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History of Japan

The history of Japan includes the history of the islands of Japan and the Japanese
people, spanning the ancient history of the region to the modern history of Japan as a
nation state. Following the last ice age, around 12,000 BC, the rich ecosystem of the
Japanese archipelago fostered human development. The earliest-known pottery found in
Japan belongs to the Jmon period. The first known written reference to Japan is in the
brief information given in Book of Han in the 1st century AD. The main cultural and
religious influences came from China.[1]
The current Imperial House emerged in the sixth century and the first permanent imperial
capital was founded in 710 at Heij-ky (modern Nara), which became a center of
Buddhist art, religion and culture. The development of a strong centralized government
culminated in the establishment of a new imperial capital at Heian-ky (modern Kyoto)
and the Heian period is considered a golden age of classical Japanese culture. Over the
following centuries the power of the reigning emperor and the court nobility gradually
declined and the once centralized state became increasingly fractured. By the time of the
fifteenth century political power was subdivided into several hundred local units, or so
called "domains" controlled by local daimy, each with his own force of samurai
warriors. After a long period of civil war, Tokugawa Ieyasu completed the unification of
Japan and was appointed shogun by the emperor in 1603. He distributed the conquered
land among his supporters, and set up his "bakufu" (literally "tent office" i.e. military
rule) at Edo (modern Tokyo) while the nominal sovereign, the emperor, continued to
reside in the old capital of Kyoto. The Edo period was prosperous and peaceful. Japan
terminated the Christian missions and cut off almost all contact with the outside world.
In the 1860s the shogunate came to an end, power was returned to the emperor and the
Meiji period began. The new national leadership systematically ended feudalism and
transformed an isolated, underdeveloped island country, into a world power that closely
followed Western models. Democracy was problematic, because Japan's powerful
military was semi-independent and overruledor assassinatedcivilians in the 1920s
and 1930s. The military invaded Manchuria in 1931 and escalated the conflict to all-out
war on China in 1937. Japan controlled the coast and major cities and set up puppet
regimes, but was unable to entirely defeat China. Its attack on Pearl Harbor in December
1941 led to war with the United States and its allies. After a series of naval victories by
mid-1942, Japan's military forces were overextended and its industrial base was unable to
provide the needed ships, armaments, and oil. But even with the navy sunk and the main
cities destroyed by U.S. air attacks, the military held out until August 1945 when the twin
shock of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Soviet invasion of
Manchuria made it possible for the emperor to force the military to surrender.
The U.S. occupied Japan until 1952. Under the supervision of the U.S. occupation forces
a new constitution was drafted and enacted in 1947 that transformed Japan into a
parliamentary monarchy. After 1955, Japan enjoyed very high economic growth rates,
and became a world economic powerhouse, especially in engineering, automobiles and

electronics with a highly developed infrastructure, a very high standard of living and the
highest life expectancy in the world. Emperor Shwa died in 1989 and his son Emperor
Akihito ascended the throne marking the beginning of a new era. Since the 1990s
economic stagnation has been a major issue, with an earthquake and tsunami in 2011
causing massive economic dislocations and loss of nuclear power.