The history of Japan encompasses the history of the islands of Japan and the Japanese people, spanning the ancient history of the region to the modern history of Japan as a nation state.
The first known written reference to Japan is in the brief information given inTwenty-Four Histories in the 1st century AD. The main cultural and religious influences came from China.The first permanent capital was founded in 710 at Nara, which became a center of Buddhist art, religion and culture.
In the Yayoi period, beginning around 300 BC, rice cultivation was introduced from the Korean Peninsula. An account of Japan in a Chinese historical document of the third century AD describes a queen named Himiko ruling over a country called Yamatai.
A centralized government, with its capital in what is now the city of Nara, was established under a Chinese-style system of law codes known as the Ritsuryo system. Buddhism became the national religion, and Buddhist art and architecture flourished. Provincial temples called kokubunji were set up throughout Japan. It was during this period that the Great Buddha at the Todaiji temple in Nara was built. Histories of Japan, such as Kojiki and Nihon shoki were compiled, as was the celebrated collection of poetry called Man'yoshu.
Taisho Period (1912-1926)
The educated urban middle classes avidly read the latest translations of Western books and provided the audience for new experiments in literature, drama, music, and painting. New kings of mass media - large circulation newspapers, general monthly magazines like Chuo koron (The Central Review) and Kaizo, and radio broadcasts - added to the richness of cultural life. The significant development in literature was the emergence of the Shirakaba school. Members of the group including Mushanokoji Saneatsu and Shiga Naoya were united by their upper- class background as well as by their basic humanism. In the Western-style of painting, Yasui Sotaro and Umehara Ryuzaburo returned from Paris to promote the styles of Cezanne and Renoir. Japanese-style painters such as Yokoyama Taikan and Hishida Shunso were also affected by European styles, although on a limited scale
Showa Period (1926-1989)
Heisei Period (1989 to present)
The financial crisis of 1927, which occurred in the aftermath of the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 that devastated the Tokyo area, eventually led to a long period of economic depression. In these circumstances, the power of the military increased, and it eventually gained control of the government. The Manchurian Incident of 1931 launched a series of events that culminated in Japan's entry into World War II. This war ended in Japan's defeat, with Emperor Showa accepting the terms of the Potsdam Declaration. Japan rose from the rubble of defeat, going on to achieve an almost miraculous economic recovery, which has allowed it to take its place among the world's leading democratic powers.