The Ancient Japanese

By Kaeffer_L

The Yamato Clan

When the Asian hunter-gatherers first reached the island of Japan, they came up with the religion of Shinto, "the way of the kami". Of these kami, the most revered is the kami of the sun goddess, Amaterasu. The son of the sun goddess became the first emperor of Japan, the founder of the Yamato Clan. As the emperor belonged, to the Yamato clan in the Yamato plain, a rich farming plain on Honshu. By the 500s CE, most of the Honshu island was conquered, but not nearly all of Japan. Naturally, the Japanese emperors eventually claimed to be divine as long as they are a descendant of the Yamato clan. In time, the Yamato clan lost power to multiple other clans and the emperor became a figurehead, as the more powerful clans controlled him and his actions.

In the middle of the 500s, Japan had increased trade and contact with Korea and China, and with China's and Korea's new ideas the Japanese mainly adopted them as their own, including Chinese Confucianism, Chinese writing with added phonetic marks, Korean Buddhism and Tang government concepts, like a strong government and bureaucracy and even the law code, was copied except for the civil service system on merit, rather, the nobles and clans still held power. Form 593 to 622, Prince Shotoku ruled as regent for the Japanese empress, a.k.a. his aunt. Shotoku truly admired many aspects in China, including Buddhism, and most of their achievements. As a result, he sent Japanese scholars over to China until the late 800s, when the Tang government declined. The Japanese then took what they learned and transformed it to make a new, unique society.

The Heian Period

After the Japanese reformed themselves, something that was odd, as all the rest of the empires fell and then changed, the Japanese emperor moved the capital to Heian, giving the name to the period. In the city now known as Kyoto, many of Japan's nobles moved there and developed an elegant court society. The nobles at Heian lived in palaces and enjoyed ease and privilege so much that they almost removed themselves from the common people, calling themselves "dwellers among the clouds". They developed etiqutte rules that governed all aspects of behavior and dress in the court. Including, women wearing 12 layers of silk on gowns, careful speech and writing among nobles to the point of writing notes correctly was an art form. Also, everyone was expected to write poetry, which often had 5 lines and focused on love or nature. Women enjoyed reading and writing, including monogatari, which was especially popular. Lady Muraski Shikibu wrote around 1000 CE and wrote The Tale of Genji, which is still considered the world's first, full-length novel and one of Japan's greatest novels.

The Heian Court