AS 201 Early Japanese History Landmark Events

297 Wei Chronicle mentions "Land of Wa" and "Yamataikoku" led by a female ruler, Himiko


Early Kofun findings:

--Makimuku Tomb Cluster at Ishizuka c. 190-220 AD

--Hashihaka Tomb--may be Himiko's Tomb?--c.250 AD?

(The archaeologists believe that Hashihaka was built around the end of 3rd century – early 4th century AD, but the discoveries from recent excavation shows the possibility of much earlier construction.)

--Miwa Keyhole Tombs c. 220-350 AD; one of the Miwa Court rulers, known as Sujin, may be the earliest verifiable Japanese monarch but it is doubtful that a term like tenno (天皇) or Sumera-no-mikoto would have been in use that early. It is ususally thought that Tenmu (r. 672-686) was the first monach to adopt the term tenno. While his offical reign years are 97-30 BC probably 219-249 AD is more like it. Archeologist J. Edward kidder believes that:

"The construction of large mounded tombs in Japan is too coincidental with the break up of the Han dynasty (AD 220) not to be related. Some mound builders are undoubtedly among the new migrants, but without doubt, by the end of the Yayoi period, tribal groups had coalesced under security needs, the power of chieftans had become greatly inflated with land acquisitions and access to or control of metal resources, and the chieftans or their associates had gained stature by exercising their special relationship to the kami. This last was a view promoted by the rising professional class of diviners. Collections of tribes in the major population centers of north Kyushu, Izumo, Kibi, and the Kinki were under Yamato pressure to join the larger confederacy. The Wa then got their first chief among chieftans (Ôkimi), called Sujin tennô by later writers. All of this centralization of pwer set the stage for the building of the tombs. (J. Edward Kidder, Himiko and Japan's Elusive Chiefdom, 2007, p. 274) And later he writes: "Princess Yamato-totohi-momoso, the aunt of Emperor Sujin, the female shaman to whom the Hashikaka Tomb is attributed, fits the time period in my view." (281) So Kidder would place Princess Himiko in the thriving Makimuku community where the first mounded tombs were built and what must have been the most thriving politial commmunity of its day, as well as the hub of a substantial trading network. (Ibid.)


Later Kofun Transitions--300-450 AD


--Emergence of early form of Japanese state? i.e., a loose confederation of clans "unified" by ritual observances and gift-giving.

--One of Japan's largest keyhole tombs is called Empeor Nintoku's tomb who may have reigned between 395-427 AD though the official histories like to say 313-399 AD.

See further discussion of dating issues here.


552 AD Introduction of Buddhism -- sponsored by a powerful clan known as the Soga.


604 AD Prince Shotoku and his 17 Article Constitution;

He introduces a new Chinese character to stand for the Land of Wa, 和(Wa) meaning "Harmony;" it replaced the character the Chinese used, 倭, which was more pejorative meaning short in stature or even "dwarfish." Shotoku chose a character to stand for the people of Yamato (和) that meant Harmony, an indication of his push to achieve greater unity among the powerful Japanese clans or uji, and mold them into a Chinese style proto-state. One of early Japan's distinctive features was the so-called uji-kabane system in which specialists and crafts people were organized into "be" kind of like hereditary guilds for potters, scribes, saddle-makers, weavers, fishermen, and these be were in service to the different clans or lineage groups known as uji, each one of which had its own deity. It was this kind of regional or local power base and authority that Shotoku and others wanted to supersede.

622 Prince Shotoku dies


646 Taika Reforms -- Fujiwara family (known as the Nakatomi at the time) conspires with a prince of the "Sun Line" and triumphs over the Soga clan, eliminating their influence from government; thye then put in place the


701 Taiho Codes or Ritsu-Ryo = Tang Administrative System adapted to Japan

These codes were set down as the Taiho Ritsuryo of 701 and revised in the Yoro Ritsuryo a few years later. Shotoku Taishi's seventeen-article constitution of 604 and the Taika ('great change') reforms of 646 exemplify the ritsuryo-type centralized administrative structure modeled on the Sui-Tang China system; it helped enhance the influence Buddhism, Confucianism and Yin-Yang thought in Japan.


710 Captial moved to Nara

712 Kojiki compiled

720 Nihon shoki compiled

758 Manyoshu--poetic anthology--compiled


794 captal moved to Kyoto by Emperor Kammu

905 Kokinshu, 1st Imperial Poetry anthology compiled