The History of Japan

Medieval Japan

Medieval Japan (1185~1603) starts with the Kamakura Period and the establishment of feudalism. After the downfall of the Taira Clan at the end of the Genpei War, Minamoto no Yorimoto founded the first Shogunate in 1192 in Kamakura. An advancement in military technologies allowed for the first Samurai to emerge, and lords to reward their vassals with fiefs. Buddhism also sees an expansion during this period, where six new schools were founded.

The Kamakura period is also known for two mongol invasions, both which failed due to typhoons. This is where the famous word “kamikaze”, or “divine wind” originates from.

The destruction of the Kamakura Shogunate in 1333 marks the end of the Kamakura Period, and the three-year-long Kenmu Restoration. Emperor Go-Daigo tried to re-establish the Imperial rule during that time, in vain. When his attempt failed, the Ashikaga Shogunate took over the reins of power, which marked the beginning of the Muromachi Period in 1336.

Many economical and cultural developments took place during the Muromachi Period. Zen Buddhism spread around the country, helping various arts such as literature, poetry, Noh, andthe tea ceremony to flourish. The Portuguese and the Spaniards also arrived by the end of this period. Various trades helped improve militaristic and scientific advances, bringing firearms, tobacco, clocks, and other things to Japan.

However, a violent civil war broke out around the end of the Muromachi Period, burning Kyoto in its entirety, marking the beginning of a period of near-constant military conflicts called the Sengoku Period. This sparked the apparition of spies and assassins, better known as ninjas.

This whole conflict ended in the Azuchi-Momoyama Period, when Tokugawa Ieyasu won the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600. He, as well as Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi were responsible for the gradual Unification of Japan, which marked the beginning of the Edo Period, and hundreds of years of peace and stability over the entire country.