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Fun with timelines, Japan edition

This is largely mnemonic notetaking for myself, no guarantees of interest to others.

Periods of Japanese history, with distinctive features, and all the reliability of "I read Wikipedia pages last night".

Jomon: 14,000-300 BC. Sedentary hunter gatherers. Ainu anatomy. Some of the oldest pottery in the world, pre-dating the Middle East by millennia, recently beaten by 18,000 BC pottery found in China. Named for the cords used to imprint decorations on their pottery. Contemporary with, uh, everything, from the Ice Age through to Hellenistic times or China's Warring States period.

Yayoi: 300 BC-250 AD. Full-scale rice farming, bronze and iron tools, population changes to more like modern Japanese, Koreans, and Chinese; one could reasonably thing most Japanese people are the descendants of Korean farmers from this time. Chinese documents start referring to 'Wa', as a chaos of tribal communities. Contemporary with Alexander, Punic Wars, Rome's height; Warring States, Qin dynasty, Han Dynasty. Named for an archeological site.

Kofun: 250-538 AD. First part of the broader 'Yamato' period. Yamato dynasty ends up with hegemony over Kyushu and much of Honshu by the end. Named for giant 'keyhole' shaped tomb-mounds. Haniwa (clay tomb offerings.) Contemporary with late antiquity and the early Dark Ages of Western Europe, and general chaos in China.

Asuka: 538-710. Second half of Yamato. Buddhism introduced. Country name changed from Wa to Nihon. Lots of Chinese borrowing including writing, Taoism, and models of strong government. Imperial family claims equality with the Emperor of China and the title of Tennou. Named for I can't tell. Contemporary with the Dark Ages, rise of Islam, and beginning of the Tang Dynasty.

Nara: 710-794. Named for the capital being at Nara, Japan's first urban center. Writing spreads, with Kojiki, Nihon Shoki, and waka poetry. More Buddhism, and building of Todaiji.

Heian: 794-1185. Named for its capital, now Kyoto. Peak of Chinese influences, and hyper developed court culture, coupled with shitty popular conditions. Real power largely with the Fujiwara. Rise of the samurai class. Tang Dynasty government model. War against the Emishi of northeast Honshu, probably heirs of the Jomon and parent/cousin to the Ainu. Hiragana and katakana developed. Tale of Genji. Breakdown of strong government and rise of feudalism. Beginning is contemporary with Charlemagne (crowned HRE in 800), Haroun al Raschid, and Tang; period spans 1066, start of the Crusades, much of the High Middle Ages, and rise of the Song Dynasty.

Kamakura: 1185-1333. First shogunate, by the Minamoto family. Named for the de facto shogunate capital. Double figurehead: Minamoto shogun wields power for the emperor, and Hojo regents wielded power for the shogun. Zen Buddhism arises, among many other sects. Mongols invade, kamikaze. Contemporary with High Middle Ages, Black Death, and Mongols.

Muromachi: 1336 [sic]-1573. "It gets its name from the Muromachi district of Kyoto.[3] The third shogun, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, established his residence on Muromachi Street." Openly military government that was nonetheless weak; things get even more feudal, with rise of the daimyo, passing into the Sengoku (warring states) period. Shinto resurgence, spurred by the kamikaze. Europeans start visiting in 1543, bringing pumpkins and guns. Contemporary with Hundred Year's War, Gutenberg, discovery and conquest of Americas, Yuan and Ming dynasties, War of the Roses, rise of Protestantism, fall of Constantinople, Elizabeth I.

Unification period. Most of Shakespeare's career.

Edo/Tokugawa: 1603-1868. Named for capital or ruling family. Very strong shogunate, "sword hunt" of guns and non-samurai swords, stratifies but peaceful and prosperous society, probably the world's best attempt at autarky. Starts in the same year Elizabeth I dies. North American colonies start. Seclusion (sakoku) starts in 1640s, along with Thirty Year's War and execution of Charles I. Ukiyo-e, kabuki, sushi. Rise of literate and mercantile society. Perry visits in 1853, followed by crisis and opening.

Meiji: 1868-1912. Rapid Westernization, industrialization, nominal democracy, end of formal feudalism. More Shinto resurgence, State Shinto, emphasis on Imperial divinity. Defeats of China and Russia. Named for the Emperor (as will be the rest.)

Taisho: 1912-1926. Democratic peak, in between chaos and militarism. WWI and expansion into Asia. First commoner as prime minister. Fear of Communism. Rise of pan-Asianism.

Showa: 1926-1989. Modern history.

Heisei: 1989-. Starts the same year the Berlin Wall falls. Economic stagnation, worldwide appeal of anime.

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Damien Sullivan

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