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Learning History is Interesting

It is interesting and helpful to learn history.

I once asked myself why one of the most important family members of Tokugawa Ieyasu, who was the founder of Tokugawa shogunate, became a lord of Wakayama Castle. While learning history, I knew that it was because Ieyasu regarded Wakayama as a convenient place to watch anti-Tokugawa movement in Osaka and other western parts of Japan.

It must be also true for many visitors. Even a fragmentary knowledge helps us a lot. For example, in my case, when I visited London Transport Museum, I knew the reasons why terminal stations of trains are not located in the central part of London.

The following chronology is a part of my private one to help myself understand the trends of history in Japan and Wakayama. Although it may have various inaccurate descriptions, I would like to open it here. I hope it will be informative for visitors to Wakayama, even if only a little.

Simple Chronology of Japan and Wakayama (for myself)

Year

Period

In Japan

In Wakayama

~10,000 yrs. ago

Before Jomon

  • Warming up of global climate and rising of sea level.
  • Detachment of Japanese Islands from the Asian Continent.
  • Regular moving and hunting with stone tools.
  • Formation of present Seto Inland Sea.
  • Spreading of broadleaved trees and thriving of small animals like deer and wild boars.
  • Stone tools also excavated in Wakayama Pre.
  • ~4th C BC

    Jomon

  • Pit dwellings at fixed settlements.
  • Life of hunting, gathering and growing plants.
  • Production of earthen ware for cooking and storing food, having surface patterns made with twisted thread called "Jomon".
  • More than 100 remains of their settlements in Wakayama Pre.
  • Excavated shell mounds (kitchen middens) located at several kilometers away from present seashore in Wakayama City.
  • 4th C BC~ 3rd C

    Yayoi

  • Introduction of wet-rice cultivation from the Korean Peninsula.
  • Collective agriculture in organized communities.
  • Wars among small countries.
  • A shell mound used for about 2,000 years in present Wakayama City.
  • Spread of settlements into inland valleys from coastal areas.
  • 3rd C~

    Kofun

  • Building of large burial mounds called "Kofun" in western and central parts of Japan.
  • Considerable concentrations of wealth and power in hands of leaders or a military aristocracy.
  • Quite a few Burial mounds (Kofun) located along the Kino-kawa River and the coast in Wakayama Pre.
  • ~5th C

    -

  • I think the local leaders was in charge of religious ceremonies as well as rice production and military forces and they prayed for safety and rich harvest in their communities. The praying must be the beginning of Shinto, a Japanese native religion.
  • 6th C~

    Asuka

  • Establishment of a central government and a court by powerful leaders in Asuka, Nara.
  • Partial introduction of Chinese national system.
  • Allotment of farmland to farmers who pays land taxes.
  • A cluster of numeral different-sized burial mounds located at a north-eastern hillside in Wakayama City. National Special Historic Site named "Kii-fudoki-no-oka."
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    -

  • We have no record written in those days, because they had no writing system.
  • It is interesting to infer who built the cluster of almost 600 burial mounds in Kii-fudoki-no-oka.
  • It is commoly estimated that they were associated with people who built a irrigation system in the mouth of the Kino-kawa River.
  • The technology was by far the most advanced one in those days and it must have been from the Korean Peninsula.
  • The mouth of the river was a good port at the eastern end of Seto Inland Sea.
  • ~7th C

    -

  • Buddhism was introduced into Japan through the Korean Peninsula in the 6th century.
  • The new teaching came along with new other culture and technique, such as reading and writing letters, building huge wooden temples and so on.
  • The leaders in Asuka adopted Buddhism as a new thought to make many groups led by clans a united one. After the introduction, temples began to be built and burial ground were never built.
  • 8th C

    Nara

  • A new capital built in Chinese Style in Nara.
  • A lot of wealth gathered as taxes in the court.
  • Aristocrats' prosperity, and flourished Buddhism as a national religion.
  • Transition to an administrative district called "Kii'" and domination by the central court.
  • A provincial monastery built by Emperor Shomu in Kino-kawa City, as a small version of a temple of Great Buddha in Nara.
  • 9th C~

    Heian

  • A capital newly built in Kyoto, wishing for "Heian" or peace.
  • A limited number of powerful emperors and many other weak emperors under control of the Fujiwara clan, who almost monopolized important posts in the court.
  • Political fights among aristocrats, and the following rise of samurai, former security guards hired by aristocrats.
  • Establishment of Kumano Three Grand Shrines after imperial pilgrimage.
  • Foundation of temples at Mt. Koya by Kukai, who came back from China after official designation as a leading monk of Esoteric Buddhism by one of the highest-ranking masters.
  • ~11th C

    -

  • Japanese people began to accept both Shintoism and Buddhism in one system (syncretism), in which deities in Shintoism were regarded as embodiment or emanation of Buddhas. For example, deities of Kumano Three Grand Shrines have other names as Buddhas.
  • Although the modern government of Meiji officially separated the two religions in 1868, it is still common that Japanese homes have two different altars at home as a custom.
  • 12th C~13th C

    Kama-

    kura

  • Establishment of the first feudal government by samurai (military class) in Kamakura near present Tokyo.
  • Some samurai, as land stewards, controlled peasants and levied taxes.
  • Dual domination over peasants by both samurai and the court.
  • A written record of accusation of cruelty against a land steward by peasants in the middle part of present Wakayama Pre. and their vivid expression including words "cutting ears, slicing noses."
  • 14th C~15th C

    Muro-

    machi ~

    Provin-

    cial Wars

  • Collapse of the samurai government at Kamakura after Mongolian's two attempts to invade Japan.
  • An emperor's effort to take back power and establishment of another samurai's feudal government (Bakufu) in Kyoto.
  • A chaotic state of power games and provincial wars for about 100 years in the 15th century.
  • Land and military force owned by both Buddhist temples and local samurai groups in Wakayama.
  • Temples of Koya, Kokawa and Negoro. Local samurai groups of Saika in present Wakayama City and other groups in present Wakayama Pre.
  • 15th C (for 30 years)

    Azuchi-

    momo-

    yama

  • Success of dominating the whole of Japan by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who was born into a low-ranking family.
  • The end of provincial wars.
  • Hideyoshi's surveys of field size and yield.
  • His clear separation of farmers and samurai in the postwar period.
  • His miserable failure in invasion of the Korean Peninsula.
  • Toyotomi Hideyoshi's suppression of Kokawa, Negoro and Saika.
  • Temples in Koya remained, thanks to Hideyoshi's refrain from attacking.
  • His renovation of Wakayama Castle as a fort to Osaka Castle.
  • 16th C ~19th C

    Edo

  • Foundation of successful feudal government (Bakufu) in Edo, present Tokyo, by Tokugawa Ieyasu in 1603 and his elaborate systems to control whole of Japan.
  • His successors' long running of Tokugawa Bakufu until 1868 without any major provincial wars.
  • A new economic system including a modern official market for rice grain in Osaka.
  • Prosperity of some merchants in big cities like Edo or Osaka due to low taxes and their success in lending money even to samurai.
  • Increased outside pressure on Tokugawa Bakufu to stop its isolation policy.
  • Appointment of Yorinobu, the tenth son of Tokugawa Ieyasu, to the lord of Kii Domain (present Wakayama Pre. and a part of Mie Pre.) in 1619.
  • Increased importance of Wakayama City as a city where a lord from one of three privileged family of Tokugawa was seated.
  • Appointment to the 8th shogun of Yoshimune, who was from Wakayama Castle, in 1716.
  • Observation posts built by Kii Domain in order to watch foreign ships enter the Osaka Bay in Wakayama City.
  • 19th C

    Meiji

  • Rapid modernization of Japan into a westernized country by a new government of Meiji. It was composed of members who had tried to abolish Tokugawa Bakufu.
  • Strong wish not to be colonized.
  • Slogans like "Rich country with a strong army" or "Encouragement of new industry."
  • The promulgation of the Constitution of the Empire of Japan, advocating the Emperor's position to control the right to rule, in 1889.
  • Two victories of war against China in 1894 and Russia in 1904 and Japan's occupation in East Asia.
  • Returning of lands and people to the emperor in 1870.
  • Abolition of feudal domains and establishment of prefectures in 1871.
  • Land-tax reform to change taxes from rice to cash and to establish land ownership in 1873.
  • The first national election in 1890.
  • The first electric light in 1897.
  • Fortification of Kada and Tomoga-shima in 1899.
  • Opening both a railroad from Osaka City to Wakayama City and telephones in 1903.
  • 20th C

    Taisho

  • Entry into World War I as one of the Allies.
  • The first rice riots in Wakayama Pre. in 1918.
  • 20th C

    Showa

  • The rise of military.
  • Defeat in World War II in 1945.
  • The establishment of the Constitution of Japan advocating people's sovereignty, respect for basic human rights, pacifism and emperor as a symbol of the unity of the people in 1946.
  • Tokyo Olympic Games in 1964.
  • The Wakayama air raid in 1945.
  • Reconstruction of Wakayama Castle Tower in 1958.
  • 1989~

    Heisei

  • The Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake in 1995.
  • The Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011.
  • Sacred Sites & Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range was designated as UNESCO World Heritage site in 2004.
  • 2019~

    Reiwa

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