Timeline of Japanese history

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This is a timeline of Japanese history, comprising important legal, territorial and cultural changes and political events in Japan and its predecessor states. To read about the background to these events, see History of Japan. See also the list of Emperors of Japan and Prime Ministers of Japan and the list of years in Japan.

7th century BC[edit]

Year Date Event
660 The legendary Emperor Jimmu ascends to the throne, marking the end of the Age of the Gods and start of traditional Japanese history.

4th century BC[edit]

Year Date Event
300 Yayoi period start marked by extensive rice cultivation at paddy fields

1st century[edit]

Year Date Event
57 The King of Na gold seal is issued by Emperor Guangwu of Han to the coalition of Japanese states in northern Kyushu led by Nakoku state.

2nd century[edit]

Year Date Event
180 The Civil war of Wa ends, bringing shaman queen Himiko to power in Yamatai state somewhere in western Japan.

3rd century[edit]

Year Date Event
201 The Nagata Shrine, Hirota Shrine and Ikuta Shrine, the oldest surviving Shinto shrines in Japan, are founded by legendary Empress Jingū.
238 First embassy of Himiko to Cao Wei
248 Himiko dies and is succeeded by 13 y.o. Queen Iyo after a brief civil war. Some rebels, preferring a male successor, fled Yamatai and founded the Miwa court in Nara.
250 The Kofun period and Yamato period starts. Traditional date to mark the founding of Yamato entity in Nara associated with the Sujin line of kings.
266 Iyo embassy to Emperor Wu of Jin
283 The Hata clan led by Yuzuki no Kimi settles in Japan, introducing sericulture (silk farming).

4th century[edit]

Year Date Event
346 Makimuku site abandoned, possibly due to invaders including Baekje and Gaya confederacy men, indicating large changes of Miwa court
350 Unification of Yamato Province, possibly when under the foreign rule of Baekje and/or Gaya confederacy derived king
362 King Chūai of Miwa court replaced by king Ōjin of Kawachi court (Saki Court), marking expansion of Yamato Province to entire Kinai

5th century[edit]

Very little is known about the 5th century in Japan. The period was definitely marked by volatile inter-state warfare, complex alliances, submissions and betrayals. Some of the more constant Yamato polity partners were Baekje and Gaya confederacy, while enemies included Goguryeo, Silla and various Chinese groups. All of the records of the era either did not survive or are contentious.

Year Date Event
404 Goguryeo–Wa conflicts between Wa, Baekje, and Gaya against Goguryeo and Silla
413 King of Wa sends 1st recorded tribute to the Jin.
430 Yamato polity become a regional power after subjugating several states in West Japan. Details are subject to Mimana controversy.
461 Chronology of the Japanese historical records become consistent. All dates before this entry are reconstructed with foreign or archaeological data.
461 Baekje sends an embassy to Japan, as confirmed by both Japanese and Korean records.

6th century[edit]

Year Date Event
507 Kawachi court is succeeded by King Ohoto of Koshi (Keitai line of kings) in Asuka court.
527 With the suppression of the Iwai Rebellion, the Yamato polity is firmly entrenched in Tsukushi Province, Kyushu.
538 Introduction of Buddhism in Japan by Seong of Baekje.
538 The Asuka period starts, capital transferred to Asuka. Yamato polity achieve de facto political dominance with full conquest of Shikoku and Kyushu islands.
562 The last states of Gaya confederacy are destroyed, marking extinction of Japonic languages outside Japan.
587 The religious war (Soga–Mononobe conflict) ends with the victory of the pro-Buddhist Soga clan.
593 The Soga clan takes control of Japan with the installation of Empress Suiko on the throne.

7th century[edit]

Year Date Event
603 Introduction of the Twelve Level Cap and Rank System in Japan
607 The first embassy under the command of Ono no Imoko is sent to Sui China.
630 The first of Japanese missions to Tang China
645 The Asuka period ends with the power of the Soga clan broken in the Isshi Incident and Nakatomi clan becoming the dominant power.
646 22 January The Hakuhō period starts with the Taika Reform.
660 Japanese, under command of Abe no Hirafu, massacre the Mishihase people in Hokkaido. The Japanese do not return to Hokkaido until over 700 years later.
663 The Japanese navy is decisively defeated in the Battle of Baekgang, marking the withdrawal of Japan from Korean politics.
665 First coastal defences of Kyushu were built at what is now the Ōnojō Castle Ruins.
668 The Ōmi Code was adopted starting the Ritsuryō law system.
672 Succession conflict results in the Jinshin War.
673 With the reign of Emperor Tenmu, Japan becomes an empire.
684 Hakuhō earthquake [ja], severe tsunami and subsidence at Tosa Province
694 Transfer of capital to Fujiwara-kyō

8th century[edit]

Year Date Event
701 The Taihō Code legal system is accepted.
709 The Fort Ideha is established near modern Akita marking the start of submission of the Emishi people in the Tōhoku region to Japanese.
710 The Nara period starts after Empress Genmei moved the capital to Heijō-kyō.
712 The Kojiki is completed.
713 The provinces are ordered to compile cultural and geographical records, known as fudoki.
718 Fujiwara no Fuhito compiles the Yōrō Code (the update of Taihō Code) which is accepted in 757.
720 The Nihon Shoki (1st volume of historical chronicles Rikkokushi) is completed.
721 The Hayato rebellion ends after a year and half of fighting, marking the complete subjugation of Southern Kyushu.
724 Emperor Shōmu was enthroned. Also, the site of the Taga Castle, near to modern Sendai, is founded.
731 April A fleet of 300 Japanese vessels is defeated on the east coast on Silla[1]
735 Genbō and Kibi no Makibi returned from China.
735 A serious smallpox epidemic spread from Kyushu, resulting in a third of the population perishing, 10 years of social instability and 4 transfers of the capital through Kuni-kyō, Shigaraki Palace and Naniwa-kyō before returning to Heijō-kyō in 745.
740 The Fujiwara no Hirotsugu Rebellion erupts on Kyushu.
741 Shōmu established the provincial temples.
743 The Ritsuryō law system incorporated the right of eternal land ownership.
751 The Kaifūsō poetry anthology was completed.
752 The Great Buddha of Nara at Tōdai-ji was completed with the assistance of Bodhisena from India.
754 Priest Ganjin arrived from China.
757 Fujiwara no Nakamaro defeated an attempt by Tachibana no Naramaro to seize power.
757 The Yōrō Code completes the evolution of Ritsuryō law system.
764 Fujiwara and Emperor Junnin launched a plot against the retired Empress Kōken and the monk Dōkyō (which failed)
773 The Thirty-Eight Years War for the subjugation of Tōhoku starts.
781 Emperor Kanmu was enthroned.
784 The capital moved to Nagaoka-kyō.
788 Saichō built Enryaku-ji.
794 The Heian period starts after Emperor Kanmu moved the capital to Heian-kyō.
797 The Shoku Nihongi (2nd volume of historical chronicles Rikkokushi) was completed.

9th century[edit]

Year Date Event
802 After the defeat of Emishi Isawa confederation and execution of Aterui in the final stages of Thirty-Eight Years War [ja], the Japanese controls the entire Honshu island
806 The Japanese kana scripts (invention popularly attributed to Kūkai) have evolved as distinct from Chinese characters.
810 The Kusuko Incident have propelled Emperor Saga to throne, resulting in 32-years long peaceful period.
815 Shinsen Shōjiroku, the first compilation of Japanese genealogical data, is complete.
829 23 January Kūkai has established the first public school in Japan.
839 Last envoy to Tang China sent (some later embassies were cancelled)
840 Nihon Kōki (3rd volume of historical chronicles Rikkokushi) was completed.
842 The Jōwa Incident mark the raising power of the Fujiwara clan.
858 The Fujiwara clan solidify their rule over Japan with the installation of Emperor Seiwa.
869 Shoku Nihon Kōki (4th volume of historical chronicles Rikkokushi) was completed.
869 9 July The devastating 869 Sanriku earthquake and tsunami happened off Tohoku coast.
878 March The Akita Castle is overrun during Gangyou disturbance [ja] with the background of heavy drought and famine, resulting in growing independence of the Dewa Province
879 Nihon Montoku Tennō Jitsuroku (5th volume of historical chronicles Rikkokushi) was completed.
894 Sugawara no Michizane advocates for stopping sending embassies to China.

10th century[edit]

Year Date Event
901 Nihon Sandai Jitsuroku (6th and last of historical chronicles Rikkokushi) was completed.
907 Severe epidemics and extreme weather including floods and drought, popularly attributed to persecution of Sugawara no Michizane
935 The Tosa Nikki, the oldest surviving Japanese diary, was written.
939 Tengyō no Ran – the failed rebellion of Taira no Masakado in Hitachi Province and Shimōsa Province, Fujiwara no Sumitomo in Iyo Province and San'yō region, plus opportunistic uprisings in Dewa Province – the first of many rebellions led by professional warriors (samurai), has led to the downfall of the Tachibana clan
949 The 56 warrior monks of Tōdai-ji stage the public protest, marking the formation of sōhei class and militarization of temples.
984 The Ishinpō, the oldest surviving Japanese medical manual, is compiled.

11th century[edit]

Year Date Event
1008 The Tale of Genji is written.
1019 Toi invasion to northern Kyushu
1028 Taira no Tadatsune starts a 3-years long war in now Chiba Prefecture before surrendering.
1051 The Former Nine Years War (Zenkunen War) against rebellious Abe clan in now Tohoku have started.
1068 The dominance of the Fujiwara clan ends with the ascension of Emperor Go-Sanjō to the throne.
1083 The fighting in Tohoku flares up again, resulting in the Gosannen War (Later Three-Year War).

12th century[edit]

Year Date Event
1156 The Hōgen Rebellion has marked the rise of the samurai class.
1159 The Heiji Rebellion has been defeated, and Taira clan under control of Taira no Kiyomori is dominating the government of Japan – the first example of samurai rule
1177 Shishigatani incident – an attempted rebellion against Taira clan rule.
1180 The Genpei War starts. As result, the Imperial capital is briefly moved to Fukuhara-kyō (modern Kobe).
1181 Severe drought and Yōwa famine [ja]
1185 The Kamakura period starts after the Genpei War ends with the defeat of the Taira clan, resulting in establishment of the Kamakura shogunate.
1189 15 June The Battle of Koromo River have ended de facto independence of the Northern Fujiwara clan in Tōhoku. As result, first Japanese refugees have settled in Kaminokuni, Hokkaido.

13th century[edit]

Year Date Event
1221 Jōkyū War – an attempt of Imperial family to regain independence from the Kamakura shogunate
1230 Kanki famine [ja]
1232 The Goseibai Shikimoku code accepted and used until the Edo period, marking militarization of legal system
1274 1st Mongol invasion in Japan repulsed in the Battle of Bun'ei
1281 2nd Mongol invasion in Japan repulsed in the Battle of Kōan
1293 27 May The deadly 1293 Kamakura earthquake, followed by government in-fighting, struck Japan.

14th century[edit]

Year Date Event
1331 Emperor Go-Daigo initiates the Genkō War.
1333 5 July The short-lived Kenmu Restoration starts with the destruction of the Kamakura shogunate in the Siege of Kamakura (1333).
1334 Imperial court of Japan splits in two until 1392, resulting in the Nanboku-chō period.
1336 The Muromachi period starts with the establishment of the Ashikaga shogunate domination over the imperial Northern Court. The Daimyō system is established.
1348 4 February The Southern Court loses the Battle of Shijōnawate.
1350 Kannō disturbance weakens the Ashikaga shogunate. Wokou pirates from Japan are becoming rampant in region.
1353 The Southern Court wins the Battle of Yawata, enabling the siege of Kyoto in 1354.
1368 De facto independence of the Kantō region
1370 De facto independence of Kyushu
1392 The Nanboku-chō period ends with subjugation of the Southern Court to the Northern Court.

15th century[edit]

Year Date Event
1419 19 June Ōei Invasion to Wokou bases on Tsushima Island
1428 Cholera epidemic and extreme impoverishment in now Shiga Prefecture have resulted in Shocho uprising
1438 Flare-up of Eikyō disturbance [ja] in the Kantō region after 22 years of confrontation between local lords and shogunate
1443 The Treaty of Gyehae was signed, resulting in Wokou pirates becoming increasingly non-Japanese.
1454 The Kyōtoku Incident starts the 32 years of instability and bloodshed in the semi-independent Kantō region.
1457 Takeda Nobuhiro emerged victorious after repelling an Ainu assault on Kaminokuni, Hokkaido, marking the beginning of Japanese conquest of Hokkaido.
1457 Edo Castle, a nucleus of modern Tokyo, was built.
1459 Bad handling of the Kanshō famine in the aftermath of flood and plague in Kyoto has resulted in increasing divisions of society.
1467 The Ōnin War starts, marking the beginning of the Sengoku period – during which violence and power struggle has become the norm.
1477 Kyoto has been completely destroyed.
1488 The Kaga Rebellion overthrows samurai rule, establishing a theocratic state Kaga ikki in now Ishikawa Prefecture.
1498 20 September 1498 Nankai earthquake

16th century[edit]

Year Date Event
1523 Japanese in-fighting results in the Ningbo Incident, bringing a trade with China to halt and resulting in a new wave of Wokou piracy.
1540 Tenbun famine [ja] and plague
1543 25 August First Europeans arrive to Japan, opening the Nanban trade period.
1560 Battle of Okehazama: Oda Nobunaga emerged victorious.
1570 Oda Nobunaga have started a 10-year long Ishiyama Hongan-ji War to suppress the warrior monks community and Kaga ikki state.
1573 The Japanese society began to stabilize, starting the Azuchi–Momoyama period under ruling of Oda Nobunaga and later Toyotomi Hideyoshi.
1579 Azuchi religious debate have resulted in enforced religious tolerance.
1581 Oda Nobunaga forces wins the Tenshō Iga War.
1581 Himeji Castle, the largest in Japan, was built.
1582 Incident at Honnō-ji: Akechi Mitsuhide, an Oda general, betrayed Nobunaga at Honnō-ji and forced him to commit seppuku.
1585 Toyotomi Hideyoshi invaded Shikoku.
1587 Toyotomi Hideyoshi has launched the Kyūshū Campaign.
1590 4 August Toyotomi Hideyoshi has prevailed over the Late Hōjō clan in the Siege of Odawara in the Kantō region, completing the re-unification of Japan.
1591 8 October The Separation Edict and Population Census Edict froze the social structure of Japan.
1592 23 May Toyotomi Hideyoshi, acting as kampaku (regent) in lieu of Oda Nobukatsu, invaded Korea.
1597 5 February Twenty-six Martyrs of Japan were crucified in Nagasaki in the aftermath of the San Felipe incident.
1598 16 December The Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–98) have ended with Japanese retreat after the Battle of Noryang.

17th century[edit]

Year Date Events
1600 21 October The Battle of Sekigahara is won by forces of Tokugawa Ieyasu.
1603 24 March The Edo period starts after Tokugawa Ieyasu received from Emperor Go-Yōzei the title of shōgun.
1605 3 February 1605 Nankai earthquake and tsunami
1605 Ieyasu abdicated from office in favor of his third son and heir, Tokugawa Hidetada.
1609 7 March Invasion of Ryukyu
1610 3 January Nossa Senhora da Graça incident
1611 2 December 1611 Sanriku earthquake and tsunami
1615 3 June The Siege of Osaka is complete with the Battle of Tennōji: Tokugawa Ieyasu ended Toyotomi opposition.
1623 Hidetada resigned his office to his eldest son and heir, Tokugawa Iemitsu.
1635 The Sakoku Edict of 1635 was issued, barring Japanese from leaving Japan and barring Europeans from entering, on pain of death. It instituted strict penalties for the practice of Catholicism and severely restricted foreign trade.
The policy of sankin-kōtai was established, which subjected the daimyōs to the will of the shōgun.
1637 17 December Shimabara Rebellion: A rebellion began against the daimyō Matsukura Katsuie over his persecution of Christianity and onerous tax code.
1638 15 April Shimabara Rebellion: The last of the rebels were defeated in their fortress at Shimabara.
1642 The Kan'ei Great Famine happens due combination of government over-spending, Rinderpest epizootic, volcanic eruptions and extreme weather.
1651 24 April Iemitsu died, leaving his office to the ten-year-old Tokugawa Ietsuna.
Keian Uprising: A coup d'état attempted by several rōnin and masterminded by Yui Shōsetsu and Marubashi Chūya failed.
1657 2 March Great Fire of Meireki in Edo
1669 Shakushain's Revolt on Hokkaido
1680 4 June Ietsuna died and was succeeded by his younger brother, Tokugawa Tsunayoshi.
1686 Jōkyō uprising

18th century[edit]

Year Date Event
1703 20 March ChūshinguraForty-seven ronin were ordered to commit seppuku by the shōgun.
1703 31 December 1703 Genroku earthquake and tsunami
1707 28 October 1707 Hōei earthquake and tsunami, followed by the Hōei eruption of Mount Fuji
1709 19 February Tsunayoshi died. His nephew Tokugawa Ienobu succeeded him as shōgun.
1712 The Wakan Sansai Zue, the first Japanese encyclopaedia, was published.
1712 12 November Ienobu died and was succeeded by his five-year-old son, Tokugawa Ietsugu, under the regency of the shōgun's adviser Arai Hakuseki.
1716 19 June Ietsugu died. Tokugawa Yoshimune, a great-grandson of Tokugawa Ieyasu, became shōgun.
1716 July The Kyōhō Reforms aimed for monetization of economy and broader import of European knowledge have started.
1720 The foreign books restrictions are reduced, starting a Rangaku practice.
1732 The Kyōhō famine happens due locust infestation in the Seto Inland Sea region.
1745 Yoshimune retired, leaving his public office to his eldest son Tokugawa Ieshige, although he maintained some influence in the affairs of state.
1754 1754 Horeki River Improvement Incident
1760 Ieshige retired, leaving his office to his eldest son Tokugawa Ieharu.
1771 24 April 1771 Great Yaeyama Tsunami
1782 Great Tenmei famine
1789 Menashi-Kunashir Rebellion on Hokkaido
1790 Kansei Reforms, including Kansei Edict, tighten the isolation of Japan.
1792 21 May 1792 Unzen earthquake and tsunami

19th century[edit]

Year Date Event
1806 Chwostoff raids on the Japanese-controlled Kuril islands
1807 Failed military expedition to Sakhalin
1811 The Golovnin Incident marks increasing contacts with the Russian Empire.
1825 Edict to Repel Foreign Vessels
1833 Tenpo famine
1837 Morrison incident
1842 Tenpō Reforms lifts the price controls and further reduce contacts with Europeans.
1848 1 July The isolation policy of the Tokugawa shogunate has begun to crumble by the time of landing of Ranald MacDonald on Rishiri Island.
1853 14 July Matthew C. Perry arrives off the coast of Japan in four ships. Perry orders harbor buildings to be shelled to force negotiations for a letter President Millard Fillmore sent to the ruler of Japan. This incident was coined as the "Arrival of the Black Ships" in Japanese history.
1854 February Second Visit. Matthew C. Perry returns to Japan with eight Black Ships and finds that the shogunate had prepared a treaty accepting virtually all demands from President Millard Fillmore.
1854 March Matthew C. Perry signs the Convention of Kanagawa. Within five years, Japan signs similar treaties with other western countries, thus ending an isolation period of more than 200 years known as sakoku (鎖国), whereby the Dutch and Chinese ships had limited trade exclusivity.
1854 23 December The Ansei great earthquakes series starts with the 1854 Tōkai earthquake and tsunami.
1855 7 February The Treaty of Shimoda with the Russian Empire was signed.
1855 11 November The Ansei great earthquakes series ends with the 1855 Edo earthquake followed by a devastating fire.
1858 26 August The Anglo-Japanese Treaty of Amity and Commerce and other Ansei Treaties were signed, resulting in Ansei Purge.
1862 14 September Namamugi Incident: Four British subjects were attacked by guards on the Tōkaidō for failing to pay proper respect to a daimyō. One, a merchant named Charles Lennox Richardson, was killed.
1863 Order to expel barbarians, Battle of Shimonoseki Straits, Bombardment of Kagoshima and other events
1868 Boshin War resulting in the Meiji Restoration and other events
1871 Abolition of the han system, being replaced by a system of prefectures
1873 Seikanron: The government debated and rejected the idea of the invasion of Korea.
1873 Land Tax Reform (Japan 1873)
1874 Saga Rebellion
1876 Akizuki Rebellion, Hagi Rebellion and Shinpūren Rebellion
1877 Satsuma Rebellion
1884 Chichibu incident – a peasants rebellion
1891 28 October 1891 Mino–Owari earthquake – strongest recorded inland earthquake of Japan
1894 1 August The First Sino-Japanese War starts.
1895 17 April The First Sino-Japanese War is won by Japanese, resulting in the Treaty of Shimonoseki.
1895 29 May Japanese invasion of Taiwan (1895)
1896 15 June The 1896 Sanriku earthquake kills 22,066 men.

20th century[edit]

Year Date Event
1904 8 February Russo-Japanese War: Japan launched a surprise torpedo attack on the Imperial Russian Navy at Port Arthur.
1905 5 September Russo-Japanese War: The Treaty of Portsmouth was signed, ceding some Russian property and territory to Japan and ending the war. Pro-war activists staged the Hibiya incendiary incident nevertheless.
1910 22 August The Japan–Korea Treaty of 1910 completes the annexation of the Korean Empire.
1910 December The Japanese Antarctic Expedition starts.
1914 31 October The Siege of Tsingtao starts as part of World War I.
1919 1 March March 1st Movement signal the start of the Korean independence movement.
1923 1 September The 1923 Great Kantō earthquake kills 105,385 men.
1927 Shōwa financial crisis
1930 27 October Wushe incident – a rebellion on Taiwan
1931 18 September Japan invaded Manchuria in the aftermath of the Mukden Incident.
1932 1 March Manchukuo, a puppet state of Japan, is established.
1937 7 July The Second Sino-Japanese War starts.
1940 22 September The Japanese invasion of French Indochina starts.
1941 13 April The Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact was signed.
1941 7 December Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, Japan has declared war to the US, Dutch and British, marking the start of the Pacific War theatre of World War II.
1945 6 August Atomic bombing of Hiroshima
1945 9 August Atomic bombing of Nagasaki, the Soviet invasion of Manchuria starts and continues on as the Kuril Islands dispute
1945 15 August Surrender of Japan
1946 3 May In the controversial International Military Tribunal for the Far East, the prosecution began of Japanese military leaders for war crimes.
1947 3 May The Constitution of Japan goes into effect.
1956 12 December Japan joins the United Nations.
1964 10 October 1964 Summer Olympics: Tokyo hosted the Olympics, marking the first time the Games were held in Asia.
1968 Japan surpassed West Germany to become the second largest economic power in the world.
1969 18 January Student protests against the Vietnam War and American use of bases on Japanese soil culminated in a short-lived takeover of Tokyo University.
1970 11 February The first successful launch of the Lambda 4S rocket places the Japanese Ohsumi satellite on orbit.
1971 30 September Zengakuren demonstrate in Tokyo against terms for the return of Okinawa from US to Japanese control.
1971 24 November The 1971 Okinawa Reversion Agreement is ratified in the aftermath of the Koza riot and other incidents.
1974 Prime Minister Eisaku Satō, the first Asian to do so, accepted the Nobel Peace Prize.
1989 29 December The Tokyo Stock Market index, Nikkei 225, hits its peak at 38,957 before closing at 38,916 for the day.
1991 Lost Decade: The Japanese asset price bubble popped.
1995 17 January Great Hanshin earthquake
1997 11 December The Kyoto Protocol to regulate greenhouse gases emissions was adopted.

21st century[edit]

Year Date Event
2011 11 March 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, followed by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster
2012 December Abenomics policies are enacted to handle the consequences of the Lost Decade and the Japan demographic crisis.

See also[edit]

Cities in Japan

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ Lee Injae、Owen Miller、Park Jinhoon、Yi Hyun-Hae, "Korean History in Maps", p. 696 (60)

Further reading[edit]

Published in the 19th century
  • William Henry Overall, ed. (1870). "Japan". Dictionary of Chronology. London: William Tegg.
  • George Henry Townsend (1877), "Japan", A Manual of Dates (5th ed.), London: Frederick Warne
Published in the 20th century
Published in the 21st century

External links[edit]