Japan Notes


  1. Geography
    1. Volcanic Islands off the coast of Asia
      1. ¾ covered in Mountains
      2. Surrounded by water 
        1. Good defences
        2. Good fishing
        3. Rocky cliffs
    2. Frequent rainfall and relatively warm temperatures (especially in south)
      1. Good for rice and forests
  2. Early influences from Korea and China
    1. Chinese Gov’t
      1. Early Japanese gov’t (c.5th Cent.) was controlled by local uji; emperor only loosely controlled the various uji
      2. By 7th and 8th Cent. Japan adopted Chinese bureaucracy to establish various controlling offices in Japan; emperor gained more power
        1. Merit based officials
        2. Heavy taxation to support gov’t
    2. Art and Architecture
      1. Japan’s first capital(Nara), built in 710, was a mini copy of Chang’an
      2. Borrowed design of upturned roofs
      3. Sculpture
        1. Borrowed Korean sculpting styles and techniques
          1. Koreans borrowed from Chinese
    3. Religion
      1. Buddhism arrived by 6th cent. from Korea
        1. Japanese incorporated it into local religion, Shinto
    4. Writing
      1. Japanese had no written language
      2. Used Chinese characters to write Japanese words (Kanji)
        1. Was made difficult due to different sounds in languages and the many characters of Chinese
      3. Later developed Kana; a simplified version of Chinese characters to write Japanese syllables
      4. Poetry
        1. Japanese new use of writing began a flourishing tradition of poetry
        2. Japanese copied the Chinese tanka (5-7-5-7-7)
          1. Later developed the haiku (5-7-5)
          2. Wrote great epics
  3. Heian Period (794-1185)
    1. In 794, Emperor Kammu moved capital to Heian-kyo along the Yodo river
      1. Worried about Buddhist priest influence in old Nara
      2. Modeled after Chang’an (with walls)
      3. Spacious city with much wildlife/nature present
    2. Lifestyle
      1. Rank in society dependant on birth
        1. Birth > personal quality or skill
        2. 9 Ranks in Heian Court
          1. 1-3 Emperor and Nobles
          2. 4-5 Gov’t officials
          3. 6-9 minor officials, clerks, and experts in law and medicine
        3. Class systems within rank
      2. Beauty, elegance, fashion > generosity, honesty
        1. Prized a very specific fashion
      3. Literature
        1. Highest form of artistic expression
          1. All members of Heian nobility expected to write good poetry
            1. Specific structure and tone in poetry was essential
        2. Writing
          1. Katakana- formal way of writing used by men
          2. Hiragana- “cursive” version of Japan used informally by women
          3. Handwriting revealed inner character and goodness
        3. Flouring Female Authors
          1. Murasaki Shikibu wrote the greatest classical work of Japan Tale of Genji
          2. Sei Shonagon wrote Pillow Book
          3. Most women kept regular diaries of their experiences
    3. Politics
      1. Emperor was supreme leader by birth
        1. Family line was descended of the sun goddess
      2. De facto rulers of Japan were the noble families especially the Fujiwara Family
        1. Controlled gov’t rule by serving as advisors to emperor
        2. Fujiwara Michinaga
          1. Greatest leader of family for 30 years
            1. Father of 4 empresses, uncle of 2 emperors, grandfather of 3 
      3. Fall
        1. Nobles were given large tax free estates
          1. Decreased revenue to the emperor; increased for noble families
            1. Decentralized power from the gov’t 
              1. Noble family hired warriors (samurai) to defend land
  4. Feudal Japan 1185-19th cent.
    1. Rise of the Shogunate
      1. 2 ruling families, Taira and Minamoto clans, fought for power
        1. Minamoto Yoritomo successfully defeated rival clan and claimed power as shogun
          1. shogun – the head of the military gov’t of Japan
          2. Emperor was still the supreme ruler but without much power
    2. Feudal society
      1. Shogun ruled like a king over the land
        1. Hired families of samurai to fight in army (like knights)
          1. Samurai rewarded with offices and land grants
        2. Some family leaders became daimyos- local warrior lords (like a european lord)
    3. Ashikaga Shogunate (mid 14th- late 16th cent.)
      1. Period of civil war and dramatic violence
      2. Developments in samurai code “Bushido”
    4. National Unification 1568-1600
      1. Oda Nobunaga, a lesser daimyo successfully defeated a very powerful daimyo
        1. Later conquered the capital at Kyoto
      2. Ruled by force
        1. Destroyed daimyos that threatened him
          1. Razed a buddhist temple that housed conspirators
        2. Gave titles and authority to defeated daimyos to gain trust
        3. Built strategic castles
        4. Encouraged trade and industry
          1. Opened Nagasaki to foreign commerce
      3. Oda Nobunaga murdered in 1582, succeeded by his General Hideyoshi
        1. Hideyoshi conquered remaining territories
          1. Made daimyos swear total allegiance
          2. Died trying to conquer China
    5. Tokugawa Shogunate 1600-1867
      1. Consolidated power
        1. Limited power of daimyos through many laws
          1. Had to live alternately at the capital
          2. Enforced Bushido code
          3. Controlled noble marriages
          4. Required samurai to live in castles
      2. Urbanization
        1. Increased investment in farming boomed economy and pop.
        2. Movement of daimyos and construction of castles lead to town and road growth
          1. Capitalist economy sprung from booming economy and castle towns
      3. Sakoku- closed borders and trade to outside world
        1. BUT- dutch trade in south increase western information exchange
          1. Increased interest in western technologies
        2. Christian evangelization begun by St. Francis Xavier in 1549
          1. By 1600, 300,000 Christians baptized
          2. Later Christians persecuted by gov’t