Japan Early History

Japan Early History

PREHISTORY

Among the oldest finds in Japan are the splinter and double-sided industries found in Sozudai, on the island of Kyūshū (southern Japan) which could date back to about 70,000 years ago. Slightly more recent are the oldest industries at the Hoshino site, 80 km north of Tōkyō, dated to ca. 50,000 years ago, while those of the more recent levels of the same site date back to the upper Paleolithic. The materials from the Fukui shelter date back to 30,000 years (island of Honshū). There are numerous testimonies of industries of the upper Paleolithic; among them we remember Nogawa, near Tōkyō, with dates between 18.500 and 7500 years BC. C.; Yasumiba, on the island of Honshū (central Japan) with artifacts dated to ca. 14,000 years ago; Uenodaira, ca. 150 km north of Tōkyō, with double-sided foliacal tips dated between 14,000 and 12,000 years BC. C., and Shirataki with foliaceous points, scratchers and javelin armor in obsidian, with dates between 18,000 and 10,000 years BC. C. Much better known are the cultural complexes of later times, which for the Neolithic and Eneolithic periods are concentrated in the Jōmon group and its delays, as well as in the subsequent Yayoi culture. Check homeagerly for Japan democracy and human rights.

HISTORY: FROM THE ORIGINS OF THE EMPIRE TO THE DECLINE OF THE FUJIWARA

The Japanese history of the most ancient periods can be reconstructed through the sparse evidence of Chinese historiographic sources, the examination of archaeological finds and the reading of local historiographic works such as the Kojiki and the Nihongi . These were however drawn up only in the century. VIII and are affected by the desire to rival the venerable Chinese antiquity, an element that makes them unreliable as regards the most ancient periods. According to the mythology of Kojiki, in fact, the origins of the Empire should be placed in 660 BC. C. with the descent from heaven by Jimmu Tennō, the grandson of the Sun Goddess and first ruler of the still reigning dynasty. In reality, only in the first centuries of the Common Era, thanks to renewed migratory flows from the continent, did Japan experience an era that can be defined as protohistoric and which is characterized by large “mound tombs”. At that moment the country seemed to present itself as a loose confederation of semitribal entities, the uji, united by real or presumed blood ties and the worship of a common divinity. The ruler of Japan (or, better, of a small part of today’s archipelago, perhaps limited to the island of Kyūshū) was none other than the head of the uji more powerful, a figure (often women with shamanic characteristics) whose effective political powers were, in practice, quite limited. The society of the time knew, through the Sino-Korean mediation, the use of metals, agriculture and writing. Religion was made up of the set of cults, rites and beliefs that later took the name of shintō. The advent of the historical era substantially coincided with the introduction of Buddhism (mid-6th century) which triggered long struggles between the three most powerful families: the Soga, the Mononobe and the Nakatomi.. The latter, in support of the indigenous Shinto cult, claimed the traditional conception of the state, while the Soga (even without realizing it perfectly) with the defense of Buddhism aimed at the creation of a state with central power on the Chinese example. The triumph of the Soga found in Shōtoku Taishi (573-621), regent and heir to the throne of Empress Suiko, the most effective propagator of the new religion. Under him came the total affirmation of Buddhism and the decisive turning point in the transformation of Japan into a centralized empire.

Ties with China became closer: in 604 Shōtoku Taishi decided to adopt the Chinese calendar and promulgated the Code in seventeen articles, which sanctioned the institutional changes of the new Japanese Empire; in 607 the “Japanese embassies” in China began which accentuated the continental influence on the archipelago. The political principles advocated by Shōtoku Taishi took their final form in 646 with the Taika reform, an attempt to give the new Japanese Empire the bureaucratic structure of the Chinese one with the dissolution of some uji, the appointment of governors for the provinces, a new tax system. and a census. With the centralization of the State, the urban history of the country also began: in fact, the custom of changing capital fell upon the death of each sovereign, and in 710 the Empress Gemmyō ordered the construction of the city of Nara, on the Chinese model, making it the first authentic capital. The period of Nara (710-784) is an important stage in the cultural history of the country: the monks contributed in a decisive way to it, but they took too active part in the political life of the court. Their ties (as well as their intrigues) forced the Emperor Kammu to transfer the capital first to Nagaoka and finally, in 794, to Heian (today’s Kyōto), destined to remain the seat of the imperial court until 1868. The period that followed, called Heian (794-1185), revealed the impossibility of carrying out the sinization process of Japanese society and underlined, precisely in its most positive cultural aspects, the gap between the court and the rest of the country. While on the institutional level there was the phenomenon of the two courts (that of the emperor in office and that of the abdicated emperor), the effective power was in the hands of the Fujiwara family., which, however, failed to avoid the rise of new and powerful military families in the vast eastern territories. In fact, the continuous transfer of land ownership rights to Buddhist monasteries and aristocratic families had facilitated the formation of large estates and these in turn had led to the birth of semi-autonomous armed groups. Some families of distant imperial ancestry took advantage of the presence of these militias, such as the Taira and Minamoto, to form real armies capable of threatening the power of the Fujiwara. The danger was warned too late, by the last “great” of the Fujiwara, Michinaga (965-1027), who vainly established close relations with the military clans.

Japan Early History