Written by: Mark Bucknall
10,000BC – 300BC: Jomon Period
The name Jomon is used to name the era’s rope marked pottery. Somewhere between 35,000 BC and 10,000 BC, the first migrants appeared in Japan. Small groups of people migrated to the Japanese Islands from Korea, the Asian mainland and the South Pacific. These early people were gatherers, hunters and fishers. It was during the later Jomon period that the Shinto Religion first surfaced. Homes of this time period were made of natural materials. Near the end of the Jomon period, systems of government started to develop and the first signs of agriculture were appearing.
300BC – 300AD: Yayoi Period
Again this period name is used to identify the era’s pottery. During this time period people lived in clans. Agriculture was developed and rice was introduced to Japan and grown in flooded fields. Rice farming led to land ownership and rice was used as currency. Social classes began to form with landowners becoming very powerful and wealthy. Iron and bronze were also introduced to Japan during this era.
300AD – 710AD: Kofun Period or the Yamato Period
The people of the Japanese Islands had regular contact with the people of Korea and China during this time and there were many cultural changes. Priests, scholars, artists and craftspeople came bringing with them Chinese art, music, architecture, astronomy, metalworking, shipbuilding and medicine along with the Chinese written language. Buddhism was first introduced, and many beautiful temples were built. The theories of Confucianism and Taoism were also introduced during this era. During this period central Japan was unified and controlled by various emperors.
710 – 794: The Nara Period
Around 710 the first permanent Japanese capital was established in Nara. There were many government changes and a large, well organized government was formed and based on the Chinese model.
Buddhism spread and was proclaimed the official state religion. Large Buddhist monasteries were built in the capital. The monasteries had a strong political influence and in order to protect the emperor the capital was moved to Nagaoka in 784 and then to Kyoto (Heian) in 794.