EARLY YEARS: Jimmu was the first recorded emperor circa 660 BC. His
family traditionally came from Takachiho on
Kyushu. After defeating a local chieftain named Nagasunehiko,
they settled in Yamato. "Records of Three Kingdoms" in 297 AD claimed that
Queen Himiko paid tribute to the Chinese kingdom of
Cao Wei (220-265 AD). During the Kofun ("ancient grave")
period (3rd-7th centuries AD), Japanese constructed tombs such as the largest one at
Nintoku Tomb in Osaka.
Nara, founded in 510 AD, was a Buddhist
and cultural center. Circa 700 AD, descendants of the current imperial family emerged, but had little power until 1868 AD.
The Taira clan seized control over the imperial court between 1160 to 1185 AD. They were
noted for exceptional skill in judo. They lost power after the
Minamoto clan won the Battle of Dan-no-ura.
In 1549 AD, Jesuit missionaries arrived and Kyoto authorities welcomed them.
In 1614 AD, Tokugawa attacked Osaka castle with 200,000 men but failed to breach its defenses. His attack on 4 June of the
following year met with resounding success and ended the Toyotomi clan. Tokugawa centralized all power in the hands of a
hereditary shogunate. He also brought peace and prosperity to the approximately 31 million Japanese.
SAKOKU (SECLUSION PERIOD):
In 1637 AD, persecution of Christians and exorbitant taxes resulted in the Shimabara Rebellion
(17 December 1637 - 15 April 1638 AD). Matsukura Shigemasa and his heir, Katsuie, sought to expand their territory and
influence, including a planned invasion of Luzon Island in the
Philippines. Over 30,000 rebels seized
Hara Castle and withstood a siege from 125,000 shogunate troops, including
master swordsman Miyamoto Musashi. Shogunate forces and
Dutch ships destroyed the castle.
Katsuie's abuses and misrule were so severe that he was the only daimyo beheaded during the Edo period. In 1635 AD, the shogun
placed severe restrictions on contact with foreigners due to the uprising.