Historical Timeline

Approx. 250 – 538: Before, Japan was split into several tribes and nations. During the Kofun period those separate groups began to come together into one state.

500: For centuries the Japanese language had no written. The country began to adopt the Chinese writing system for its own use, modifying it to fit its own grammatical structure. This eventually became two of the three components of Japanese writing, hiragana  and Kanji.

530’s: Travelers presented images of the Buddha as well as volumes of Buddhist text as part of a diplomatic mission from Korea. Though opposed by several clans, Prince Shotoku  soon declared Buddhism the official religion of the country.

1549: Francis Xavier, a Jesuit missionary, arrived in Japan and introduced Christianity to the country. Though it was not the majority religion, it had significant influence on the development of the nation.

1635: The Sakoku Edict was enacted, barring the Japanese people from traveling abroad and forbidding their ships to leave for foreign countries. This edict essentially isolated Japan from the rest of the world.

1854: Commodore Matthew Perry led four ships to Japan hoping to reestablish trade and communications with Japan. With gifts and a show of military might Japan was convinced to open up two ports, beginning the opening of Japan to the rest of the world.

1868: Before the Meji emperor took control, Japan was bound by several treaties, militarily weak, and was mainly agricultural. During his rule, Japan began a period of mass industrialization and change.

1889: During the Meji restoration, the Japanese government created a bicameral legislature, the National Diet. The nation also saw the creation of a new educational system and other steps taken to gain favor with the West.

1904: For several years Russia and Japan have competed for control over Korea and Manchuria. Japan then launched a surprise attack on a Russian naval fleet on February 8th. The war officially ended with the Treaty of Portsmouth, mediated by President Theodore Roosevelt.

1910: Korea comes under Japanese colonial rule. Their reign was at first harsh and done through their military, but was eventually relaxed after the Koreans protested their rule.

1923: Considered the worst natural disaster to strike Japan at the time, the Great Kanto Earthquake first hit south of Tokyo. The shock wave  was then followed by a massive tsunami and fires that ravaged the nation.

1937: Beginning in 1931, Japan invaded China and took control of Manchuria. Over the years they began to encroach on more of China’s territory. Fighting between the two nations in this year eventually erupted and became the Second Sino-Japanese War

1941: On December 7th, the Japanese bombed the Pearl Harbor naval base in Hawaii. This attack caused the U.S. to officially enter into war with Japan, and eventually enter World War II.

1945: On August 6th the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. Then on August 9th another bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. Soon after Japan accepted the Allies terms of surrenders, officially leaving the war on September 2nd.

1947: Drafted by the U.S., the Constitution of Japan came into effect on May 3rd. Even now that same constitution has governed Japan without ever being amended.

1952: At the end of World War II the Allied forces occupied Japan and led the country’s rehabilitation. This occupation officially ended in 1952 and Japan regained its independence.

1956: The United Nations officially came into existence in 1945. Japan became a member in 1956.

1964: The Summer Olympics were held in Tokyo, Japan, the first time it was ever held in Asia. The games represented Japan’s progress after the wars, now becoming a country of peace.

1972: Due to a history of war and violence, relations between Japan and China were severely damaged. In this year the Japanese Prime Minister and the Chinese Chairmen met and relations between the two countries were normalized.

2011: A 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Japan in March, then resulting in a tsunami which only worsened the damage done to the nation. The earthquake/tsunami also caused damage to the Fukushima Nuclear Power Station, resulting in one of the most catastrophic nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

By: Cory Tran