The History of Japan

Classical Japan

The Japanese Classical Period (538~1185) comes after the Ancient Period. It starts with the Asuka Period, where Buddhism was reinforced after being introduced from Korean Kingdom of Baekje. This religion largely influenced the Japanese society as a whole, causing significant social, political, and artistic changes. Another significant change was the change of name of the country from Wa (倭) to Nihon (日本), which is where the name “land of the rising sun” originates.

The Asuka Period is also known for the Taika Reform, which was based on Confucianism. This reform implemented a tax system, nationalized land and equally distributing it among cultivators, and enhanced the Imperial Court’s power. Japanese students were sent to China to learn more about their society, where they studies the Chinese literature, architecture, and religion among other things.

After that comes the Nara Period (710~794). The central government created the first capital of Japan at Heijo-kyo, which is where modern-day Nara lies. Japan suffered from a series of calamities. Famine, disease outbreaks, wildfires, and drought killed over a quarter of the population.

The decline in population continued throughout the Heian Period (794~1185), where the capital was moved to Heian-kyo, modern-day Kyoto, and remained the capital of Japan until the Meiji Restoration in 1868.

This period is the height of poetry, such as the Kokinshu and the Tosa Diary, literature, with books like The Pillow Book and the famous Genji Monogatari, Buddhism, Taoism, and architecture. On the other hand, power of the Imperial Court declined in favor of the Fujiwara Clan, who actually controlled the country, going as far as enthroning and dethroning Emperors at will.

With the end of the Heian Period comes the Kamakura Period, marking the beginning of Medieval Japan.