A Chronology of Japanese History

Yamato Period (300-550) & Asuka Period (550-710)
270-310?? Reign of Ôjin, the fifteenth emperor by legendary accounts. However historians question the authenticity of all emperors before him and wonder if he is the first.
Large groups of people (presumably led by Ôjin) migrate from Western Kyûshû (where the strongest, most advanced, and most well organized uji have lived until now) to the northeast and settle on the Yamato Plain. Other uji migrate north and settle in the Izumo area. (Is this the migration of Jimmû?) The "imperial" uji (the uji claiming to have decended from the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu) begins to solidify its power over the other uji using their military might and their claim to heavenly ancestors.
313-399 Reign of the sixteenth Emperor, Nintoku
391 Japanese forces cross to Korea, defeat Paekche and Silla armies and establish a small colony (called Mimana) on the southern tip of the pennensula. To thank the Japanese for helping save his territory from the Silla, the king of Paekche sends scholars to Japan. With them they bring the Chinese writing system.
(I have been told, but haven't yet read on my own, that some recent archeological research does not support the theories of Japan ever establishing the colony of Mimana.)
400-405 Reign of Emperor Richû
406-410 Reign of Emperor Hanshô
411-453 Reign of Emperor Ingyô
453-456 Reign of Emperor Ankô
456-479 Reign of Emperor Yûryaku
480-484 Reign of Emperor Seinei
485-487 Reign of Emperor Kensô
488-498 Reign of Emperor Ninken
498-506 Reign of Emperor Buretsu
507-531 Reign of Emperor Keitei (the 26th Emperor of Japan)
531-536 Reign of Emperor Ankan
532 Paekche and Silla forces retake half of Japan's sphere of influence (Mimana) in Korea.
536-539 Reign of Emperor Senkwa
536 Soga Iname becomes Great Minister and advisor to the throne. (He begins the system of the nobility controlling the Imperial House by marrying Soga daughters to the Emperors and most of his possible heirs)
540-571 Reign of Emperor Kimmei (Emperor Kimmei has a daughter with a woman of the Soga clan. This daughter later marries Emperor Bidatsu and later still becomes Empress Suikô)
552 The king of Paekche, in Korea, sends a bronze image of Buddha and Buddhist scriptures to the Emperor in hopes of obtaining Japanese help in defending his territory against the Silla. Thus, Buddhism is officially introduced to the Japanese court - although, unofficially, the many Chinese and Koreans already living in Japan had always been Buddhists. (Even though most books use this date, evidence exists that point to 538 being a more accurate date)
562 Silla occupies and annexes Mimana. Japanese forces are driven out of Korea.
572-585 Reign of Emperor Bidatsu (The son of Soga Iname's daughter)
585-587 Reign of Emperor Yômei, the son of Soga Iname's daughter. (Yômei is the first emperor to actually espouse Buddhism. He took up the faith when he became critically ill and had a large image of Yakushi made in the hopes that it would help his recovery. He died before it could be finished but when it was, it was housed in Hôryûji.)
587 Emperpr Yômei dies and Sushun becomes emperor. In the violent succession struggle that follows, the Soga clan (supporters of Buddhism and the importation of Chinese culture) defeats the Mononobe and Nakatomi clans (opponents of both) in the Battle of Shigisen, thus assuring the official acceptance of Buddhism and making the Soga's the leading house in Japan. Soga Umako succeeded his father, Iname, as Grand Minister and put Emperor Sujun on the throne.
  As an aside: For comparison sake, there were three types of uji: the shimbetsu (those who claimed descent similar to the imperial family from the gods of Takamagahara and the descendants of the gods dating prior to Emperor Jimmu), the kôbetsu (those of imperial descent after the time of Emperor Jimmu), and the bambetsu (powerful uji of non-imperial descent). The Mononobe were a strong military uji belonging to the shimbetsu. The Nakatomi were hereditary ritualists belonging to the shimbetsu as well. The Soga were managers of imperial estates and of the kôbetsu.
592 Soga Umako arranges the assassination of the emperor (his nephew) and replaces him with his neice, Suiko (the sister of ex-emperor Yômei, the widowed ex-empress of Bidatsu, and the thirty-third soverign.) She becomes the first female to take the Japanese imperial throne.
Suiko's nephew (the second son of Yômei and later to be known as Shôtoku Taishi) is named Heir Apparent and Regent. He actively begins importing Chinese civilization and culture and the process of establishing Buddhism as a state religion.
Thus begins the process of separating imperial priestly duties (Suiko) and andministrative duties (Shôtoku) between different people.
595 Shôtoku Taishi sends an unsuccessful military expedition to Korea to regain Mimana.
602 Shôtoku Taishi plans for another military expedition to Korea to regain Mimana but the expedition is canceled when the leader suddenly dies.
603 Shôtoku Taishi announces a new system of twelve court ranks.
604 Shôtoku Taishi issues the Constitution of Seventeen Articles (a code of moral and political principles in seventeen articles of government). This attempts to centralize the government and change the bureaucracy from being heredity to one that is merit based. [Note that current scholars think this was written long after Shôtoku's death.]
607 The first 'official' envoy (Ono-no-Imoko) is sent to China as a representative of a unified Japan. Hôryûji is founded near what will become Nara.
622 Shôtoku Taishi dies. Soga Umako dies shortly thereafter. Soga Yemishi becomes the new Grand Minister.
623 The first imperial edict is issued which attempts to regulate the ever growing Buddhist hierarchy. The Buddhist establishment becomes, in effect, a branch of the central government. (As a side note, reports from this time indicate that in Japan there are now 816 monks and 569 nuns)
628 Empress Suiko dies. Yamato descends into a state of political rivalry while a successor is being chosen.
629 Jomei (Bidatsu's grandson) is appointed by Yemishi (Soga Umako's son) as Emperor.
630 Japan establishes formal relations with Tang China.
641 Emperor Jomei dies. Kôgyoku (Jomei's consort, granddaughter of Bidatsu, and, therefore, a Soga) becomes Empress.
644 Taika Coup. Naka no Ôe (son of Empress Kôgyoku and future Emperor Tenchi) arranges for the assassination of the Soga leaders and eliminates Soga influence.
645 Empress Kôgyoku abdicates and Kôtoku (Empress Kôgyoku's brother) becomes emperor.
646 Taika Reforms reorganizing political and administrative order along Chinese lines are announced. Among the many changes, the establishment of a permanent imperial capital is called for and all land is declared to belong to the Sovereign, with families allotted parcels of land according to the number of people in the household. In addition, a national military is planned. All males between 20 and 60 years of age are required to serve if called on to do so by the state - with the option to buy your way out of service if you can afford it. (This plan ultimately proves unworkable and fails.)
646 The Imperial capital is set up in Naniwa. A new era name (Taika) is announced. (During this period, the capital is moved from Yamato to Naniwa, then to Kyûshû, then back to Yamato, and finally settled in Omi.)
649 Eight departments of a new central administration are created and an official bureaucracy is createded to staff them.
652 The first, large-scale, land distribution is effected in the capital city area.
654 Kôtoku dies and ex-Empress Kôgyoku reascends the throne as Empress Saimei.
661 Empress Saimei dies in Kyûshû while leading an army to Korea to aid Paekche. Prince Naka no Ôe (Jomei's son) is appointed Emperor Tenchi but is not officially enthroned until 668.
662 A large Japanese military force sent to Korea to help Paekche defend itself against the Chinese but this force was destroyed by the Chinese Navy.
668 Prince Naka no Ôe officially ascends the throne as Emperor Tenchi.
669 Great Minister Kamatari (Nakatomi Kamako) dies and is given the surname Fujiwara. (His son Fubito goes on to have four sons - each becoming the head of the four branches of the powerful Fujiwara clan. Fuibito also begins the process of marrying Fujiwara daughters into the royal family; a process which continues for centuries.
671 Emperor Tenchi dies. A succession dispute between his son and his younger brother breaks out as civil war (Jinshin disturbance). His son temporarily succeeds him as Emperor Kôbun, but is later killed in battle.
672 Temmu (Tenchi's younger brother) becomes emperor.
673 Temmu orders the compilation of the Kojiki and the Nihongi (Nihonshoki) to justify his accession to the throne. They are completed early in the next century.
673-674 It is most likely that the shrine at Ise is now first acknowledged as being dedicated to Amaterasu Ômikami.
682 An imperial edict is issued stating that in selecting men for political office, the considerations are to be first birth, then character, and lastly ability.
685 An imperial order is issued that all official houses in every province should contain a small Buddhist shrine with a Buddhist image and scriptures.
686 Emperor Temmu dies. Jitô (Temmu's consort/wife and daughter of Emperor Temmu) becomes Empress.
689 A new administrative code dealing with the functions of ministries and the duties of officials is distributed to government offices.
697 Empress Jitô retires and her grandson, Mommu, becomes Emperor. However, Jitô continues to hold all power from behind the scenes until her death in 702.
701 The possession of weapons by private persons is prohibited.
Alarmed at the increasing power and popularity of wandering, unordained, and, therefore, unofficial Buddhist priests and nuns, the government issues an edict admonishing them to adhere to the Sôniryô (Regulations for Priests and Nuns).
702 The Taiho Codes (Taihyôryô), a revision and modification of the Taika Reform and based on the Chinese political system, are put into effect. This redefines the Japanese political system as the central government is divided into two parts, the Department of State (Dajôkan) and the Department of Worship (Jingikan). The country is divided into 66 provinces and these into 592 districts.
708 The construction of a new, and permanent, capital city in Nara (Heijôkyô) begins. Gemmyô becomes Empress.
Nara Period (710-794)
Heian Period (794-1185)
Kamakura Period (1185-1333)
Muromachi Period (1338-1573)
Azuchi-Momoyama Period (1568-1600)
Edo Period (1603-1868)
Meiji Period (1868-1912)
Taishô Period (1912-1926)
Shôwa Period (1926-1989)
Heisei Period (1989-Present)

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