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Far East Kingdoms





FeatureEmperors of the Sun Line of Japan
AD 1st Century - Present Day

Prehistoric Japan is divided into four major cultures: Palaeolithic, Jomon, Yayoi and Kofun. Each of these major cultures, or periods, is further subdivided into several sub-periods. The cultural phases are almost limitless. The dates for these periods are given in uncalibrated radiocarbon years before present, except for the beginning of the Palaeolithic, which is based on other dating methods and dates from 50,000 years ago to the start of the Jomon Period. It is a period generally thought to be dominated by big-game hunters, although there is little direct evidence for how these people lived. Everyone agrees that there is a Late Palaeolithic in Japan, which dates from about 35,000 years ago to the advent of pottery technology 13,000 to 10,000 years ago. The evidence for humans in Japan before 35,000 years ago is quite controversial.

(Additional information from External Link: Japanese Archaeology.)

Jomon Period
13,000 - 300 BC

The earliest inhabitants of the Japanese islands were hunter-gatherers, with the long coasts providing good supplies of fish. Pottery was made, after which the period is named. These hunter-gatherers seem to have arrived before the end of the last ice age, via land bridges that joined Japan  to Asia's mainland. They successfully fended off invaders until about 300-200 BC, but still contributed greatly to the genetic make-up of modern Japanese people.

(Additional information from External Link: Japan-Guide.com.)

Yayoi Period
300 BC - AD 300

Rice culture was imported into Japan around 200-100 BC by farmers who migrated from the Korean peninsula, although some experts believe the influx may have begun up to 700 years earlier. These newcomers also introduced the language from which all modern dialects of Japanese appear to descend, replacing any language possessed by the earlier populations of hunter-gatherers. With the introduction of agriculture, social classes started to evolve, and parts of the country began to unite under powerful land owners. Chinese travellers during the Han and Wei dynasties reported that a queen called Himiko (or Pimiku) reigned over Japan at this time. The Yayoi Period also witnessed the introduction of iron and other modern ideas from Korea into Japan. Again, its pottery gave the period its name.

fl c.AD 220s?

Himiko / Pimiku

Attested by Chinese travellers.

Legendary Period
First Century AD (660 BC) - AD 539

According to legend, Emperor Jimmu Tenno arrived with his people on the islands of Japan in 660 BC. However, the number of his successors between that arrival and the first truly historical emperors puts that arrival at some time in the first century, coinciding with the Yayoi Period, and all dates prior to AD 500 should be approached with caution. The dates for the first 28 emperors are based on the Japanese calendar system.

AD 1st century

Jimmu Tenno

Tribal leader. Legendary date for his arrival is 660 BC.





2nd century




? - 219


219 - 249


249 - 280


280 - 316


316 - 342


343 - 346


Yamato Period (Kofun Period)
AD 346 - 539

A central power had certainly developed in the fertile Kinai Plain in Japan by the Kofun Period (kofun after the type of tombs which were built for the country's rulers). By about 400 the country was unified as Yamato Japan, with the royal court in the Yamato Province (modern Nara Prefecture). Yamato Japan extended from Kyushu to the Kinai Plain, but did not yet include the Kanto, Tohoku and Hokkaido. Still part of the Legendary Period, dates for the emperors of this period are less uncertain but still not entirely trustworthy.

346 - 395


Last proto-historical emperor.

346 - ?

Empress Jingű K˘g˘


395 - 427


427 - 432


433 - 438


438 - 453


453 - 456


456 - 479


480 - 484


485 - 487


488 - 498


498 - 506


507 - 531


Possible founder of a new dynasty.

531 - 535


535 - 539


Asuka Period (Historical Period)
AD 539 - 710

The Asuka Period witnessed the continuance of friendly relations with the kingdom of Paekche which helped the arrival of Buddhism in Japan (in 538 or 552), and the flourishing of the imperial court which promoted the new religion. From this point onwards, emperors follow traditional dates which are more or less reliable.

539 - 571


572 - 585


585 - 587

There is a succession war in Japan.

585 - 587


587 - 592

Sushun / Sajun

592 - 628

Empress Suiko

First truly historical empress.


593 - 622


Regent to Suiko. Promoted Chinese ideas.

629 - 641


Grandson of Bidatsu.

642 - 645

Empress Kogyoku

Abdicated in favour of her brother.

645 - 654




The era of the Fujiwara Clan starts and lasts until the rise of the samurai military class in the eleventh century. A new government and administrative system is established after the Chinese model in the Taika reforms. All land is bought by the state and redistributed equally among farmers in a large land reform in order to introduce the new tax system that is adopted from China.

655 - 661

Empress Saimei

Empress Kogyoku re-acceded throne as Saimei.

662 - 671

Tenji / Tenchi (Nakanooye)

671 - 672

Kobun (Ōtomo)

Named posthumously.

673 - 686

Kemmu / Temmu

Usurper of Kobun's throne.

690 - 697

Empress Jito

697 - 707


707 - 715

Empress Gemmei

Nara Period
AD 710 - 794

In AD 710, the first permanent Japanese capital was established in Nara. This was a city modelled on the Tang Chinese capital of Xi'an, which was at its peak in terms of cultural influence and industrial power. China was the superpower of the ancient east, and everyone wanted to copy its glories. The imperial court made a concerted effort in this period to document its history, producing the country's first works of literature.

715 - 724

Empress Gensho

724 - 749


749 - 758

Empress Koken

Abdicated in favour of cousin. Buddhist.

758 - 764

Junnin (Haitei)

Second cousin. A young sovereign. Posthumously named Junnin.

764 - 770

Empress Shotoku

Empress Koken took crown back from Junnin and ruled again.

770 - 781

Konin / Kammu

FeatureHeian Period
AD 794 - 1192

Confucianism and other Chinese influences were at their height during this period, and the imperial court was similarly at its height. The period began in 794 with the capital being moved to Heian kyō (modern Kyoto). The first shoguns appeared during this period, but only as generals leading campaigns against northern 'barbarians'.

(Additional information by Haruo Kakuta.)

781 - 806


50th Emperor of the Sun Line.


The presence of salt pans around the Seto Inland Sea in the eighth century is supported by documents. Nihon Koki, for example, has an entry dated 14 November 799 which relates that 'Bizen Province said, "People in Kojima County have made their living by producing salt, and prepared for Cho and Yo taxes with the salt. The mountains, the wilds, the seashores, and the islands there have been for common use as a rule. Powerful clans and families have come to disturb and deprive the people. The more prosperous the powerful become, the more distressed the poor turn. We beg things to be replaced." The Emperor ordered, "It is against the public benefit that the powerful intimidate the poor. It must be stopped and never be allowed to happen."'.

806 - 809


Died 824.

809 - 823


Died 842.

823 - 833


Died 840.

833 - 850


850 - 858


858 - 876


Died 880.

877 - 884


Died 949.

884 - 887


887 - 897


Died 937.

897 - 930


930 - 946


Died 952.

946 - 967


967 - 969


Died 1011.

969 - 984


Died 991.

984 - 986


Died 1008.

986 - 1011


1011 - 1016


Died 1017.

1016 - 1036


1036 - 1045


1045 - 1068


1067 - 1072


Died 1073.

1072 - 1086


First 'cloistered' emperor (1086-1129).

1086 - 1129

Shirakawa becomes the first cloistered emperor when he 'retires' to a monastery in 1086, but in fact continues to exert considerable influence over his successor (all cloistered emperors below are shown in red, while their 'influenced' successors are shown with a shaded background).

1086 - 1107


1107 - 1123


Cloistered emperor (1129-1156).

1123 - 1141


Son. Died 1156.

1141 - 1155


Brother. Died aged 17 with no heir.

1155 - 1158


Brother. Cloistered emperor (1158-1179 & 1180-1192).

1159 - 1165


m daughter of Toba.

1166 - 1168


Died 1176.

1169 - 1181


Cloistered emperor (1180-1181).

1179 - 1180

Go-Shirakawa attempts to regain direct power, but fails, so he reverts to cloistered rule.

1180 - 1185

The Taira and Minamoto clans fight a deciding war for supremacy, the Gempei War. In 1185, the Battle of Dan-no-ura sees the Taira Clan being overthrown by the Minamoto, who in 1192 become the first shoguns to govern the country.

1181 - 1183


Died 1185.

1183 - 1198


Cloistered emperor (1198-1221). Died 1239.


After Shogun Yoritomo's death, quarrels for supremacy start between the bakufu of Kamakura and the imperial court in Kyoto.

Kamakura Period
AD 1192 - 1333

Emperors of this period follow traditional dates which are more or less reliable. The Shoguns became the secular rulers of the country from 1192, while the Hojo Regents gained imperial power from 1203, depriving the emperor and government offices of practically all remaining power.

1199 - 1210


Died 1231.


The Hojo Regents gain power In Japan.

1211 - 1221


Sent into exile after being defeated. Died 1242.


The quarrels for supremacy between the shoguns and the imperial court reach an end in the Jokyu War (or Incident) when the imperial army is defeated in Kyoto, and the Hojo Regents in Kamakura achieve complete control over Japan.



Died 1234. Dethroned aged 2. Officially listed after 1870.

1222 - 1232


Died 1234.

1233 - 1242


1243 - 1246


Died 1272.

1247 - 1259


Died 1304.

1260 - 1274


Died 1305.


The first Mongol invasion is defeated through bad weather conditions, with the outnumbered Japanese facing superior and much more modern forces. The defeat is an unexpected one for the otherwise near-universally victorious Mongols.

First Mongol invasion of Japan
This illustration of the first Mongol attempt to invade Japan shows the Mongol fleet being smashed to pieces by the 'divine wind' that saved the Japanese

1275 - 1287


Died 1324.


The second Mongol invasion is again defeated through bad weather conditions. The Mongols suffer around seventy-five per cent casualties and a clear limit is set on their expansion in Asia. Japan praises the kamikaze, or 'divine wind', which has saved it twice from invasion.

1288 - 1298


Died 1217.

1299 - 1301


Died 1336.

1302 - 1308


1309 - 1318


Died 1348.

1319 - 1336


Southern Court from 1336.


At the climax of a two-year-long campaign, Go-Daigo overthrows the weakened Hojo Regents.


Ashikaga Takauji drives Go-Daigo out of Kyoto and two years later declares himself shogun, splitting the country between the Northern and Southern courts.

Ashikaga Period / Northern Emperors
AD 1338 - 1392

The Hojo Regents were defeated by the imperial court, but almost immediately the Ashikaga Shoguns seized power and held the stronger north of Japan from Kyoto.

1336 - 1392

The Ashikaga Shoguns rule in the north until the Japanese imperial court is reunited.

Nambokucho Period / Southern Emperors
AD 1338 - 1392

These emperors ruled in the southern court only, in effect from 1336 but officially from 1338, when Ashikaga Takauji declared himself Shogun. In 1392 the southern court gave in and the country was reunified.

1336 - 1338


Ruled all of Japan until 1336.

1339 - 1368


1369 - 1372


1373 - 1392


Died 1424.


The Japanese imperial court is reunited when the southern court surrenders to the north.

Muromachi Period
AD 1392 - 1573

The Muromachi Period emperors were dominated by the Ashikaga Shoguns. The period ended when the last Ashikaga shogun was driven out of the capital in Kyoto by Oba Nobunaga.

1392 - 1412


100th Emperor of the Sun Line. Died 1433.

1413 - 1428


1429 - 1464


Died 1471.

1465 - 1500


1501 - 1526


1527 - 1557


1558 - 1586


Died 1593.

Azuchi-Momoyama Period
AD 1573 - 1603

1587 - 1611


Died 1617.

1592 & 1598

Japan attempts to invade Korea twice but is defeated both times.

Edo Period
AD 1603 - 1868

The Edo Period is also known as the Tokugawa Period, as the imperial court was dominated by the powerful Tokugawa Shoguns.

1612 - 1629


Died 1680.

1630 - 1643

Empress Myosho

Died 1696.

1644 - 1654


1655 -1662


Died 1685.

1663 - 1686


Died 1732.

1687 - 1709


1710 - 1735


Died 1737.

1736 - 1746


Died 1750.

1746 - 1762


1763 - 1770

Empress Go-Sakuramachi

Died 1813.

1771 - 1779


1780 - 1816


Died 1840.

1817 - 1846


1847 - 1867


Died from hemorrhagic smallpox


For some time, no US ship has been allowed to put in at Japanese ports, and shipwrecked American sailors are regularly dispatched to prevent them from polluting the isolated Japanese culture. Commodore Matthew Perry arrives with a fleet of ships on 8 July and forces Japan to end its period of isolation. This act leads shortly to the ending of the Shogunate.


Following the treaty entered into between Commodore Perry and the Shogun in 1853, the first US consul general, Townsend Harris, arrives on Japanese soil to take up his office. Initially, the Japanese refuse to recognise his official status, treating him as a private citizen and a barely-honoured guest. After eighteen months of protracted negotiations and a personal audience with the Shogun, he is able to open the first US Consulate in Shimoda under the terms of the 'Harris Treaty' (as described by the John Wayne feature film, The Barbarian and the Geisha, 1958).

Modern Period
AD 1868 - Present Day

This period saw the formal restoration of imperial rule on 4 January 1868, ending 265 years of rule by the Tokugawa Shogunate. Strictly speaking, this consists of several periods: the Meiji Period (1868-1912), which saw Japan transform into a modern industrial nation; the Taisho and Early Showa Period (1912-1945), which saw Japan extend its power over much of China and the Pacific; and finally the Post-War Period.

Japanese emperors were more often known by their personal names even after death than those which they were given upon their deaths, so official names are shown here in parenthesis. Inside Japan itself, such a use of personal names would be considered impolite.

(Additional information from A Concise History of Modern Korea: From the Late Nineteenth Century to the Present, Michael J Seth.)

1867 - 1912

Mutsuhito (Meiji)


With the promulgation of the Meiji Constitution, a prime minister is selected to head a constitutional monarchy in Japan.


Japan occupies large areas of Korea during the Russo-Japanese War, with the result that a protectorate is formed to oversee these areas. Japanese resident-generals are appointed to 'manage' the country with the Korean emperor remaining in charge in name only.


Following several years of increasing dominance in Korea which is tacitly supported by the Western nations, the former Korean empire is annexed to Japan. The emperor is removed and governors-general replace him in running the country.

1912 - 1926

Yoshihito (Taishō)


With the First World War already underway in Europe, Japan declares war on Germany on 23 August 1914. The principle motive is to take advantage of Europe's confusion - especially Germany's - to expand its own sphere of influence in China and the Pacific. Allied with Britain which has its own need to put down any German forces in the region, Japanese and British troops take Tsingtao Fortress which houses the German East Asia Squadron's headquarters. German-leased territories in China's Shandong Province are also taken, as are the Marianas, Caroline, and Marshall Islands in the Pacific, all of which are part of German New Guinea.

Japan also dispatches a naval fleet to the Mediterranean in order to aid allied shipping against German U-boat attacks (the Anglo-Japanese Alliance ends in 1923, after Japan has grown disillusioned with Western cooperation and instead pursues a nationalist policy).


The Sam-il Movement embodies a growing resistance to Japanese occupation of Korea. On 1 March 1919, a group of activists read a Korean declaration of independence before signing it and sending a copy to the governor-general. The movement's leaders subsequently hand themselves in to the police, but a student reads the declaration in public. Mass demonstrations follow, increasing in size until a panicked Japanese military uses force to resolve things. Massacres and various atrocities follow, resulting in thousands of dead and injured.


A force of 40,000 Czech soldiers which has fought its way across Siberia following the collapse of the Russian empire is finally extracted by a joint American-Japanese bridgehead established at Vladivostok.

1926 - 1989

Hirohito (Shōwa)

Renounced the divinity of the Sun Line 1947. Died of cancer.


Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, Costa Rica, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and the USA join the war on the allied side, initially against Japan, but Germany is soon included. Almost at the same time as the attack on Pearl Harbour, Japanese forces land in Siam's territory. Initial Siamese resistance is brief, and following negotiations, the Japanese forces are allowed to advance towards the British-controlled Malay peninsula, Singapore, and Burma.


Peru becomes the first South American country to join the war on the side of the allies, but Mexico does the same in June. Brazil joins in August.


Bolivia joins the war on the side of the allies in April, while Colombia joins in July.


In February, Ecuador, Paraguay, and Uruguay belatedly join the war on the side of the allies, while in March Argentina joins, followed by Chile in April. On 6 August, an atom bomb is dropped on the city of Hiroshima by the US bomber, 'Enola Gay'. A further bomb dropped on Nagasaki on 9 August brings a declaration of surrender from Japan on 2 September. Japan also surrenders its empire, including territory in China and Korea.

1989 - Present


125th Emperor of the Sun Line.