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10. Medieval Japan

  • Japan consists of four islands – Hokkaido, Honshu, Kyushu and Shikoku.
  • The entire country was a single state till around 7th century AD.
  • In the 8th century Edo, i.e. Kyoto became the capital and was seat of emperors of Japan for more than 1000 years. The real power was in the hands of aristocratic family.
  • Shogun was one of the (usually) hereditary military dictators of Japan from 1192 to 1867. In this period, the shoguns, or their shikken regents (1203–1333), were the de facto rulers of Japan though they were nominally appointed by the emperor.
  • Tokugawa Ieyasu was the most powerful man in Japan after Hideyoshi had died in 1598. Against his promises he did not respect Hideyoshi's successor Hideyori because he wanted to become the absolute ruler of Japan.
  • In the battle of Sekigahara in 1600, Ieyasu defeated the Hideyori loyalists and other Western rivals. Hence, he achieved almost unlimited power and wealth.
  • In 1603, Ieyasu was appointed Shogun by the emperor and established his government in Edo (Tokyo). The Tokugawa shoguns continued to rule Japan for a remarkable 250 years.
  • In 1867-68, the Tokugawa government fell because of heavy political pressure, and the power of Emperor Meiji was restored.
  • The emperor Meiji was moved from Kyoto to Tokyo which became the new capital; his imperial power was restored. The actual political power was transferred from the Tokugawa Bakufu into the hands of a small group of nobles and former samurai.
  • In order to stabilize the new government, the former feudal lords (daimyo) had to return all their lands to the emperor. This was achieved already in 1870 and followed by the restructuring of the country in prefectures.
  • The samurai, a class of highly skilled warriors, gradually developed in Japan after the Taika reforms of 646 A.D. The Samurai or the warriors were similar to the Knights of Western Europe.
  • The most unique contributions of medieval Japan to literature was a form of poetry called Haiku. Haiku poems are short poems of only 17 syllables.
  • Japanese art covers a wide range of art styles and media, including ancient pottery, sculpture in wood and bronze, ink painting and calligraphy on silk and paper, ukiyo-e woodblock prints, and more recently manga - modern Japanese cartoons - along with a myriad of other types of works of art. It also has a long history, ranging from the beginnings of human habitation in Japan, sometime in the 10th millennium BC, to the present.
  • Ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arrangement, also known as kadō - the "way of flowers".
  • Buddhism was first introduced into Japan from Korea in the year 522.  As a foreign religion, it first met with resistence but it was recognized in 585 by emperor Yomei. 
  • During the period of government of Prince Shotoku (593-621) Buddhism was the official religion of Japan.  Shotoku fostered the study of Buddhist scriptures and founded Horyu-ji in Nara among other temples.

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