Japan Dynasties

Yamato Clan and Heian Period

One of the most revered kamiin Japan was Amaterasu, the sun goddess. According to legend, Japan’s first emperor was the grandson of the sun goddess. This emperor belonged to the powerful Yamato clan, which claimed the sun goddess as its ancestor. The Yamato clan lived on the Yamato plain, a rich farming region on the island of Honshu. Although they did not control all of Japan, the Yamato chiefs began to call themselves the emperors of Japan. Other clans eventually gained power over the Yamato. This political system of an imperial figurehead controlled by the head of a powerful family continued in Japan until the 1900s.

In 794 Japan’s emperor moved the capital to Heian. Many of Japan’s nobles moved to Heian, where they developed an elegant and stylish court society. At the Heian court, Japanese culture flowered. Heian lived in beautiful palaces and enjoyed of ease and privilege. They loved elegance and beauty passed the time strolling through lovely gardens or admiring art and poetry. Women often wore elaborate silk gowns made of 12 colored layers. This era in Japanese history from 794 until 1185 is known as the Heian period.