Japan Brief History Part I

The origins

The first historical information on Japan is found in Chinese accounts of the 1st century. AD The oldest surviving Japanese texts are much later: the Kojiki (“Memoirs of the ancient events”, 712) and the Nihon shoki (“Annals of the Japan”, 720). The spread of a Jōmon culture (➔ # 10132;) was followed, starting from the 3rd century, by a population of Mongolian origin known as Yayoi, possessing an advanced technique of irrigated rice cultivation. The company was divided into three groups. At the top were the uji, large groups of families with blood ties, within which emerged the figure of the patriarch who had the function of head (uji no kami ) and high priest. THE well, manual workers dedicated to agriculture, artisanal and artistic production, were partially free. Then there was a limited number of yatsuko, or slaves.

The foundation of the Yamato State, around the 3rd century, took place through a process of absorption of the weaker uji by the more powerful ones. An assembly of uji leaders was organized, presided over by a ruler, and the country was divided into provinces (kuni). The tradition establishes in 552 the introduction in the archipelago of Buddhism, an effective channel of transmission of the most advanced Chinese culture: in fact, writing and more advanced agricultural and irrigation techniques were introduced. Thus began a series of reforms inspired by Chinese ethical and political concepts. The change, inspired by Shōtoku Taishi, which attempted to assert the authority of the Yamato clan over the leaders of the uji, was gradual and took place between the beginning of the 7th century. and 702, the year in which the Taihō Code was promulgated. The new rules established the principle that the resources of the state were owned by the emperor who divided them among the subjects dedicated to manual work according to a complex system. Above the peasants there was the aristocratic class made up of the imperial family and officials, divided into 12 ranks. At the bottom, finally, there were the non-free subjects.

The aristocratic society

According to SUNGLASSESTRACKER, the need to govern the country, to provide for the periodic redistributions of the land, to impose corvée and to organize the flow of taxation in kind towards the place of residence of the new aristocracy favored the formation of an administrative structure and helped to put an end to the use Japanese to leave the capital after the death of the sovereign. In 710 the capital became Nara, then Nagaoka (784-94) and, from 794, Heian (now Kyoto). Towards the end of the 19th century, the Fujiwara family extended their power within the court and kept it for about a century. Their economic base was the shōen, a form of private property that arose within the system sanctioned by the Taihō Code. Already in 743 the concept of the imperial heritage consisting of all arable areas was broken with the concession that the reclaimed lands did not enter the redistribution system, but remained the property of the peasants. Tax exemptions were then granted to Buddhist monasteries, Shinto shrines and aristocratic families, then imperial officials were prohibited from exercising any administrative and judicial intervention in the shōen.

The use of sending the cadet sons of the aristocracy to the shōen as administrators, their progressive acquisition of margins of managerial autonomy and the loss of power by the imperial institutions favored the formation of a class of warriors (bushi) that established itself towards the end of the 12th century. The final act of the passage from an aristocratic society to a feudal type system is constituted by the Genpei sensō (1180-85), war between the Minamoto and the Taira. The victory of the coalition led by Minamoto Yoritomo gave him the opportunity to establish the first national military hegemony, far from Heian. He consolidated his dominions in Kamakura, strengthening the administrative structure of the family. In 1192 he was appointed by the emperor shōgun (supreme general), thus being legitimized to direct the political and military affairs of the country.

The first feudal age

Historiography divides the feudal age of Japan into three phases. In the first (up to 1333, Kamakura period), a substantial balance is identified between the Kyoto court (as it was now called Heian) and the power of the military aristocracy; in the second (until 1573) the imperial court was deprived of most of its property and political powers; in the third phase, on the one hand the institutions lost many connotations typical of feudalism, giving rise to a sort of centralized feudalism, on the other hand, pre- or paleocapitalistic relationships developed within the economy and society. After Yoritomo’s death (1199), his father-in-law, Hōjō Tokimasa, served as regent of the shōgun. The Hōjō regencyit lasted over a century, during which the government was energetic and stable. After having rejected two attempts by the Mongolian Qūbīlāy to invade the Japan (1274 and 1281), mainly thanks to the kamikaze, the typhoons that decimated the enemy fleets, the Hōjō had to face endemic internal tensions that led to their political end (1333).

Japan Brief History 1

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