A Chronology of Japanese History

Yamato Period (300-550) & Asuka Period (550-710)
Nara Period (710-794)
Heian Period (794-1185)
794 Imperial court and capital city moved to Heiankyō (Kyōto).
794 In order to encourage people to study at the university, emperor Kammu adopts two measures: 1) He eliminates the hereditary privilege allowing sons of high ranking officials into government positions without taking an examination. The new measure stipulates that people taking and passing exams will be granted higher official positions. 2) In addition, he instituted the scholarship fields of Chinese Classics and History which provided sustenance for the students while they studied.
800-900 Numerous extra-legal offices and bureaus are established which weaken or circumvent the codes and offices established with the implementation of the Taihō Codes earlier.
803 Sakanouye Tamuramarō finally drives Ainu further to the North and is able to establish garrisons at Izawa and Shiba in Northern Mutsu province. For this accomplishment he is awarded the title Sei-i-Tai-Shōgun (Barbarian Subduing Generalissimo) - the first to hold this title.
805 In recognition that the tax burden on the common farmer for the military campaigns in the northeast and for building the new capital are proving unbearable, advisors to the throne discuss plans to cancel private debt and outstanding taxes.
805 The Tendai sect of Buddhism is founded by Saichō (Dengyō Daishi). This sect is acceptable to the government because it is willing to remain out of politics. A monastery (Enryakuji) is established on Mt. Hiei, north-east of Kyōto.
(Incidentally, it was Saichō who first used the phrase Dai Nippon to refer to the country.)
806 The Shingon sect of Buddhism is founded by Kūkai (Kōbō Daishi).
806 Heizei (Kammu's son) becomes Emperor.
807 The government issues an edict forbidding sorcerers, diviners, and priests to seduce the common masses - even thought they couldn't control the abuse, and even though the government, itself, called on their services regularly.
809 Heizei abdicates the throne due to illness and retires to Nara. His younger brother becomes Emperor Saga.
Fall 810 Ex-emperor Heizei (along with his his advisor Fujiwara Nakanari, his consort Kusuko, and her brother) conspires to retake the throne by returning the capital from Kyōto to Nara. The plot is thwarted after much bloodshed and Heizei is forced to become a monk. Others are forced to commit suicide.
811 The interest rate on rice loans to farmers is reduced.
812 The emperor issues an edict mandating that all imperial princes and sons of aristocratic clans aspiring to government appointment first receive a Confucian education at the State College.
813 The emperor pronounces that good government depends on literature and progress depends on learning.
816 Kūkai is given permission to establish a monastery on Mt. Kōya in Kii Province (now Wakayama Prefecture).
820 The Kōnin-kyaku and Kōnin-shiki (both legal compilations) are released. {Kyaku are regulations issued ad-hoc to meet changing societal conditions and modifying or replacing codes (from the Taika Codes) no longer appropriate. Shiki are detailed rules supplementing the codes and necessary for their practical operation.}
822 Enryakuji is given authorization to establish an independent ordination platform, thus breaking the monopoly of the sects in Nara.
823 Saga abdicates in favor of his younger brother. Junna becomes Emperor.
823 Kūkai is entrusted with completing the construction of Tōji in Kyōto, and with it's management thereafter. It becomes a center for Esoteric Buddhism in Japan.
833 Nimmyō (Ninmei?) becomes Emperor.
April 835 Kūkai dies on Mt. Kōya.
850 Nimmyō (Ninmei?) dies. Montoku becomes Emperor.
858 Montoku dies. Seiwa becomes Emperor at the age of nine. Fujiwara Yoshifusa (Seiwa's maternal grandfather) becomes the first Fujiwara Regent (until 872). (All Fujiwara Regents hold the office of Sesshō or Kampaku, or both.) (The Minamoto family known as Seiwa Ganji are descendants of Tsunemoto, a grandson of Emperor Seiwa.)
869 The Jōgan-kyaku are released (these supplemented the Kōnin-kyaku)
871 The Jōgan-shiki are released (these supplemented the Kōnin-shiki)
877 Seiwa abdicates the throne. Yōzei becomes titular Emperor at the age of nine. Fujiwara Mototsune becomes Regent - the first person to hold this title.(According to at least one book, Yōzei was both insane and criminal.)
884 Yōzei is forced by the regent to abdicate at the age of seventeen. Kōkō becomes titular Emperor.
887 Kōkō dies. Uda becomes titular Emperor. His mother is not a Fujiwara and he hopes to reestablish direct rule by the Emperor.
889-897 Kampyō Era
894 The dispatch of envoys to China is officially suspended.
897 Uda abdicates in favor of his son. Daigo becomes titular Emperor
901-922 Engi Era
902 An imperial edict is issued calling for the resumption of the system of allotting land according to the number of people in the household. The system had not been enforced due to its impossibility to administer effectively. The edict is generally ignored as farmers lease or sell their land (with local official connivance, of course) and go to work on large estates in order to escape the tax burden associated with land ownership.
909 The Engi-kyaku are released (these supplemented, but did not supersede, the Kōnin or Jōgan-kyaku)
921 An imperial order grants Kūkai the posthumous name Kōbō Daishi.
930 Suzaku becomes titular Emperor. Fujiwara Tadahira becomes Regent (until 949).
940 As the power of the landed and wealthy families in the provinces continues to grow, and the central government continues to lose its power to govern outside of the capital, rebellions arise. As just one example, Taira Masakado established a 'kingdom' in the Kantō area and declared himself the new emperor. After five years of insurrection he was killed in Shimōsa province.
946 Murakami becomes titular Emperor
967 Reizai becomes titular Emperor. Fujiwara Saneyori becomes Regent (until 970).
967 The Engi-shiki are released (these supplemented, but did not supersede, the Kōnin or Jōgan-shiki)
968 Minamoto Mitsunaka denounces his kinsman Takaaki for conspiring to revolt, thus foiling the Anna Plot. In return, the Fujiwara help the Minamoto to grow in power and popularity.
969 Reizei abdicates the throne. Eny becomes titular Emperor.
970 Fujiwara Koretada becomes Regent (until 972).
972 Fujiwara Kanemichi becomes Regent (until 977).
977 Fujiwara Yoritada becomes Regent (until 986).
984 Kazan becomes titular Emperor.
986 Ichijō becomes titular Emperor. Fujiwara Kaneiye becomes Regent (until 990).
990 Fujiwara Michitaka becomes Regent (until 995).
995 Fujiwara Michikane becomes Regent (died after only seven days in office).
996 Fujiwara Michinaga becomes Regent (until 1017, although unofficial until 1016).
1011 Sanjō becomes titular Emperor.
1016 Sanjō abdicates. Go-Ichijō becomes Emperor. ("Go" as a prefix means "the second.")
1017 Fujiwara Yorimichi becomes Kampaku (until 1068). Minamoto Yorinobu founds shōen in Kawachi province thus starting Kawachi Genji line.
1019 Genji Monogatari (The Tales of Genji) completed.
1028 Taira Tadatsune leads a revolt in Eastern Japan (the provinces of Kazusa, Shimosa, and Awa) as he attempts to extend the territory under his control.
1031 Ater three years of insurrection, Taira Tadatsune surrenders before an attack planed by the Minamoto Troops and lead by Yorinobu (on central government orders).
1036 Go-Ichijō dies. Go-Suzaku becomes Emperor.
1045 Go-Suzaku dies. Go-Reizei becomes Emperor.
1050 Minamoto Yoriyoshi is appointed by the central government as both governor and commander-in-chief of Mutsu Province in the north. On his appointment he is told to subdue the Abe family who, under Abe Toritoki, were levying taxes and confiscating land at will. (This is the start of The Early Nine Years War.)
1062 The Abe family is finally subdued in Mutsu Province after Abe Sadato is defeated and killed.
1068 Go-Reizei dies. Go-Sanjō becomes Emperor. Fujiwara Norimichi becomes Regent (until 1075).
1072 Go-Sanjō abdicates. Shirakawa becomes Titular Emperor and Go-Sanjō becomes Cloistered Emperor, although he soon becomes ill and dies. Although the Fujiwara still held important positions, this begins the period where the retired emperor now controls the government, also known as the inzei system.
1075 Fujiwara Morozane becomes Regent (until 1094).
1083 Minamoto Yoshiie is appointed governor of Mutsu Province and, with the help of Fujiwara Kiyohira, leads troops to put down an insurrection of the Kiyowara family. (This takes three years and is called The Later Three Years War - even though the final victories don't come until 1087.)
1086 Shirakawa abdicates in favor of his son. Horikawa becomes Titular Emperor. Shirakawa becomes Cloistered Emperor.
1091 Because of Minamoto Yoshiie's military successes, his power and land holdings grow extraordinarily large. In response, an imperial edict is issued which forbade farmers throughout the country to commend their lands to him and declared that his retainers could not enter the capital city with him. But, Yoshiie and his comrades return to the capital anyhow after the Three Year war and he resumes his posts as Commander of the Palace Guards and the Sovereign's Escort.
1094 Fujiwara Moromichi becomes Regent (until 1099).
1099 Fujiwara Moromichi dies after being cursed by rebellious monks who had been descending from their mountain temples and causing trouble in the city until he took action to stop them. (The rebellious monks are put down, in large part, with the help of Yoshiie and his warriors.)
1105 Fujiwara Tadazane becomes Regent (until 1121)
1107 Horikawa dies. His son, Toba, becomes Titular Emperor. Shirakawa remains as Cloistered Emperor.
1108 Minamoto Yoshichika (Yoshiie's eldest son) is banished to Sanuki for an offense against the court. He escapes and returns to Izumo where he leads an uprising. This uprising is put down by Taira Masamori who, after the uprising, returns to the capital, is given court rank and is commended by the Emperor.
1121 Fujiwara Tadamichi becomes Regent (until 1158).
1123 Toba abdicates in favor of his son. Sutoku becomes Titular Emperor. Shirakawa remains as Cloistered Emperor.
1129 Taira Tadamori (Masamori's son) puts down several revolts and piracy on the inland sea. (Like his father, he is given court rank in return. Not long before, it would have been unheard of for a military officer to receive court rank, thus indicating the decline in the power of the bureaucracy and the rise of the warrior class.)
1129 Shirakawa dies. Toba becomes Cloistered Emperor.
1141 Sutoku abdicates. Konoye becomes Titular Emperor. Toba remains as Cloistered Emperor.
1153 Taira Tadamori dies. Kiyomori becomes head of the Taira clan.
1155 Konoye dies and a bitter succession dispute erupts with one side supporting Go-Shirakawa and the other Sutoku as Emperor. Go-Shirakawa becomes Titular Emperor. Toba remains as Cloistered Emperor.
1156-1158 Hōgen Era
1156 Fujiwara Yorinaga collects a few hundred warriors (led by Minamoto Tameyoshi, the leader of the Minamotos) and, with Sutoku, sets up defenses in a palace in the city. Fujiwara Tadamichi (Yorinaga's brother), with Go-Shirakawa, collects many more warriors from both the Minamoto and the Taira clans. In the battle that follows, Yorinaga is killed. (This episode is called the Hōgen no Ran/Hōgen Insurrection.) Taira Kiyomori becomes an Imperial favorite and advisor while Minamoto Tameyoshi is sentenced to death. From this time starts the struggle for supremacy between the Minamoto and Taira clans and the downfall of the direct political power of the Imperial House.
1158 Go-Shirakawa abdicates. Nijō becomes Titular Emperor. Go-Shirakawa becomes Cloistered Emperor. Fujiwara Motozane becomes Regent (until 1166).
1160 Minamoto Yoshitomo (Tameyoshi's son) and Fujiwara Nobuyori conspire to overthrow the government when Kiyomori leaves the city on vacation. With about 500 well armed men, they kidnap both Nijō and Go-Shirakawa and kill many others. Nobuyori has himself appointed Chancellor. Kiyomori returns to the capital and raises an army, later helping the Emperor and ex-Emperor to escape the palace. After weeks of fighting the uprising is crushed (with the help of armed monks from Mt. Hiei). Yoshitomo is betrayed and killed by a retainer, and the only Minamoto males remaining from the main family are his sons Yoritomo, Noriyori, and Yoshitsune. (This episode is known as the Heiji no ran/Heiji Uprising)
1165 Nijō dies. Rokujō becomes Titular Emperor. Go-Shirakawa remains as Cloistered Emperor.
1166 Fujiwara Motofusa becomes Regent (until 1179).
1168 Rokujō abdicates (although in reality he was disposed by Go-Shirakawa). Takakura becomes Titular Emperor. Go-Shirakawa remains as Cloistered Emperor. Takakura's mother is Kiyomori's sister-in-law so the Taira's power and prestige begin to rise rapidly at this point.)
Summer 1168 Myōan Eisai (many researchers say the the kanji are pronounced Yōsai) spends the summer on pilgrimage in China studying Tendai and other exoteric Buddhist teachings.
1175 Hōnen Shōnin founds the Pure Land (Jōdo) sect of Buddhism.
1177 Several Fujiwara (although none of high standing) plot to assassinate Kiyomori. Kiyomori finds out about it and kills most of the plotters, including one monk. This is called the Shishigatani Affair.
1177 About one-third of the capital city is destroyed by fire. Thousands of people lose their lives.
1179 In a passage in the Hyakirenshō, is one of the first mentions of the growth of monetary transactions in Japan. ("There is a strange sickness going round the country nowadays. It is called the money disease.") The use of coins increased quickly and by the end of the 13th century Chinese copper cash is legal tender for the payment of taxes and for use in private transactions.
1179 Fujiwara Motomichi becomes Regent (until 1183).
December 1179 Kiyomori marches into the capital with several thousand troops in retaliation for Go-Shirakawa's having confiscated some Taira property earlier in the year (the two men had always disliked each other, this was just the final straw). Go-Shirakawa is placed under house arrest and numerous high government officials are banished or reduced in rank.
1180-1185 Gempei Wars (Gen from "Genji" or Minamoto, and Hei form "Heike" or Taira)
January 1180 Takakura abdicates (After seeing Kiyomori's treatment of Go-Shirakawa). Antoku (Kiyomori's grandson and only two years old) becomes Titular Emperor. Go-Shirakawa remains as Cloistered Emperor. Kiyomori becomes effective head of State.
May 1180 Minamoto Yorimasa (until now a respected member of the government because he had refrained from taking sides with the Minamoto against Kiyomori and the Taira) plots to overthrow Antoku and Kiyomori and place Prince Mochihito, the son of Go-Shirakawa, on the throne. Mochihito publicly calls for the overthrow of the Taira. Kiyomori foils the plot and while trying to escape Mochihito is captured and killed while Yorimasa is wounded and commits seppuku.
June 1180 Kiyomori forces the Emperors both Titular and Cloistered) to move his residence to Fukuwara, his residence outside of Kyōto on the Inland Sea. Provisions are made to move certain government functions there at a later date. The plans fail and the entire Court returns to the capital six months later.
August 1180 Toidaiji and Kōfukuji of Nara are attacked and burned on orders from Kiyomori (partly in fear of the monastery's armies?).
August 1180 Minamoto Yoritomo (who had been in exile in Izu and living under the guard of Hōjō Tokimasa, appointed by Kiyomori, since 1160) raises a small group of supporters and attacks and defeats a Taira official in Izu. (He had earlier converted Hōjō Tokimasa to his side and married his daughter, Masako.)
September 1180 Yoritomo leads a small body of troops out of Izu and over the Hakone Pass. They claim they are responding to the Imperial call to chastise the Taira (remember Mochihito's call when he and Yorimasa revolted in May). Taira forces defeat Yoritomo's troops at the Battle of Ishibashiyama. Yoritomo and his men scatter and find safety in the Hakone mountains.
November 1180 Yoritomo raise a large army from several of the eastern provinces and advances to the Fujikawa in Suruga province. Taira forces are sent again and meet him there. Taira forces are surprised by a rear attack at night from a supposed ally and retreat. Yoritomo does not follow but remains and strengthens his position.
1180 Yoritomo establishes the Samurai-dokoro in Kamakura, an office which regulates the affairs of the military - its privileges, obligations, property, ranks, and treatment in general. (It should be noted that at the start of the feudal period, "Samurai" was not the term used for just any fighting man, but a reserved high rank for certain warriors.)
February 1181 Taira forces defeat troops led by Minamoto Yukiie (Yoritomo's uncle) in Mino province.
March 1181 Kiyomori dies and affairs of state are left in the hands of his son, Munemori (a man of no political talent).
March 1181 Taira forces defeat troops led by Minamoto Yukiie at the Battle of Sunomata River.
August 1181 Government issues order calling for the pacification of the northern provinces (the Hokurikudo) where the Minamoto were rising. However, the Taira troops sent to Echizen were defeated by Minamoto Yoshinaka, Yoritomo's cousin, in the autumn.
1182 A famine affects the Western provinces greatly and weakens morale in the capital as hunger and the plague affect many. Overall, the famine was so severe that it brought the Gempei war to a halt for the year.
1183 Fujiwara Moroiye becomes Regent (until 1184).
March 1183 Yoritomo attacks Yoshinaka out of distrust of Yoshinaka's growing strength and success. They come to an agreement and the battle stops.
April & May 1183 Taira Koremori attacks and subdues Echizen province and takes several of Yoshinaka's strongholds.
May 1183 Yoshinaka succeeds in retaking the province of Echizen and defeats Koremori at the Battle of Tonamiyama in Etch province (sometimes called the Battle of Kurikara Pass).
June 1183 Yoshinaka is advancing towards Kyōto from the north while Yukiie is threatening from the east.
August 1183 Go-Shirakawa escapes Kyōto (where he was still under house arrest since Kiyomori ordered it in late 1179) and goes to Mt. Hiei. The Emperor and his consorts go to a monastery in the suburbs. (Having the two Emperors flee the Taira seems to add the color of legitimacy to the Minamoto as they close in on the capital)
August 1183 The Taira abandon the capital and flee west with Emperor Antoku, his mother, and a few attendants (and the Imperial Regalia). Go-Shirakawa is escorted into the capital by Yoshinaka and gives him a mandate to destroy Munemori and the Taira army. (Yoshinaka prefers to attack Yoritomo, who he fears and hates, but Go-Shirakawa convinces him to concentrate on the Taira)
September 1183 Taira forces reach Kysh and set up temporary Court at Dazaifu. Local revolts drive them out and they move to Yashima, Shikoku (now called Takamatsu) directly across from Kojima Bay in Bizen province.
November 1183 Yoshinaka pursues the Taira, but is defeated by Taira troops at Mizushima on the border of Bitch and Bizen provinces.
November 1183 Yoshinaka conspires with the Taira and Fujiwara leaders to take over the capital, seize Go-Shirakawa, and set up a new government in the Northern provinces. Go-Shirakawa gets word of the plot to Yukiie who, in turn, passes word on to Yoritomo.
December 1183 Yoshinaka seizes the capital and his troops ravage the city. Yukiie leaves the city with his men and attack the Taira in the province of Harima, where he is defeated. Go-Shirakawa sends word to Yoritomo asking him to come to Kyōto to subdue Yoshinaka. Yoritomo ignores the request thinking it more important to solidify his position in the eastern provinces. After repeated requests, though, Yoritomo calls on his brothers, Yoshitsune and Noriyori, to advance on the capital and destroy Yoshinaka.
Early 1184 Yoshinaka attacks Hōjōji and takes Go-Shirakawa captive. He also sends troops to Ishikawa in Kawachi province to attack troops of Yukiie who had set up a garrison there and was threatening the capital.
March 1184 With Yoshitsune and Noriyori converging on the capital, Yoshinaka flees the city with only a few men. He is pursued and killed in fighting with Noriyori's troops at Awazu in ōmi province.
March 1184 Yoshitsune and Noriyori lead troops out of the capital towards Yashima to attack the Taira and regain the Emperor. Meanwhile, the Taira abandon Yashima (with the Emperor in tow) by sea. Taira troops land in Settsu and begin to build a defensive position while leaving the Emperor on a ship with guards near Wada Misaka.
March 1184 Before Taira defensive positions at Settsu are completed they are overcome and defeated by Yoshitsune and Noriyori. Yoshitsune and Noriyori split up and encircle the remaining Taira at Ichinotani. Taira forces are defeated badly, the leaders are killed or captured, and only a few thousand are able to retreat by ship to Yashima (with the Emperor and the Imperial Regalia).
September 1184 Noriyori sets out from Kamakura to attack the Taira under Yoritomo's orders. Yoritomo remains in Kamakura (as he has till present) making the strategic decisions and dealing with the diplomatic problems of relations with and between the various warrior families and their leaders. Noriyori's troops are brought to a stalemate in the far western provinces due to a lack of food, supplies, and ships.
November 1184 Yoritomo brings ōe Hiromoto and Miyoshi Yoshinobu (two respected scholars and administrators) to Kamakura from Kyōto to set up the Kumonjo (Office of Administration) and the Monchjo (Office of Inquiry) respectively. The Monchjo serves as a court of appeals, enforces penal regulations, and kept judicial and cadastral records.
1184 Antoku deposed. Go-Toba (four years old) becomes Titular Emperor. Go-Shirakawa remains as Cloistered Emperor. Fujiwara Motomichi becomes Regent again (until 1186).
March 1185 Yoshitsune dispatched to the West to assist Noriyori. He crosses to Shikoku with only a few hundred men and attacks the palace in Yashima. The Taira, not knowing the size of the attacking force, flee by boat to Dannoura in the Straits of Shimonoseki with Antoku and the Imperial Regalia.
April 1185 With the help of officials and ships from Suō province and Miura Yoshizui, who was familiar with the currents in the Straits of Shimonoseki, Yoshitsune pursues the Taira. The Taira are totally defeated in a sea battle at Dannoura. Antoku dies (at the age of seven) and the Imperial sword (one of the three Imperial Regalia) is lost in the sea. This ends the reign and supremacy of the Taira family (almost - read about the Hōjō).
Kamakura Period (1185-1333)
Muromachi Period (1338-1573)
Azuchi-Momoyama Period (1568-1600)
Edo Period (1603-1868)
Meiji Period (1868-1912)
Taishō Period (1912-1926)
Shōwa Period (1926-1989)
Heisei Period (1989-Present)

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