian Period

  • Blending of Cultures from 794 to 1185
  • Elegant and Sophisticated culture
  • Heian women produced the most important works of Japanese literature
  • The best know hand writer was Murasaki Shikibu who made The Tale of Genji(the world's first full length novel)
  • Heian poems and romances had a sense of sadness

Warriors Establish Feudalism

  • Japan established Feudalism
  • The shogun distributed land to vassal lords who in turn supported him with their armies
  • Daimyo granted land to samurai
  • The samurai developed their own code of values called bushido
  • some noblewomen in Japanese feudal society trained in the military arts
  • peasants made up 75% of the population
  • The cultivated rice and other crops and also served as foot soldiers
  • Merchants had the lowest ranks and artisans provided weapons for the samurai

The Tokugawas Unite Japan

  • The Tokugawa shoguns maintained the outward forms of feudal society and imposed central government control on Japan
  • Created a unified orderly society
  • Had a centralized feudalism
  • A daimyo's family had to remain in Edo full time
  • Shogun also forbid daimyo to repair their castles or marry without permission
  • Food surplus supported rapid population growth
  • Trade flourished within Japan
  • Japanese Merchants gained influence by lending money to daimyo and samurai

Zen Buddhism Shapes Culture

  • Zen emphasized self reliance, meditation, and devotion to duty
  • Zen Buddhists believed that people could seek enlightenment through medication and precise performance
  • Zen reverence for nature influenced the development of fine landscape paintings

Artistic Traditions Change

  • Urban Cultures emphasized luxuries and pleasures
  • Towns gave rise to a new form of drama: Kabuki
  • Japanese paintings often reflected the influence of Chinese landscape paintings
  • Urban culture produced colorful woodblock prints to satisfy middle-class tastes


  • Japan Gets isolated by geography
  • Japanese visitors selectively borrow Chinese Culture
  • Japan Establishes Feudalism