The Japanese archipelago was disconnected from the continent after the last ice age, around 11,000 BC.
The first signs of civilization and stable living patterns appeared around 14,000 BC with the Jōmon culture.
The Yayoi period lasted from about 400 or 300 BC to 250 AD. It is named after Yayoi town, the subsection of Bunkyō, Tokyo where archaeological investigations uncovered its first recognized traces.
The Kofun period, began around AD 250, is named after the large tumulus burial mounds (kofun) that appeared at the time. The Kofun period saw the establishment of strong military states centered around powerful clans
Buddhism was introduced to Japan in 538 by Baekje
Starting with the Taika Reform Edicts of 645, Japanese intensified the adoption of Chinese cultural practices and reorganized the government and the penal code in accordance with the Chinese administrative structure.
The Nara period of the 8th century marked the first emergence of a strong Japanese state.
The Heian period, lasting from 794 to 1185, is the final period of classical Japanese history. It is considered the peak of the Japanese imperial court.
The "feudal" period of Japanese history, dominated by the powerful regional families (daimyo) and the military rule of warlords (shogun), stretched from the 12th through the 19th centuries.
The Kamakura period, 1185 to 1333, is a period that marks the governance of the Kamakura shogunate and the transition to the Japanese "medieval" era, a nearly 700-year period.
A major event of the period was the Mongol invasions of Japan between 1272 and 1281., Whilst the Japanese were successful in stopping the Mongols, the invasion attempt had devastating domestic repercussions, leading to the extinction of the Kamakura shogunate.
The Muromachi period is a division of Japanese history running from approximately 1336 to 1573.
In 1543, a Portuguese ship, blown off its course to China, landed on Tanegashima Island Japan. During the following years, traders from Portugal, the Netherlands, England, and Spain arrived.
The 'Azuchi-Momoyama period runs from approximately 1568 to 1600. The period marks the military reunification and stabilization of the country under a single political ruler.
During the Edo period, also called the premodern era, the administration of the country was shared by over two hundred daimyo.
Throughout the Edo Period, the development of commerce, the rise of the cities, and the pressure from foreign countries changed the environment in which the shoguns and daimyo ruled. In 1868, following the Boshin War, the shogunate collapsed, and a new government coalesced around the Emperor.
During the early part of the 17th century, the shogunate suspected that the traders and missionaries were actually forerunners of a military conquest by European powers. Christianity spread in Japan, especially among peasants. During this period of isolation (Sakoku) that began in 1635, Japan was much less cut off from the rest of the world than is commonly assumed, and some acquisition of western knowledge occurred under the Rangaku system.
The policy of isolation lasted for more than 200 years. On July 8, 1853, Commodore Matthew Perry of the U.S. Navy with four warships — the Mississippi, Plymouth, Saratoga, and Susquehanna — steamed into the bay at Edo, old Tokyo, and displayed the threatening power of his ships' cannons during a Christian burial, which the Japanese observed. He requested that Japan open to trade with the West. These ships became known as the kurofune, the Black Ships.
The following year, at the Convention of Kanagawa on March 31, 1854, Perry returned with seven ships and requested that the Shogun sign the "Treaty of Peace and Amity," establishing formal diplomatic relations between Japan and the United States.
Russian pressure from the north appeared after Muraviev had gained Outer Manchuria at Aigun (1858) and Peking (1860). This led to heavy Russian pressure on Sakhalin which the Japanese eventually yielded in exchange for the Kuril islands (1875).
It was tensions over Korea and Manchuria, respectively, that led Japan to become involved in the first Sino-Japanese War with China in 1894-1895 and the Russo-Japanese War with Russia in 1904-1905.
The war with China made Japan the world's first Eastern, modern imperial power, and the war with Russia proved that a Western power could be defeated by an Eastern state.
The Anglo Japanese Alliance treaty, was signed between the United Kingdom and Japan, on January 30, 1902, and announced on February 12, 1902. It was renewed in 1905, and 1911, before its demise in 1921, and its termination in 1923.
Japan entered World War I and declared war on the Central Powers. Though Japan's role in World War I was limited largely to attacking German colonial outposts in East Asia, it took advantage of the opportunity to expand its influence in Asia and its territorial holdings in the Pacific.
The post-war era brought Japan unprecedented prosperity.
Japan went to the peace conference at Versailles in 1919 as one of the great military and industrial powers of the world. It joined the League of Nations and received a mandate over Pacific islands north of the Equator formerly held by Germany.
During the 1920s, Japan progressed toward a democratic system of government in a movement known as 'Taishō Democracy'
Under the pretext of the Manchurian Incident, Lieutenant Colonel Kanji Ishiwara invaded Inner (Chinese) Manchuria in 1931. After several more similar incidents fueled by an expansionist military, the second Sino-Japanese War began in 1937 after the Marco Polo Bridge Incident.
Having joined the Anti-Comintern Pact in 1936, Japan formed the Axis Pact with Germany and Italy on September 27, 1940.
Japan fought the Soviet Union in 1938 in the Battle of Lake Khasan and in 1939 in the Battle of Khalkhin Gol. Comprehensive defeat of the Japanese by the Soviets led by Zhukov in the latter battle led to the signing of the Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact.
In retaliation to the invasion of French Indochina the U.S. began an embargo on such goods as petroleum products and scrap iron. On July 25, 1941, all Japanese assets in the US were frozen.
The attack on Pearl Harbor, sanctioned by Emperor Shōwa on December 1 1941, occurred on December 7 and the Japanese were successful in their surprise attack.
The Japanese Navy's offensive ability was crippled on its defeat in the Battle of Midway. at the hands of the American Navy which turned the tide against them. Japan signed an instrument of surrender on the USS Missouri in Tokyo Harbor on September 2, 1945.
As a result of its defeat at the end of World War II, Japan lost all of its overseas possessions and retained only the home islands.
From the 1950s to the 1980s, Japan experienced its rapid development into a major economic power, through a process often referred to as the Japanese post-war economic miracle.
Tokyo established relations with Beijing in 1972. Close cooperation in the economic sphere followed.
The current government is led by Prime Minister Taro Aso. The ruling coalition is formed by the conservative LDP and the New Komeito Party, a pacifist, theocratic Buddhist political party based on the Buddhist sect Sōka Gakkai. The opposition is formed by the liberal Democratic Party of Japan, the largest party in the upper house. Other parties are the communist Japanese Communist Party, the leftist Social Democratic Party and the conservative People's New Party.
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