A Timeline of Japan

By Tim Lambert

Ancient Japan

c. 8,000 BC People in Japan begin making pottery. They live by hunting, fishing, and collecting shellfish.

c. 300 BC – 300 AD The Yayoi period in Japan. The Japanese begin growing rice, weaving cloth, and using bronze and iron.

300 – 710 AD The Kofun Period. Japan is gradually united. Writing is introduced from China. Buddhism is introduced from Korea.

646 From this date all land in Japan belonged to the emperor. Peasants were made to pay taxes in goods or labour.

710 The city of Nara is built

1000 Lady Murasaki Shikibu writes the worlds first novel, The Tale of Genji

1180 Civil war breaks out between rival families in Japan

1192 Yoritomo becomes Shogun

1274 The Mongols attempt to conquer Japan but fail

1281 The Mongols try again but their fleet is scattered by a typhoon

c. 1300 Trade flourishes in Japan and merchants grow wealthy

1333-1573 The Muromachi Period in Japan. Noh theatre develops.

1467-1477 The Onin War, a civil war is fought

1543 The Portuguese arrive in Japan. Afterwards the Japanese learn to make guns. The Portuguese also bring sweet potatoes and tobacco as well as clocks.

1549 Jesuits led by Francis Xavier arrive in Japan

1571 Nagasaki is founded

1575 A warlord called Oda Nobunaga wins a victory at Nagashino

1582 Oda Nobunaga wins is assassinated but his general Toyotomi Hideyoshi continues his work

1600 A Dutch ship reaches Japan. Onboard is an Englishman William Adams.

1603 Tokugawa Ieyasu makes himself shogun

1612 Christianity is banned in Japan

1633-39 Laws forbid the Japanese to travel aboard of built ocean-going ships.

1641 Dutch merchants are restricted to Nagasaki Harbor

Modern Japan

1853 American ships sail into Japanese water and demand trading rights

1854-56 Japan is forced to allow the USA and certain European countries to trade

1868 The emperor is restored to power (after being a figurehead for centuries) and a program of modernization begins

1870 A telegraph is laid between Tokyo and Yokohama

1872 A railway is laid between Tokyo and Yokohama. Compulsory education is introduced in Japan.

1889 The emperor grants a constitution based on the German one

1894-95 Japan fights a successful war with China

1902 Japan signs a treaty with Britain

1904-05 Japan fights a successful war with Russia

1910 Japan annexes Korea

1923 Tokyo is devastated by an earthquake

1926 Hirohito becomes emperor of Japan

1931 Japan occupies Manchuria

1937 Japan invades the rest of China

1941 Japan attacks the US fleet at Pearl Harbor

1942 Japan captures Singapore and the Philippines but they are defeated at Midway Island

1944 Japan is defeated at Leyte Gulf

1945 The USA drops atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki

1946 The Americans draw up a new constitution for Japan

1955 The Liberal Democratic Party takes power

The 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s Japan experiences rapid economic growth, and living standards rise enormously

1990s Japan is in the economic doldrums

2006 The Democratic Party of Japan wins a majority in the lower house of parliament

2011 Japan suffers a severe earthquake and tsunami but soon recovers