Timeline Description: Japan is an island country off the east coast of Asia, between the Pacific Ocean and the East China Sea. It is made up of four main islands: Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu. Its capital, Tokyo, is one of the most populous cities in the world.
|30000 BC||The first known inhabitants of Japan.
Archaeological evidence shows a Paleolithic culture living in Japan.
|660 BC||Japan's first emperor ascends the throne.
According to Japanese tradition, the country begins with its first emperor, Jimmu, ascending the throne. This date is disputed with the one below.
|400 AD||The first unified state appears.(Early 5th century AD)
Historical records show that the Yamato court rules the first unified Japanese state. This prosperous and powerful state controls part of Korea and rules until the mid-6th century, when it declines.
|550 AD||Buddhism arrives in Japan.(Mid-6th century)
Japan's connection with Korea introduces Buddhism to the island country. Buddhism, which originated in India and spread to Korea through China, eventually blends with Japanese traditions on the island, thus creating the distinct Japanese Buddhism.
|800 AD||Japan severs its links with mainland Asia.(9th century)
Japan severs its connections with China and Korea, though Japan has borrowed heavily from Chinese culture, including adopting the Chinese writing system. After this point, Japan begins to adapt the cultural traditions acquired from mainland China.
|1192||Japan's first shogunate is established.
The samurai MinamotoYoritomo defeats his rival and establishes Japan's first military government, or shogunate, at Kamakura. Under this system, military leaders have more power than the emperor, who nevertheless continues to rule. This form of government persists in Japan until 1867.
|1281||The Kamakura shogunate collapses.
When the Mongol Empire attempts to invade Japan through Korea, sudden typhoons known in Japan as the Kamikaze ("Divine Wind") defeat the invaders. However, the expense of preparing for these invasions leads to the collapse of the Kamakura shogunate, and the country splinters into warring factions.
|1603||The Tokugawa shogunate reunifies the country.
After reunifying the country, the Tokugawa shogunate embarks on a policy of isolation, which allows indigenous Japanese culture to flourish. However, the shogunate persecutes and expels Christians and Europeans, and many segments of the population chafe under the restrictions of isolation.
|March 31, 1854||The Convention of Kanagawa opens Japan to the West.
Commodore Matthew Perry and the United States Navy force Japan in the Convention of Kanagawa to reopen to the West and begin trading. Similar treaties with other European powers lead to economic and political crises in Japan.
|1868||The Meiji Restoration introduces Western ideas.
The emperor Meiji proclaims that imperial power has been restored to Japan, though a group of genro, or elder statesmen, are truly in control. The genro send fact-finding missions throughout the West for ideas on government and the economy, and subsequently modernize Japan along Western lines. In 1889 Japan establishes its first constitution.
|1894||Japan begins to expand its empire.
After modernizing the government and economy, Japan aims to create an eastern empire. Victories in the First Sino-Japanese War (1894 - 95) and the Russo-Japanese War (1904 - 05) give Japan control over a number of new territories.
|1931||Japan resumes its imperialist ambitions in the east.
Global economic troubles in the 1930s contribute to Japan's government becoming increasingly militaristic and aggressive. In 1931 Japan annexes Manchuria, and in subsequent years it allies with Nazi Germany, occupies European colonial possessions in Southeast Asia, and attacks the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor in 1941.
|August 1945||The United States drops atomic bombs on Japan.
The use of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki forces Japan to surrender to the Allied powers, thus ending World War II. However, the bombs destroy the two cities and several generations of Japanese civilians suffer from the effects of radiation for decades.
|August 28, 1945||The United States occupies Japan.
Following Japan's surrender, the United States occupies the country. This leads to the adoption of a new constitution in 1947 and the reconstruction of Japan's industries. As a result, every industry begins to use new technology, which leads Japan to become the second largest economy in the world by the end of the 20th century.
|March 11, 2011||The Fukushima nuclear disaster occurs.
Japan suffers the largest earthquake in its recorded history, and the earthquake damages the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Three of the plant's nuclear reactors melt down, causing one of the largest nuclear disasters in history.