As part of the Visual Timeline series
300BCE – 250CE: Yayoi Period. Hundreds of small states emerge with more complex social hierarchies and larger settlements.
250 – 538: Kofun Period. Japan effectively united for first time. Shinto religion flourishes.
538 – 710: Ashuka Period
538 – 552: Buddhism introduced
604: Prince Shotoku’s Constitution of 17 articles promulgated
645: Taika reforms based on Confucianism introduced. Fujiwara era starts.
710 – 784: Nara Period
710: Nara becomes first capital
784: Capital moves to Nagaoka
794 – 1185: Heian Period
794: Capital moves to Heian (Kyoto)
1016: Peak Fujiwara power as Fujiwara Michinaga becomes regent
1159: Taira clan seize power after Heiji war
1180 – 1185: Minamoto clan ends Taira supremacy following Gempei War
1192 – 1333: Kamakura Period
1192: Kamakura govt established
1221: Jokyu Disturbance ends with Hojo regents in Kamakura reigning supreme over Kyoto challengers
1232: Joei Shikimoku legal code promulgated
1274 and 1281: Two Mongol invasions repelled, mostly due to bad weather.
1333: Kamakura govt fails
1338 – 1573: Muromachi Period
1334: Kemmu Restoration
1336: Takauji captures Kyoto, emperor flees 1337, and establishes Southern Court in Yoshino
1338: Takaui establishes Muromachi govt in Kyoto (Northern Court)
1467-1477: Onin War
1542: Portugese introduce firearms to Japan.
1568: Nobunaga captures Kyoto
1573-1603: Azuchi Momoyama Period
1573: Muromachi govt fails
1575: Nobunaga defeats Takeda clan at Battle of Nagashino
1582: Nobunaga murdered; suceeded by his general Hideyoshi
1588: Hideyoshi “Sword Hunt” confiscates weapons from villages
1590: Hideyoshi unifies Japan after capturing Hojo clan’s Odawara
1592-1598: Unsuccessful invasion of Joseon Korea (Imjin War).
1600: Tokugawa Ieyasu victorious over Toyotomi clan at Battle of Sekigahara.
1603-1868: Edo Period
1603: Ieyasu appointed shotgun and establishes Tokugawa govt in Edo (Tokyo)
1615: Ieyasu storms Osaka ending Toyotomi line.
1635: Era of Tokugawa Shogunate isolationism begins
1644: Ming dynasty (1368-1644) ends in China, Qing dynasty (1644-1912) starts
1657: Mereiki fire burns half of Edo and kills 100k
1720: Edo becomes largest city in world
1772: Edo destroyed by fire
1792: Russia unsuccessful in establishing trade with Japan
1842: British defeat Qing in first Opium War (1839-1842)
1854: US commodore Matthew Perry sails into Edo Bay; forces trade agreements the following year.
1862: First Japanese Embassy to Europe
1864: Ikeda Mission (Second Japanese Embassy to Europe). British-American-French-Dutch navy attack Shimonoseki city to retaliate against foreigner expulsion from Japan
1868-1912: Meiji Period
1868: Meiji Restoration in Japan ends isolationist Shogunate rule (1600-1868), and kicks off rapid industrialization.
1869: Boshin War between pro-imperial and pro-Tokugawa ends. Telegraph line between Tokyo and Yokohama established.
1870: First daily newspaper begins publication (Yokohama Daily).
1871: Iwakura Mission departs on 18-month tour of US and Europe. Postal service begins between Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. Shinto established as state religion.
1872: First railway service begins between Tokyo and Yokohama. Family Registration reveals population of 33,110,825. Gregorian calendar is adopted, replacing lunar one.
1873: Conscription Ordinance promulgated sparking mass protests; revised in 1889 to make it more universal. Emperor Meiji opposes proposals to invade Korea. Invasion supporters resign from government and lead rebellions. Final rebellion led by Saigo squashed in 1877 (inspiration of Last Samurai movie).
1877: First national university, Tokyo University, established.
1879: Ryukyu Islands formally incorporated into Japan as Okinawa Prefecture. Cholera epidemic kills 100k.
1884: 10k farmers in Chichibu attack government offices after years of reduced agricultural prices due to deflationary govt policies.
1885: Ito Hirobumi named first Prime Minister. 927 Japanese workers depart for Hawaii, the 1st of many migrations
1889: Meiji Constitution promulgated
1890: Telephone service begins in and between Tokyo and Yokohama
1895: Japan defeats Qing in first Sino-Japanese war (1894-1895); mostly over Korea; ceding Taiwan, and transferring Korea to Japanese sphere of influence
1902: Alliance with Britain
1904: First bento boxed lunch sold at Kyoto train station; will become enduring part of Japanese food culture into 21st century
1905: Japan wins Russo-Japanese war (1904-1905); Asian state defeating European colonial power shocks world
1907: Japan forces Korean king to abdicate
1908: 791 Japanese depart for Brazil, the 1st of many migrations
1909: Korean independence activist assassinates Japanese PM Ito Hirobumi
1910: Japan annexes Korea
1912: Emperor Meiji dies. Xinhai Revolution in China
1912-1926: Taisho Period
1914-1918: Japan joines Allies in WW1
1918: Rice riot in Tokyo
1922: Washington Naval Treaty (US, UK, France, Italy, Japan) restricts naval tonnage.
1923: Great Kantho Earthquake devastates Tokyo and Yokohama
1925: Radio broadcasting begins
1926-1989: Showa Period
1926: Crown Prince Hirohito ascends to throne
1927: Subway between Ueno and Asakusa (Tokyo) opens
1929: US stock market crashes (Great Depression 1929-1933)
1931: Manchurian Incident
1932: Japan annexes Manchuria; declaring nation of Manchukuo. Prime Minister Tsuyoshi assassinated in May 15th Incident (naval officer coup attempt).
1937: Second Sino-Japanese War begins (part of WW2) following Marco Polo Bridge Incident. Japanese commit atrocities to Koreans and Chinese, especially in Nanjing.
– Jul: US freezes Japanese assets
– Dec: Pearl Harbour initiates Pacific War against US.
– Mar: Firebombing of Tokyo kills 100k
– Aug: Hiroshima & Nagasaki. Japan surrenders to Allies, ending WW2.
1946: New constitution promulgated
1952: Allied Occuption ends
1954: Godzilla movie released
1956: Japan becomes UN member
1964: Bullet train begins operations
1972: Japan normalises relations with China
1973: OPEC Oil Crisis
1985: Plaza Accords; West Germany and Japan agree to appreciate their currencies against USD; making US exports more competitive
1989-2019: Heisei Period
1995: Great Hanshin Earthquake hits Kobe. Sarin Gas attack in Tokyo subway.
2019-present: Reiwa Period
Visual Timeline Series