Land of the Rising Sun
In the beginning, there was emptiness. Then Heaven and
Earth began to separate and two gods came to life Izanagi and Izanami . They decided to create islands on the
“There should be a country beneath us !” So they decided to
create the islands of Japan. Izanagi reached down from
heaven and put his jeweled spear into the ocean. When he
took out the spear, drops fell from its point forming the islands
of Japan.
This is how the world began, according
to Japanese mythology.
Then the two gods decided to create a
new god - the Sun Goddess, who was
called Amaterasu.
The Sun Goddess gave life
to everything around her.
The Sun Goddess sent her grandson, Ninigi
to take control of the Japanese island of Honshu.
To make sure the people would accept him, she
sent with him her bronze mirror, her jewel and a
great iron sword.
Eventually Ninigi’s grandson, Jimmu, became the first emperor
of the Japanese people.
Today, the objects in the legend--the mirror, the jewel, and the sword
are the symbols of the emperor’s
godly power.
Many years ago, volcanos pushed up out of the Pacific Ocean.
The tops of these mountains are the islands of Japan.
The Japanese islands are very unstable . Each year Japan has
over 1,500 earthquakes, most are minor . And 60 volcanoes are
still active.
Most of Japan is mountains and hills. There is very little farmland.
The sea has always been Japan’s
greatest help - it provides most of
their food !
Japan’s seas are also a natural barrier, keeping Japan in isolation,
or setting it an apart from much of the world.
Because it was an island nation, the Japanese developed their
own culture, (traditions, beliefs, values, attitudes, religion, their own way of living.)
1. What was a result of Japan being an island nation?
A. The Japanese were able to develop their own culture
B. They were invaded by Korea
C. They were invaded by China
D. The Japanese were separated from other Africans
The Early People of Japan
In the early history of Japan many people came there.
One of the first people were hunter-gatherers called Ainu,
The Ainu still live on the island of Hokkaido.
Later, people from Korea and Indonesia, and northern Asia came
to Japan.
The people who became the Japanese lived in small farming
villages ruled by powerful clans or families.
People outside of a family or clan had to obey and
respect the members of the clan and their chief.
Some clans became very powerful and ruled an entire area of
Japan, like a family - owned state within the country.
Each of these sections of Japan is controlled by a family or clan
All these Japanese clan – states
are similar to another type of
government you learned
about in the 6th grade --The City-States of
2. Early Japanese society under the clans was not a single unified country but
many small states. This type of government most resembles that of
A. the early city-states of ancient Greece
B. the Roman Empire during the Pax Romana
C. the Old Kingdom of ancient Egypt
D. the New Kingdom of ancient Egypt
The religion of early Japan was called SHINTO. It
worshipped nature and teaches that the world is filled with
divine spirits called kami.
The highest kami, the Sun
Goddess, was believed to
be the ancestor of Japan’s
* Japanese Prince Shotoku ruled Japan.
He travelled in China and was very
impressed with Chinese ways including the religion of BUDDHISM.
3. How did Prince Shotoku learn about Chinese society and
A. He travelled in China
B. He sent scholars to China
C. He studied with Confucius
D. He studied Shintoism
Buddhism had spread from India to China and into Korea. So, In
the early 600's AD Prince Shotoku had Buddhist priests sent
to Japan.
Japanese liked Buddhism because it promised rewards if you
were faithful and good.
4. What did Japan learn from Korea?
A. written language B. Confucianism
C. Buddhism
D. spoken language
Prince Shotoku also brought Confucianism from China to Japan
which taught people how to behave and gave rules for families.
The Chinese emperors had
great power.
Prince Shotoku
wanted Japan’s
emperors to
have great
power too.
The Japanese did not have a written language. So, they
copied Chinese writing.
5. The influence of China and Korea on Japan’s history, culture,
and development is found in all of the following except
A. Japan’s first writing system
B. the Japanese religion of Shinto
C. early rules for family behavior D. the practice of Buddhism
6. What did Japan learn from China?
A. Korean Language B. Spoken language
C. Sign language
D. written language
7. China influenced medieval Japan by Japan’s development of
A. a writing system B. the samurai tradition
C. haiku poetry
D. a civil service exam
In 710, the Japanese created a capital called Nara in the excellent
farmland on Honshu. Religion and art became very important in
But 84 years later the Emperor and his family set up a new
capital in Heian (Hay-ahn) which later was renamed Kyoto.
The finely dressed women and men of the Emperor's court lived in
the new capital of Kyoto,
a life of luxury.
In Heian (Kyoto) Japan enjoyed a time called the Golden Age of
Japan. Wealthy nobles at the emperor’s court paid for and
helped create beautiful art,
Drama (called Noh drama)
fancy writing
and architecture (buildings ) copied
from the Chinese
8. Which Japanese art was modeled on Chinese styles?
A. Architecture B. drama C. novels D. prose
and literature.
Japanese learned to write using the
Chinese language, and wealthy noble
men wrote stories and poems in the
language of the court – Chinese.
But women wrote in Japanese (which used the
Chinese symbols for Japanese sounds).
FATHER in Japanese
Women wrote stories, poems, and diaries about their lives in the
Emperor’s court. As a result, some of the greatest works of early
Japanese literature are by women !
9. Most great works of early Japanese literature were written by
A. Buddhist scholars
C. Shinto priests
B. samurai warriors
D. noble women
Lady Murasaki Shikibu was a noble woman who described in
her diary what she saw in the Emperor’s court. She also wrote
what may be history’s first novel called “the Tale of Genji”
about a prince named Genji who is looking for love.
The book tells us
what the attitudes
and customs were
like in ancient Japan.
“I was brought up in a distant province which lies farther than the
farthest end of the Eastern Road. I am ashamed to think that
inhabitants of the Royal City will think me an uncultured girl.
Somehow I came to know that there are such things as
romances in the world and wished to read them. When there was
nothing to do by day or at night, one tale or another was told me
by my elder sister or stepmother and I heard several chapters
about the shining Prince Genji.”
10. From the content of this passage, it can be concluded that its
author was a
A. samurai warrior
B. noble woman from Heian
C. farmer from northern Japan D. daimyo
The Japanese nobles of Heian (Kyoto) valued art and learning just
like another group of people you learned about in the 6th grade -
The people of Athens, Greece !
11. The nobles of Heian placed great emphasis on art and
learning, just like the people of which ancient Greek city-state that
you learned about in Grade 6 ?
A. Sparta B. Athens C. Macedonia D. Troy
During the Heian period, Buddhism was popular and many new
forms were created – such as Pure Land Buddhism and Zen.
The common people enjoyed Pure Land
Buddhism because it promised a paradise
for chanting Buddha’s name over and over.
Zen Buddhism was popular
with samurai warriors because
it valued self discipline.
12. Zen became popular among
A. Pure Land Buddhists
B. Common people
C. The Chinese
D. Samurai
Zen Buddhism taught that physical and mental exercise would
produce a sudden understanding of all things.
These are all examples of Zen Buddhism:
The tea ceremony practices the quiet
appreciation for the tea, the room with its
sounds and smells, the people and good
manners, and calm and friendly
The Japanese garden is a calm place for
meditation and where people appreciate
Flower arranging (called Ikebana)
teaches balance in nature and beauty.
and Zen also encouraged painting.
Calligraphy taught the careful,
self control of artistic writing.
Geisha, meaning “Artist”, is another
example of Zen. Women study dance,
music, poetry, and literature to entertain
Another way to practice Zen is the SUMO wrestler !
It takes great concentration and self discipline to be a SUMO.
The court life of the Emperor was quite different from the rest of
Japan. In the country and towns of Japan, nobles were fighting
each other. These nobles were called DAIMYO’s . They were
wealthy landowners.
To protect their lands, or take over
other lands, they hired trained
professional warriors called samurai,
which means “those who serve.”
13. Daimyo were
A. trained professional warriors B. military rulers
C. figureheads
D. wealthy landowners
14. Which statement accurately describes the relationship of a
samurai to a daimyo?
A. Daimyo hired samurai to defend them and their property.
B. Samurai hired daimyo to defend them and their property.
C.Daimyo paid samurai in slaves.
D. Daimyo had to obey every command of their samurai lord.
After years of fighting, one Daimyo became the most powerful.
He took the title of SHOGUN. He was the military ruler of Japan.
The emperor was not removed, but he became a “figurehead”
(one who looks powerful, but has little real power). Prince
Shotoku’s desire for strong Japanese emperors had not been
successful. Shoguns would rule Japan for hundreds of years.
Here you see the
levels of society
created during
this time.
15. Which term means a military ruler?
A. daimyo B. bushido C. shogun D. samurai
16. Which of Prince Shotoku’s plans did not succeed ?
A. To make the Japanese emperor more powerful
B. To make Buddhism more widespread
C. To increase the number of people who practiced Shintoism
D. To learn about Confucianism
*As powerful as the Shogun was, the Daimyo were nearly as
powerful because the Daimyo owned large amounts of land ,
controlled nearly all the peasants, and paid the Samurai
17. Daimyos became nearly as powerful as the shoguns by:
A. killing the shogun
B. controlling most of the peasants and farmland
C. freeing samurai to work for the shogun
D. none of these
honor and discipline . This code was called “BUSHIDO”.
There main job was to defend lords with their most important
possession – the samurai sword.
Samurai had great endurance (strength) great physical skill
(fighting abilities), and great courage.
Today, in modern Japan, the samurai qualities of loyalty, honor
and discipline are still taught to children and valued in society.
18. Which statement is not true about the code of bushido?
A. It was followed by samurai
B. It was created by the emperor
C. It is honored in Japanese society today
D. It calls for very strict discipline
19. A samurai’s most important possession was
A. his Daimyo B. his sword C. his helmet D. his land
20. Endurance, cunning, physical strength and courage were the
ideal characteristics of
A. Confucian officials B. Buddhist priests
C. Japanese samurai D. Hindu governors
21. The importance of loyalty, honor, and discipline in Japanese
society today are mainly the result of what influence in Japan’s
A. the code of the samurai
D. the spread of Chinese Buddhism
B. the teachings of Shinto
C. the reforms of Prince Shotoku
22. The main function of samurai in Japanese society was to
A. write poetry B. manage farmland
C. defend lords D. conquer China
The Impact of Foreign Invasion
For many years Japan traded peacefully with China. In the late
1200s, however, Japan received an unusual offer . The Mongols, led by
Kublai Khan, had taken over China and now they wanted to rule Japan
as well. Kublai Khan sent a message to the Japanese “Join my empire
and be ruled by me !” When the Japanese said "No", the Mongols
attacked Japan. In 1274 the Mongols sent 25,000 soldiers on hundreds
of ships from Korea across the Sea of Japan, but most of the soldiers
drowned because of a terrible storm at sea.
In 1281, the Mongols tried again. This time they sent over 4,000
ships with 150,000 soldiers.
They landed on the island of Kyushu.
The Mongols used crossbows that shot
farther than Japanese arrows,
and catapults that hurled
flaming bombs.
But the samurai, trusting in their swords,
fought fiercely.
After 50 days of battle, another powerful typhoon helped the
Japanese. The winds and rains destroyed the Mongol ships.
The Japanese called the storm "kamikaze" or “divine wind,”
believing that their gods had helped them.
Foreigners in Japan
When Portuguese traders reached Japan in
1542, they brought something new to Japan –
These weapons were far superior to swords and arrows. The
shogun, Nobunaga, armed his warriors with these new weapons
and soon took control of more than a third of the country.
But the Portuguese also brought Catholic missionaries to spread
Christianity to the Japanese.
By the early 1600’s the shoguns saw these foreigners as a threat.
These were the problems they saw:
1. Europe was always at war and
they were afraid these European
wars might spread to Japan.
2. They were afraid Japanese Christians would
obey the Pope in Rome instead of the shogun.
3. Because of all the new trade with Europe, the
shogun was afraid that daimyo would became
rich and take over the government .
4. They did not like new European customs :
smoking tobacco,
and new kinds of music.
So, Between 1612 and 1635, the shogun created laws that
Christianity was no longer allowed and all Christians must leave
Japan or be killed.
Japan decided to isolate itself from everything that was
western . People were not allowed to travel and almost all
European trade was stopped.
The islands of Japan were off limits to other countries. New ideas,
inventions, art, the entire history of other countries went on for 200
years without touching the Japanese people.
But inside Japan, arts and literature, music and theatre, and
appreciation for beauty became important.
All this was possible because the rule of the shoguns was so
strong that wars and rebellions stopped
and Japan was at peace.
Many countries tried to get Japan to enter the modern age and
begin trading with them.
In 1853 President Millard Fillmore of the United States finally
sent several warships led by Commodore Matthew Perry which
forced Japan to accept trade with America.
They were soon convinced to make a trade treaty with the
Americans and soon after with the rest of the world.
Japan's isolation was over for ever !
And the world was eager to learn more about this beautiful
hidden country with its unique customs and long history.
Today ALL the world trades with Japan !