History of Japan

The earliest known inhabitants of this group of islands were hunters, fisherman and gatherers who came from Korea or Siberia, or by sea from Polynesia. The arrival of Buddhism in the sixth century influenced Japan significantly and introduced Chinese elements in political institutions, the writing system, and the lifestyle of the ruling class. Shinto deities took on Buddhist forms.

By the eleventh century, these influences waned and the country entered a long feudal period, during which different rulers and a Shogun (military leader) exercised power over Japan. This era lasted till the nineteenth century when the Tokugawa Shogunate’s reign, which insisted on strict obedience and loyalty and exercised almost fanatical control against outside influences, started declining. In 1868, the Meiji Restoration transformed Japan into a world power under the guidance of rulers dedicated to the pursuit of national wealth and strength. This was also the time that Westernization and modernization shaped the country into much of what it is presently.

While Japan sided with the Allied forces during WWI, it signed a tripartite pact with Germany and Italy in 1940 and WWII saw conflict with the US, with disastrous consequences—the release of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japan was occupied until 1952 by US forces but a recovery program after that enabled the economy to expand rapidly, and Japan became the world's most successful export economy.

In recent years, a massive earthquake in 1995 and a poison gas attack on the Tokyo subway system as well as a sluggish economy have been concerns that the country has grappled with.


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