Primary Sources with DBQs—Japan

4000 - 1000 BCE

Origin Myths in the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki

The Legendary Past: The Age of the Gods

1000 BCE - 300 CE

Origin Myths in the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki

The Legendary Past: The Age of the Gods

Women Rulers: Pimiko, the Queen of Wa

History of the Kingdom of Wei (Wei Zhi), ca. 297 CE
History of the Kingdom of Wei (Wei Zhi) [PDF]

600 - 1000

Buddhism in Japan

Kukai, 774-835, founder of the Shingon or "True Word" school
"Indications of the Goals of the Three Teachings" (Sango Shiki) and "A School of Arts and Sciences" [PDF]

Saicho, 767-822, founder of the Tendai (Tiantai) school
Selected Writings: "Prayer on Mount Hiei"; "On the Possibility of Enlightenment for All Men"; "Vow of the Uninterrupted Study of the Lotus Sutra"; The Mahayana Precepts in Admonitions of the Fanwang Sutra" [PDF]

Remaking the Japanese Government after the Chinese Model

Prince Shôtoku, 573-621; Constitution, 604 CE
The Constitution of Prince Shôtoku [PDF]

Emperor Kôtoku, 596-654; Reform Edict, 646 CE
The Reform Edict of Taika [PDF]

Emperor Kammu, 737-806; Kondei System, 792 CE
The Kondei System: An Official Order of the Council of State [PDF]


Manyôshû, compiled 7th century; Kokinshû, compiled 8th to 10th centuries
The Manyôshû and Kokinshû Poetry Collections

What Is a waka?

Excerpts from The Pillow Book of Sei Shônagon

1000 - 1450

New Sects in Buddhism

Shinran, 1173-1263, founder of the Jodo Shinshu (The True Teaching of the Pure Land)
Shinran's Lamentation and Self-Reflection [PDF]

Dôgen Zenji, 1200-1253, founder of the Soto Zen sect
Dôgen's How to Practice Buddhism (Bendôwa) [PDF]

Nichiren, 1222-1282, founder of the Nichiren sect
Nichiren's Rectification for the Peace of the Nation (Risshô Ankoku Ron) [PDF]

Government: Maintaining Order during Times of Political Transition

Minamoto Yoritomo, 1147-1199, and the Kamakura Bakufu
Selected Documents of the Kamakura Bakufu [PDF]

Ashikaga Takauji, 1305-1358
The Kemmu Shikimoku (Kemmu Code) [PDF]

Imagawa Sadayo (Imagawa Ryôshun), 1325-1420
Articles of Admonition by Imagawa Ryôshun to His Son Nakaaki [PDF]

Asakura Toshikage, 1428-14851
The Seventeen-Article Injunction of Asakura Toshikage [PDF]

War Tales: The Tale of the Heike

The Tale of the Heike

Military: The Northern Song Defeated by the Jurchen Jin

Yue Fei, 1103-1142
Poem to be Sung to the Tune of "Full River Red" [PDF]

Literature: Chômei and Kenkô

An Account of My Hut

Essays in Idleness

1450 - 1750

The Government of the Tokugawa Shôgunate

Edicts of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, 1536-1598
The Edicts of Toyotomi Hideyoshi: Excerpts from Limitation on the Propagation of Christianity, 1587, and Expulsion of Missionaries, 1587 [PDF]
The Edicts of Toyotomi Hideyoshi: Excerpts from Collection of Swords, 1588 [PDF]

Edicts of the Tokugawa Shogunate
The Edicts of the Tokugawa Shogunate: Excerpts from Laws of Military Households, 1615 [PDF]
The Edicts of 1635 Ordering the Closing of Japan: Addressed to the Joint Bugyô of Nagasaki [PDF]

Social Hierarchy under the Tokugawa Shôgunate

Tokugawa Ieyasu, 1543-1616
Tokugawa Ieyasu on Military Government and the Social Order [PDF]

The Samurai Class

Yamaga Sokô, 1622-1685
Excerpts from The Way of the Samurai (Shîdo) [PDF]

Yamamoto Tsunetomo, 1659-1719
Excerpts from Hagakure (In the Shadow of Leaves) [PDF]
Excerpts from Hagakure (In the Shadow of Leaves): On Death, Living in the Moment, Speaking, Etc. [PDF]

The Tale of the 47 Rônin

The Merchant Class

The Prosperous Merchant in Tokugawa Society

Shimai Sôshitsu, 1539-1615
Codes of Merchant Houses: The Testament of Shimai Sôshitsu [PDF]


Kaibara Ekiken (Ekken), 1630-1714
Excerpts from The Greater Learning for Women (Onna daigaku)

Literature: Comic Novels, Comic Verse; Poetry of Matsuo Bashô; Drama

Ihara Saikaku, 1642-1693
Excerpts from "The Beauty Contest"

Haikai: Comic Linked Verse

The Poetry of Bashô

Bashô's Narrow Road to the Deep North

Chikamatsu Monzaemon, 1653-1725
Chikamatsu: "Japan's Shakespeare"

1750 - 1919

Reflections on Encounters with "the West" and Japan's Modernization

Aizawa Seishisai, 1781-1863
Excerpts from Shinron (New Theses): "The Barbarians' Nature" [PDF]

Fukuzawa Yukichi, 1834-1901
Excerpts from The Autobiography of Fukuzawa Yukichi [PDF]

The Meiji Government

The Charter Oath (of the Meiji Restoration), 1868 [PDF]

The Meiji Constitution of 1889 [PDF]

Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905)

The Treaty of Portsmouth (1905)

U.S. Forces Japan to "Open" Its Ports

Millard Fillmore, 1800-1874; Matthew Perry, 1794-1858
Commodore Perry and Japan (1853-1854)
On July 8, 1853, Commodore Matthew Perry of the United States Navy, commanding a squadron of two steamers and two sailing vessels, sailed into Tôkyô harbor aboard the frigate Susquehanna and forced Japan to enter into trade with the United States. This unit examines that historical exchange with an introductory essay and an examination of the three letters that President Fillmore and Commodore Perry wrote to the Japanese emperor [PDF].

Excerpts from the Letter from Emperor Meiji (Mutsuhito) to President Ulysses S. Grant, on the Iwakura Mission, 1871
"In 1871, the fledgling Meiji government dispatched a mission [the Iwakura Mission] of almost fifty high officials and scholars to travel around the world, including extended tours of the United States... The leaders of the mission also attempted to begin the renegotiation of the 'unequal treaties' — the exploitative diplomatic and economic agreements imposed by the Western powers on Japan in the 1850s... This letter from the Emperor Meiji was presented to U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant when the Iwakura Mission visited Washington, D.C."

Codes of Merchant Houses, Late Tokugawa Period

Codes of Merchant Houses: The Code of the Okaya House (1836) [PDF]
"Although merchants were accorded low social status in the Tokugawa order and the Confucian orthodoxy of the time, commerce thrived in early modern Japan. ... The Okaya house was based in Nagoya in central Japan and had its origins trading in hardware. This code was written by Okaya Sanezumi, under whose leadership the house prospered, in 1836."

1900 - 1950

Nationalism and Propaganda

Kokutai no hongi (Fundamentals of Our National Polity), 1937 [PDF]

Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905); World War I and Its Aftermath

The Treaty of Portsmouth (1905)

Okuma Shigenobu, 1838-1922
"Illusions of the White Race" (1921) [PDF]

Japan and World War II; The Atomic Bomb; Allied/American Occupation of Japan

Nagai Ryutaro, 1881-1944
"Some Questions for President Roosevelt" (1939) [PDF]

Japanese Ambassador Hiroshi Saito on the Conflict in the Far East [PDF]

The Atomic Bomb
Background reading discussing some of the events that preceded the U.S. dropping of the atomic bomb and presenting some of the questions left about the necessity and results of the bombing. With three primary source documents with document-based questions [Report of the Interim Committee on the Military Use of the Atomic Bomb (May 1945) [PDF]; Report of the Franck Committee on the Social and Political Implications of a Demonstration of the Atomic Bomb (For a Non-Combat Demonstration) (June 1945) [PDF]; The Potsdam Declaration (July 26, 1945) [PDF]], plus activities for students.

"The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb," by Henry Lewis Stimson (February 1947) [PDF]

The Constitution of Japan (1947) [PDF]

1950 - 2000

Japan's Postwar Military Policy

Article 9 and the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty
Both Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution [PDF], which prohibits Japan from maintaining military forces for settlement of international disputes, and the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, which allows the U.S. military to maintain bases on Japanese soil, have been at the center of controversy both in Japan and the United States. This unit includes an essay that explores the changing attitudes towards these two agreements, as well as two primary-source readings: the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty of 1951 [PDF] and the revised security treaty of 1960 [PDF]. With discussion questions for students.

Literature: Kawabata Yasunari (1889-1972)

"The Pomegranate," by Kawabata Yasunari