Curtis Andressen’s “Short History of Japan”

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The book “Short History of Japan”, written by the great writer Curtis Andressen, is a fantastic book to understand the japanese history and culture. It’s the perfect book for those people who want to learn the country’s whole history, starting from scratch. The information is explained in a very easy and understandable way. Speaking about the content, the history of Japan is one of the most beautiful, magic and interesting ones, thanks to its traditional and deep culture. Japan’s mythology is also incredibly rich, with lots of gods and fantastic creatures. In fact,  legend attributes the creation of Japan to the    sun goddess, from whom the emperors were descended. The first of them was    Jimmu, supposed to have ascended the throne in 660 B.C., a tradition that constituted official doctrine    until 1945.

Recorded Japanese history begins in    approximately A.D. 400, when the Yamato clan,    eventually based in Kyoto, managed to gain control of other family groups    in central and western Japan. Contact with Korea introduced Buddhism to    Japan at about this time. Through the 700s Japan was much influenced by    China, and the Yamato clan set up an imperial court similar to that of    China. In the ensuing centuries, the authority of the imperial court was    undermined as powerful gentry families vied for control. At the same time, warrior clans were rising to    prominence as a distinct class known as samurai. In 1192, the Minamoto    clan set up a military government under their leader, Yoritomo. He was    designated shogun (military dictator). For the following 700 years,    shoguns from a succession of clans ruled in Japan, while the imperial    court existed in relative obscurity.

First contact with the West came in about 1542,    when a Portuguese ship off course arrived in Japanese waters. Portuguese    traders, Jesuit missionaries, and Spanish, Dutch, and English traders    followed. Those foreigners were called “Nanban” by the natives, which means “barbarians”. Suspicious of Christianity and of Portuguese support of a local    Japanese revolt, the shoguns of the Tokugawa period (1603–1867)    prohibited all trade with foreign countries; only a Dutch trading post at    Nagasaki was permitted. Western attempts to renew trading relations failed    until 1853, when Commodore Matthew Perry sailed an American fleet into    Tokyo Bay. Trade with the West was forced upon Japan under terms less than    favorable to the Japanese. Strife caused by these actions brought down the    feudal world of the shoguns. In 1868, the emperor Meiji came to the    throne, and the shogun system was abolished.

At the Washington Conference of 1921–1922,    Japan agreed to respect Chinese national integrity, but, in 1931, it    invaded Manchuria. The following year, Japan set up this area as a puppet    state, “Manchukuo,” under Emperor Henry Pu-Yi, the last of    China’s Manchu dynasty. On Nov. 25, 1936, Japan joined the Axis. The    invasion of China came the next year, followed by the Pearl Harbor attack    on the U.S. on Dec. 7, 1941. Japan won its first military engagements    during the war, extending its power over a vast area of the Pacific. Yet,    after 1942, the Japanese were forced to retreat, island by island, to    their own country. The dropping of atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima    and Nagasaki in 1945 by the United States finally brought the government    to admit defeat. Japan surrendered formally on Sept. 2, 1945, aboard the    battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay. Southern Sakhalin and the Kuril    Islands reverted to the USSR, and Formosa (Taiwan) and Manchuria to China.    The Pacific islands remained under U.S. occupation.

Gen. Douglas MacArthur was appointed supreme    commander of the U.S. occupation of postwar Japan (1945–1952). In    1947, a new constitution took effect. The emperor became largely a    symbolic head of state. The U.S. and Japan signed a security treaty in    1951, allowing for U.S. troops to be stationed in Japan. In 1952, Japan    regained full sovereignty, and, in 1972, the U.S. returned to Japan the    Ryuku Islands, including Okinawa. That meant the start of a new Japan, independent but which followed the occidental culture, until these days.

References

  • “Short Story of Japan” (book), Curtis Andressen, Allen & Unwin Pty Editorial.
  • “Japanese History” Blog, with Jonathan Dresner as editor, from http://dresnerjapan.edublogs.org/

 

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