The first signs of occupation on the Japanese Archipelago appeared with a Paleolithic culture around 30,000 BC, followed from around 14,000 BC by the Joumon period, a Mesolithic to Neolithic semi-sedentary hunter-gatherer (possibly Ainu) culture of pit dwelling and a rudimentary form of agriculture. Decorated clay vessels from this period, often with plaited patterns, are some of the oldest surviving examples of pottery in the world.
The Yayoi period, starting around 500 BC, saw the introduction of many new practices, such as wet-rice farming, a new style of pottery and metallurgy brought by migrants from China and Korea.
The Japanese first appear in written history in China's Book of Han. According to the Chinese Records of Three Kingdoms, the most powerful kingdom on the archipelago during the third century was called Yamataikoku.
Buddhism was first introduced to Japan from Baekje, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, but the subsequent development of Japanese Buddhism and Buddhist sculptures were primarily influenced by China. Despite early resistance, Buddhism was promoted by the ruling class and eventually gained growing acceptance since the Asuka period.
The Nara period of the eighth century marked the first emergence of a strong central Japanese state, centered on an imperial court in the city of Heijou-kyou, or modern-day Nara. In addition to the continuing adoption of Chinese administrative practices, the Nara period is characterized by the appearance of a nascent written literature with the completion of the massive chronicles Kojiki (712) and Nihon Shoki (720). The smallpox epidemic of 735–737 is believed to had killed as many as one-third of Japan's population.
In 784, Emperor Kammu moved the capital from Nara to Nagaoka-kyou for a brief ten-year period, before relocating it to Heian-kyou in 794, where it remained for more than a millennium. This marked the beginning of the Heian period, during which time a distinctly indigenous Japanese culture emerged, noted for its art, poetry and literature. Lady Murasaki's The Tale of Genji and the lyrics of modern Japan's national anthem, Kimi ga Yo were written during this time.
Japan's feudal era was characterized by the emergence of a ruling class of warriors, the samurai. In 1185, following the defeat of the rival Taira clan, Minamoto no Yoritomo was appointed Shogun and established a base of power in Kamakura. After Yoritomo's death, the Houjou clan came to rule as regents for the shoguns. Zen Buddhism was introduced from China in the Kamakura period and became popular among the samurai class.
The Kamakura shogunate managed to repel Mongol invasions in 1274 and 1281, aided by a storm that the Japanese interpreted as a kamikaze, or Divine Wind. The Kamakura shogunate was eventually overthrown by Emperor Go-Daigo, who was soon himself defeated by Ashikaga Takauji in 1336. The succeeding Ashikaga shogunate failed to control the feudal warlords (daimyou), and a civil war erupted (the Ounin War) in 1467 which opened a century-long Sengoku (“Warring States”) period.
During the sixteenth century, traders and Jesuit missionaries from Portugal reached Japan for the first time, initiating active commercial and cultural exchange between Japan and the West (Nanban trade). Oda Nobunaga conquered numerous other daimyo by using European technology and firearms and had almost unified the nation when he was assassinated in 1582. Toyotomi Hideyoshi succeeded Nobunaga and united the nation in 1590. Hideyoshi invaded Korea twice, but following several defeats by Korean and Ming China forces and Hideyoshi's death, Japanese troops were withdrawn in 1598.
After Hideyoshi's death, Tokugawa Ieyasu utilized his position as regent for Hideyoshi's son Toyotomi Hideyori to gain political and military support. When open war broke out, he defeated rival clans in the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600. Ieyasu was appointed shogun in 1603 and established the Tokugawa shogunate at Edo. The Tokugawa shogunate enacted a variety of measures such as Buke shohatto to control the autonomous daimyo.
In 1639, the shogunate began the isolationist sakoku ("closed country") policy that spanned the two and a half centuries of tenuous political unity known as the Edo period. The study of Western sciences, known as rangaku, continued during this period through contacts with the Dutch enclave at Dejima in Nagasaki. The Edo period also gave rise to kokugaku, or literally "national studies", the study of Japan by the Japanese themselves. According to one authority, there were at least 130 famines during the Edo period, of which 21 were particularly serious.
On March 31, 1854, Commodore Matthew Perry and the "Black Ships" of the United States Navy forced the opening of Japan to the outside world with the Convention of Kanagawa. Subsequent similar treaties with the Western countries in the Bakumatsu period brought Japan into economic and political crises. The abundance of the prerogative and the resignation of the shogunate led to the Boshin War and the establishment of a centralized state unified under the name of the Emperor (Meiji Restoration).
Adopting Western political, judicial and military institutions, the Cabinet organized the Privy Council, introduced the Meiji Constitution, and assembled the Imperial Diet. The Meiji Restoration transformed the Empire of Japan into an industrialized world power that embarked on a number of military conflicts to expand the nation's sphere of influence. After victories in the First Sino-Japanese War (1894–1895) and the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905), Japan gained control of Taiwan, Korea, and the southern half of Sakhalin.
The early twentieth century saw a brief period of "Taishou democracy" overshadowed by the rise of expansionism and militarization. World War I enabled Japan, which joined the side of the victorious Allies, to expand its influence and territorial holdings. Japan continued its expansionist policy by occupying Manchuria in 1931. As a result of international condemnation for this occupation, Japan resigned from the League of Nations two years later. In 1935, local assemblies were established in Taiwan. In 1936, Japan signed the Anti-Comintern Pact with Nazi Germany, joining the Axis powers in 1941. And also in 1941, Japan signed the Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact with Soviet Union, respecting both Manchukuo and Mongolian People's Republic territories.
In 1937, the Empire of Japan invaded other parts of China, precipitating the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945). In 1940, the Empire then invaded French Indochina, after which the United States placed an oil embargo on Japan. On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked the United States naval base in Pearl Harbor and declared war on the United States, the United Kingdom and Netherlands. This act brought the United States into World War II and, on December 8, these three countries declared war on Japan. After the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, along with the Soviet Union joining the war against it, Japan agreed to an unconditional surrender of all Japanese forces on August 15.
The war cost Japan and countries part of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere millions of lives and left much of the country's industry and infrastructure destroyed. The Allied powers repatriated millions of ethnic Japanese from colonies throughout Asia. The International Military Tribunal for the Far East, was convened by the Allies (on May 3, 1946) to prosecute some Japanese leaders for war crimes. However, all members of the bacteriological research units and members of the imperial family involved in the conduct of the war were exonerated from criminal prosecutions by the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces.
In 1947, Japan adopted a new pacifist constitution emphasizing liberal democratic practices. The Allied occupation ended by the Treaty of San Francisco in 1952 and Japan was granted membership in the United Nations in 1956. Japan later achieved spectacular growth to become the second largest economy in the world, with an annual growth rate averaging 10% for four decades. This ended in the mid-1990s when Japan suffered a major recession. Positive growth in the early twenty-first century has signaled a gradual recovery.
Japanese emergence from her period of native primitive arts was instigated mainly by the introduction of Buddhism from the mainland Asian continent about the middle of the 6th century. Together with the new religion, skilled artists and craftsman from China came to Japan to build its temples and sculptic idols, and to pass on artistic techniques to native craftsmen.
Earliest examples of Buddhist art may be seen in accumulated splendor at the seventh century Horyuji temple in Nara, whose buildings themselves, set in a prescribed pattern with main hall, belfy, pagodas, and other buildings enclosed within an encircling roofed corridor, retain an aura of the ancient era, together with the countless art treasures preserved within their halls.
Nara and its vicinity contain the vast majority of the nations treasures of the early period of Buddhist art, known in art history as the Asuka period. The sculpture of this period shows, as do most all subsequent sculpture, the influence of continental art. Noted Asuka sculptor Tori Busshi followed the style of North Wei sculpture and established what has come to be known as the Tori school of sculpture. Notable examples of Tori works are the Sakyamuni Triad which are the main icons of the Golden Hall of Horyuji temple and the kannon Boddhisatva of Yumedono Hall of the same temple, also known as Guze Kannon.
Some of the most important Buddhist sculptures belong to the ensuing Hakuho art period when the sculpture came to show predominantly Tang influence. The mystic unrealistic air of the earlier Tori style came to be replaced by a soft supple pose and a near sensuous beauty more in the manner of the Maitreya with long narrow slit eyes and gentle effeminate features which in spite of their air of reverie have about them an intimate approachability. The aloofness of the earlier Asuka sculpture is softened into a more native form; and there is to be seen in them a compromise between the divine and the human ideal.
Representative sculptures of this period are the beautiful Sho Kannon of Yakushiji temple, and the Yumatagae Kannon of Horyuji, both showing the fullness of rounded flesh within the conventionalized folds of the garments, reflecting in their artistry features of the Gupta art are transmitted to Japanese through Tang.
In 710-793, Japanese sculptors learned high Tang style and produced a style "Tenpyou Sculpture", which shows realistic face, massive solid volume, natural drapery, and delicate representation of sentiment. Emperor Shoumu ordered the colossal gilt bronze Virocana Buddha in Toudai-ji temple and completed in 752. Although the statue has been destructed twice and repaired, the minor original part has survived.
Among many original works, the Asura in Koufukuji temple is attractive, which is a dry lacquer statue and show delicate representation of sentiment. The four guardians in Kaidanin: a division of Toudai-ji temple are masterpiece, which are clay statues. A national official factory "Zou Toudai-ji si" (Office to build Toudai-ji Temple) produced many Buddhism sculptures by division of the work for Toudai-ji and other official temples and temples for novelties. Gilt bronze, dry lacquer, clay, terracotta, repousee, stone, and silver sculptures were made in the factory. Generally the sculptors are secular and got official status and salary. Some private ateliers offered Buddhist icons to people, and some monks made it themselves.
With the moving of the imperial capital from Nara to Kyoto in 794, big temples didn't move to Kyoto. Government fed new esoteric Buddhism imported from Tang china. The official factory "Zo Toudai-ji Si" was closed in 789. Fired sculptors worked under patronage of big temples in Nara, new temples of esoteric sect, the court, and the novelties. Sculptors got temple clergy status whether or not they were members of the order. Wood became the primary medium. On the style, Heian period was divided two: the early Heian period and the later. In the early Heian period (794- about the mid 10th century), statues of esoteric Buddhism flourished. Kūkai, Saichou and other members of Imperial Japanese embassies to China imported the high to later Tang style. The statue bodies were carved from single blocks of wood and appear imposing, massive, and heavy when compared to Nara period works. Their thick limbs and severe, almost brooding facial features imbue them with a sense of dark mystery and inspire awe in the beholder, in keeping with the secrecy of Esoteric Buddhist rites. Heavily carved draperies, in which rounded folds alternate with sharply cut folds are typical of the period. Among esoteric Buddhism deities, Japanese like Acala and have produced enormous Acala images.
In the later Heian period (the mid 10th century to the 12th century), the sophistication of court culture and popularity of Amida Worship gave rise to a new style: gentle, calm, and refined features with more attenuated proportion. Sculptors Japanized faces of images. Pure Land sect(Amida Worship) leader Genshin and his work Oujouyoushuu influenced many sculpture. The masterpiece is the Amida Buddha in Byoudou-in in Uji by the master Jouchou. He established a canon of Buddhist sculpture. He was called the expert of yosegi zukuri technique: sculptors became working with multiple blocks of wood, too. This technique allowed masters atelier production with apprentices. It led the style more repetitious and mediocre after Jouchou. In school, a grandson of Jouchou established an atlier which worked with the Imperial Court in Kyoto. EN school a discipline of Jouchou, also established Sanjyou-Atlier in Kyoto.
This Kamakura period is regarded as 'Renaissance era of Japanese sculpture'. Kei school sculptures led this trend, who are descendents of Jouchou. They succeeded the technique "yosegi-zukuri" (Woodblock construction) and represented new sculpture style: Realism, Representation of sentiment, Solidity, and Movement, for which they studied early Nara period masterpieces and Chinese Song dynasty sculptures and paintings. On the other side, Clay, Dry-lacquer, Embossing, Terracotta sculptures didn't revive. They use mainly wood and sometimes bronze.
Kei school looted in Nara-city, which was former ancient capitol (710-793), and worked in large temples in Nara. In Kamakura period, Kyoto Court and Kamakura shogunate military Government reconstructed large temples fired in late 12th century wars. For the project, Kei school worked many sculptures, as Kamakura shogunate supported. Many sculptures were repaired and many architecture were rebuilt or repaired. The "renaissance" character reflects the project.
Among sculptors of Kei-school, Unkei is the most famous. Among his works, a pair of Kongou-rikishi colossal in Toudai-ji is most famous, and the portraiture-like statues of Indian priests in Koufuku-ji are elaborated masterpieces. Unkei had six sculptor sons and their work is also imbued with the new humanism. Tankei, the eldest son and a brilliant sculptor became the head of the studio. Koushou, the 4th son produced a remarkable sculpture of the 10th century Japanese Budhist teacher Kuya (903-972). Kaikei was a collaborator of Unkei. He is a devout adherent of Pure Land sect. He worked with priest Chogen (1121-1206) :the director of Toudai-ji reconstruction project. Many of his figures are more idealized than Unkei and his sons, and are characterized by a beautifully finished surface, richly decorated with pigments and gold. His works have survived more than 40, many of which are signed by himself.
Sculptors also worked for Kamakura shogunate and other military clans. They produced Buddhist sculptures for them and the portrait sculptures. Portrait of Uesugi Sugefusa is a masterpiece. The colossal bronze Amidhaba Buddha in Kamakura Koutoku-in was made in 1252. All class society popular funds made this bronze colossal. Such patronage raised and sometimes replaced former wealthy and powered men's.
Edo was arranged as a castle town, around Edo castle. The area immediately surrounding the castle, known as the "Yamanote", consisted largely of daimyo (feudal lords) mansions, whose families lived in Edo year-round as part of the sankin koutai system; the daimyo themselves made journeys in alternating years to Edo and made use of these mansions for their extensive entourages. It was this extensive samurai population which defined the character of Edo, particularly in contrast to the two major cities of Kyoto and Osaka, neither of which were ruled by a daimyo or had any significant samurai population. Kyoto's character was dominated by the Imperial Court, the court nobles, its numerous Buddhist temples, and its traditional heritage and identity, while Osaka was the country's commercial center, dominated by the chounin merchant class.
Other areas further from the center were the domains of commoners, or chounin (町人), literally "townsfolk." The area known as Shitamachi (low-town or downtown), to the northeast of the castle, was perhaps one of the key centers of urban culture. The ancient Buddhist temple of Sensou-ji still stands in Asakusa and marks the center of an area of traditional "low-town" culture. Some of the shops in the streets before the temple have been carried on continuously in the same location since the Edo period.
The Sumida River, then simply called the Great River (大川), ran along the eastern edge of the city, along which one would find the shogunate's official rice storage warehouses and other official buildings, along with some of the city's most famous restaurants.
The Edo Bridge (江戸橋) marked the center of the city's commercial center, an area also known as Kuramae. Many fishermen, craftsmen, and other producers and retailers operated here, as did shippers who managed ships to and from Osaka (called tarubune) and other cities, either taking goods into the city, or simply transferring them from sea-routes onto river barges or onto land routes such as the Toukaidou, which terminated here. The area remains the center of Tokyo's financial and business district today.
The northeastern corner of the city, regarded as a dangerous direction in traditional onmyoudou (cosmology/geomancy), is guarded from evil spirits by a series of temples, including Sensou-ji and Kan'ei-ji. Just beyond these lay the districts of the eta or outcastes, who engaged in unclean vocations and were thus separated from the main sections of commoner residences. A long dirt path extended west from the riverbank, a short distance north of these eta districts, leading along the northern edge of the city to the Yoshiwara pleasure districts. Previously located within the city proper, close to Asakusa, the districts were rebuilt in this more distant location after the Meireki Fire of 1657.
Hakodate city is overlooked by Mount Hakodate, a lumpy, forested mountain whose summit can be reached by hiking trail, cable car, or car. The night view from the summit is renowned in Japan as one of the best in the country, and one of the top three in the world along with Hong Kong and Naples. An obscure local nickname of the bumpy mountain is Gagyuuzan (Mount Cow's Back), alluding to the way the mountain resembles a resting cow.
Kobe city is most famous for its Kobe beef and Arima Onsen (hot springs). Notable buildings include the Ikuta Shrine as well as the Kobe Port Tower. It is well known for the night view of the city, from mountains such as Mount Rokkou, and Mount Maya as well as the coast. Kobe is also known for having a somewhat exotic atmosphere by Japanese standards, which is mainly as a result of its history as a port city.
Nagasaki city has Mount Inasa located in the West part of the city with a height of 333 metres. There is a cable car up to the top of Mt. Inasa from Nagasaki. A short walk from the cable car station are several buildings that house transmitters for TV and radio stations that serve Nagasaki and the surrounding area. Furthermore, there is an observation platform that is popular with tourists as it provides spectacular views of Nagasaki's 10 Million Dollar Night View. This is also a common place for young local couples to break off relationships.
The traditional form of sushi is fermented fish and rice, preserved with salt in a process that has been traced to Southeast Asia, where it remains popular today. The term sushi comes from an archaic grammatical form no longer used in other contexts; literally, "sushi" means "it's sour", a reflection of its historic fermented roots.
The science behind the fermentation of fish packed in rice is that the vinegar produced from fermenting rice breaks the fish down into amino acids. This results in one of the five basic tastes, called umami in Japanese. The oldest form of sushi in Japan, Narezushi still very closely resembles this process. In Japan, Narezushi evolved into Oshizushi and ultimately Edomae nigirizushi, which is what the world today knows as "sushi."
Contemporary Japanese sushi has little resemblance to the traditional lacto-fermented rice dish. Originally, when the fermented fish was taken out of the rice, only the fish was consumed and the fermented rice was discarded. The strong-tasting and -smelling funazushi, a kind of narezushi made near Lake Biwa in Japan, resembles the traditional fermented dish.
Beginning in the Muromachi period (AD 1336–1573) of Japan, vinegar was added to the mixture for better taste and preservation. The vinegar accentuated the rice's sourness, and was known to increase its life span, allowing the fermentation process to be shortened and eventually abandoned. In the following centuries, sushi in Osaka evolved into oshi-zushi. The seafood and rice were pressed using wooden (usually bamboo) molds. By the mid 18th century, this form of sushi had reached Edo.
The contemporary version, internationally known as "sushi," was invented by Hanaya Yohei (華屋与兵衛; 1799–1858) at the end of Edo period in Edo. The sushi invented by Hanaya was an early form of fast food that was not fermented (therefore prepared quickly) and could be eaten with one's hands roadside or in a theatre. Originally, this sushi was known as Edomae zushi, because it used freshly caught fish in the Edo-mae (Tokyo Bay). Though the fish used in modern sushi no longer usually comes from Tokyo Bay, it is still formally known as Edomae nigirizushi.
【Shari】(Sumeshi) The common name for sushi rice with sweet and sour flavor.
【Neta】 Toppings and fillings.
【Murasaki】(Shouyu) The common name for soy sauce.
【Namida】(Wasabi) A piquant paste made from the grated root of the Wasabi japonica plant. True wasabi has anti-microbial properties and may reduce the risk of food poisoning. The traditional grating tool for wasabi is a sharkskin grater or samegawa oroshi. An imitation wasabi (seiyo-wasabi), made from horseradish and mustard powder and dyed green is common. It is found at lower-end kaiten zushi restaurants, in bento box sushi and at most restaurants outside of Japan. If manufactured in Japan, it may be labelled "Japanese Horseradish".
【Gari】 Sweet, pickled ginger. Eaten to both cleanse the palate and aid in digestion.
【Agari】(Ocha) In Japan, green tea is invariably served together with sushi. Better sushi restaurants often use a distinctive premium tea known as mecha. In sushi vocabulary, green tea is known as agari.
Conveyor belt sushi (kaiten-zushi, also called sushi-go-round, or kuru kuru sushi) is the popular English translation for Japanese fast-food sushi. In Australia, it is also known as sushi train (as the sushi goes around a track on a train, rather than a conveyor belt).
Kaiten-zushi is a sushi restaurant where the plates with the sushi are placed on a rotating conveyor belt that winds through the restaurant and moves past every table and counter seat. Customers may place special orders, but most simply pick their selections from a steady stream of fresh sushi moving along the conveyor belt. The final bill is based on the number and type of plates of the consumed sushi. Some restaurants use a fancier presentation such as miniature wooden "sushi boats" traveling small canals or miniature locomotive cars.