History of Japan
According to surviving legends, Japanese history begins in 660 BC, when the first Japanese emperor, Jimmu, ascended the throne. He was probably the ruler of the state of Yamato in the southwestern part of central Honshu.
By the 5th century AD, the Japanese occupied the southern part of Korea and established the first contacts with China. They took over the early forms of writing from the advanced Chinese civilization. By the middle of the 6th century, the state of Yamato loses its Korean possessions, and a new cultural current – Buddhism – begins to penetrate Japan through Korea. The original Japanese religion was Shinto (Shinto – “way of the gods”). Buddhism flourished towards the end of the 6th century during the reign of the statesman and scholar Prince Shotoku (574 – 622).
In 794, Heiankyo, today’s Kyoto located in the central part of western Honshu, became the imperial city of Japan, and it retained its position until 1868. With the increasing isolation of Japan, the reigning emperors came under the sway of powerful regent families, of which the Fujiwars stood out in particular, who they retained de facto power throughout the 11th century. This period was also significant for the rise of the samurai, a military class that became the only real bearer of power in the provinces. In 1192, Joritomo Minamoto (1147 to 1199) received the first title of shogun, a military generalissimo, and settled in Kamakura, south of today’s Tokyo.
In 1274 and 1281, the military feudal system was threatened by two Mongol invasions from Korea. Each time the invading fleet was scattered by a typhoon later called a kamikaze (“divine wind”), but the costly war preparations led to the shogunate’s financial collapse. In 1333, the power of the shogunate – the bakufu government – was overthrown in favor of a new emperor. Later, the shogunate rule was restored in Kyoto again.
In 1542, according to RECIPESINTHEBOX, the first Europeans, Portuguese traders from Macao, penetrated into Japan, and with their arrival a new powerful weapon came into the hands of the feudal princes – the musket. Much more important, however, was the Christianity introduced by the Spanish Jesuit Francis Xavier (1506–1552), who was followed by other missionaries.
At that time, the struggle for supremacy over the country intensified, which continued until 1548, when Nobunaga Oda (1534–1582) marched into Kyoto and began a period of unification of the country. After Nobunaga’s death, his capable warlord Hideioshi Toiotomi (1536–1598) took over and in 1587 made Nagasaki, a port on the western side of Kyushu, the imperial city. Nagasaki soon attracted Spanish, Dutch and Portuguese merchant ships.
Hideyoshi’s successor, Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543–1616), continued the unification process and established the Tokugawa Shogunate, which lasted from 1603 to 1867. Ieyasu initially supported foreign trade and was receptive to Western influences, but later became concerned about the further spread of Christianity. From 1636, therefore, all contact with European traders and missionaries – with the exception of the city of Nagasaki – is prohibited, and the persecution of Japanese Christians begins.
As the shogunate governments subjected the population to ever greater repression and at the same time showed signs of decay, foreign pressures and internal discontent eventually led to the breaking of Japan’s isolation. Two major rebellions were put down in 1836 and 1837, a period when European and American ships exerted strong pressure to restore foreign trade. In July 1853, a fleet of American warships commanded by Commodore Matthew Galbraith Perry (1794–1858) arrived and anchored in Tokyo Bay. She remained there until the Japanese agreed to a trade and diplomatic treaty with the United States. Further resistance to foreign intervention resulted in the shelling of Japanese ports. In 1867, Crown Prince Mucuhito defeated the last shogun’s army and the following year restored direct imperial rule as Emperor Meiji.
Under the leadership of a powerful court, Emperor Meiji abolished the feudal system, replaced the samurai military class with an army of conscripts, and began the industrialization of the country. In 1889, he announced a new constitution drawn up according to European models, but in which he retained the figure of the divine emperor as head of state.
Fifteen years after Japan occupied the Ryukyu Archipelago in the East China Sea in 1879 and refused to withdraw its troops from Korea, war broke out between China and Japan. The Chinese fleet was soon overwhelmed and largely destroyed. According to the peace treaty of 1895, the defeated China had to give up Taiwan as well. Japanese troops also helped rescue members of other nations during the Boxer Rebellion of 1900. Japan then smoothly won the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–5 and annexed Korea without issue in 1910.
During World War I, Japan seized German possessions in the Pacific, namely the Mariana, Caroline and Marshall Islands, and occupied part of the Shantung Peninsula in eastern China. When China made demands for the return of occupied territories, Japan decided to restrict mutual trade. Alarmed by his aggressive stance, Japan’s allies began to negotiate the withdrawal of Japanese forces from Shantung, but Japan became increasingly militant and aggressive.
In 1931, it occupied Manchuria, created the puppet state of Manchukuo, and in 1937 renewed the war against China. The Japanese occupied all the major cities on the Chinese coast and a number of islands. In 1940, Japan signed an alliance with Nazi Germany (Berlin-Tokyo Axis) and entered World War II in late 1941 with a surprise raid on the American fleet anchored in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The Japanese military soon occupied the Philippines, Hong Kong, Indochina, Siam (Thailand), the Malay Peninsula, Burma, Borneo, Sumatra, and Java. However, in May 1942, a turning point occurred and the Japanese began to lose and clear one conquered territory after another. By 1945, many Japanese cities had experienced heavy bombing. However, Japan continued to reject the demands of the Allies for unconditional surrender, and so on August 6, 1945, an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in western Honshu. The second bomb was dropped three days later on the city of Nagasaki. On 8/14, six days after the Soviet Union invaded Manchuria, Japan finally surrendered and was occupied by the United States Army.
In 1946, Emperor Hirohito (1901 to 1989) denied his divine origin and the government adopted a new, fully democratic constitution. In 1951, Japan signed the San Francisco Peace Treaty and Security Agreement with the US and most of its World War II adversaries, and the following year American occupation forces were withdrawn. Japan gradually acquired most of the neighboring islands that it had lost at the end of the war, only Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands remained in the hands of the Soviet Union.
By the 1960s, thanks to new technologies, the Japanese economy had recovered from war damage and was ranked third in the world in terms of output (gross national product). The country was hit hard by the oil crisis of the 1970s and the subsequent global recession. However, it carried out a major restructuring of the economy and since then its continuous economic growth has continued.