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Japanese History

Japanese history goes back thousands of years and China, Korea and Japan have strongly influenced each other. In the 8th century Buddhism came over to Japan from China and Korea and its main base was in Nara. Nara became of the capital of Japan, which lasted until 1868 when it switched to Tokyo.

During the 12th century the country saw the emergence of the Shogun Dynasty, which had strong links to the Samurai and they managed to unite the country for the first time. This became the long beginning of feudal rule by successive samurai families. This system would last till 1868 when imperial power was restored. During the 12th century monks that were returning from China created a new sec called Zen, which the Samurais soon adopted. During the 13th century Kublai Khan was rampaging through Asia and it soon reached the shores of Japan, as he dispatched over 100,000 soldiers to invade Japan. During the Mongolians invasion attempt a typhoon developed and almost totally destroyed the whole army. After this time this typhoon has been known to Japanese as the kamikaze (divine wind), which later was given to the suicide bombers of World War II.

During the Tokugawa period (1600-1868) this is when the actual country is known to be unified once and for all and it was during this time that the country didn’t allow any foreign influence into the country including religion. Christianity tried to make a mark on the country in the 16th and 17th centuries. I rebellion had started but it was quickly put down, along with Christianity in the country. In the 19th century the Tokugawa government was falling apart, as there was known corruption and people were starving. The country was also getting pressure from other countries to open its door to trade. The country at this time still practiced the old ways, but it started to realize that the Samurai could no longer fight off the emergence of modern warfare. In 1853, Commodore Matthew Perry of the US Navy arrived with a squadron of ‘black ships’ and demanded that Japan open its ports to trade. With the opening of the ports became the end of the already shaky Tokugawa government. Almost overnight the new ruler (Emperor) of the country took control and embarked on a programme of rapid industrialisation, establishing a Western-style system of administration in the process. This created a civil war within the country as the new government no longer allowed the practising of the Samurai and thus it created a war between the new Japanese army and the once proud Samurai. The Samurai put up a good fight, but they were no match for the new highly trained and better armed army.

In 1889, Japan created a Western – style constitution and its military was well trained with much of credit going to the Prussians. In 1894, Japan invaded China, which became known as Sino – Japanese War and it lasted only one year with China losing and ceding Taiwan to Japan. The Japanese thought they were unstoppable and when tensions between them Russia was on the rise they decided to attack Russians in Manchuria and Korea in 1904. The Japanese almost totally destroyed the Russian naval fleet and the army as well. After the Russians retreated the Japanese were left with Korea and Manchuria, plus the confidence that no one could stop them. Japan sided against the Germans in World War I, but didn’t get involved military wise. Instead they built up there economy through shipping and trade and at the end of World War I they were the dominant force in Asia. The Japanese joined the League of Nations in 1920, later to withdraw from it in 1937 to enter a full scale war against China.

Between 1938 and 1941, Japan’s forces occupied China and South-East Asia and expelled the British from Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong. At its zenith, the Japanese empire, which carried the Orwellian title ‘Co-Prosperity Zone’, stretched as far south as Indonesia and eastwards far into the Pacific. The Japanese signed a pact with the Germans and Italians in 1940 and in 1941 it brought the Americans into World War II, by launching a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. During the next four years the Japanese Empire was growing smaller by the day, as the American war machine was to strong and advanced. With the introduction of kamikaze fighters during the war the Americans saw how committed the Japanese were and didn’t want to launch a full scale attack on Japan. This decision led to the Americans to dropping two nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which finally led to the surrendering of the country.

After World War II, Japan was occupied by American troops, and in 1946, the Americans imposed the constitution that still governs the country today. Considering it suffered massive destruction during World War II, Japan from 1950 to 1990 saw a period of exceptional economic growth at a GDP of over $4,000 billion per year ranks the country second only to the Americans.



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