Prehistoric culture characterized by handmade pottery with rope pattern design
More advanced agricultural society, using metals and wheel-turned pottery
Great earthen grave mounds and their funerary objects, such as clay haniwa — terra cotta figurines of people and animals, models of buildings and boats — attest to emergence of powerful clan rulers. Among these was the Yamato clan, whose rulers began the imperial dynasty that has continued to the present.
Reorganization and reform based largely on learning imported from China: Buddhism, writing system, bureaucratic organization, legal theories
Establishment of first permanent capital at Nara; emergence of Japanese patterns of administration and institutions. Beginning of classical period.
Great flowering of classical Japanese culture in new capital of Heian-kyo (Kyoto). Court aristocracy, especially women, produced great body of literature — poetry, diaries, the novel The Tale of Genji — and made refined aesthetic sensibility their society's hallmark.
Beginning of military rule, as samurai (warriors) replaced nobles as real rulers of Japan. Imperial court remained in Kyoto but shoguns governing organization based in Kamakura, south of modern Tokyo.
New warrior government in Kyoto retained weak control of the country, but from its base in Kyoto's Muromachi district became patron of newly flourishing artistic tradition, influenced by Zen Buddhist culture as well as samurai and court society.
Warring factions engaged in lengthy, destructive civil wars
Country unified under military government which maintained 250 years of secluded peace, leading to development of vibrant urban, "middle-class" culture with innovations in economic organization, literature, and the arts.
Emergence, with Western stimulus, into modern international world, marked by dramatic alterations in institutions, traditional social organization, and culture.