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Far East Kingdoms

Early Cultures


Yayoi Period / Wō (Wa) (Iron Age) (Japan)
300 BC - AD 300

Rice culture was imported into Japan around 200-100 BC by East Asian farmers who migrated from the Korean peninsula into Early Japan. Somewhat opposed to this are some experts who believe the influx may have begun up to seven hundred years earlier (it may have, but did not gain a prominent position for the first few centuries).

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 (see the Legendary period for a more detailed examination of Japanese language origins). The last of those proto-Yayoi farmer populations in the south of the Korean peninsula disappeared following the formation of the Gaya confederacy in AD 42.

With the introduction of agriculture to Japan, social classes started to evolve, and parts of the country began to unite under powerful landowners. Chinese travellers during the Han and Wei dynasties reported that a queen called Himiko (or Pimiku) reigned over Japan at this time, although what they meant was that she ruled the most powerful of a series of clans. Chinese records refer to the island of Kyushu as Wō (or Wa), a term signifying the Chinese impression of a small, distant state.

The Yayoi period also witnessed the introduction of iron and other modern ideas from Korea into Japan. As with the preceding period, it is Yayoi pottery which gives the period its name. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Chinese Yen/Yan kingdom conquered the dominant Korean state of Old Choson around 300 BC, during China's 'Warring States' period - at the approximate start of the Yayoi period on Japan's islands.

For the previous six hundred years or so increasing numbers of rice farmers had been settling areas of southern Japan and bringing with them their differing pottery style from that of the native Jomon people. Could it have been refugees from conquered Korea during its Mumun pottery period who provided the final push towards ending the Jomon period?

Palaeolithic sailors

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Records of the Three Kingdoms, Chen Shou (third century text which covers the period AD 184-220 and which combines individual histories of the three kingdoms), from Myth in History: Mythological Essays, Peter Metevelis (iUniverse, 2002), and from External Links: Japan-Guide.com, and Ancient History Encyclopaedia, and Early Jomon hamlet found (The Japan Times, 1997), and Three Kingdoms (Encyclopaedia Britannica).)

c.300 BC

The Iron Age beings as rice culture is imported into Japan by farmers who migrate from the Korean peninsula. This is the beginning of the Yayoi cultural period, succeeding the earlier Jomon period.

by AD 100

A society has by now emerged which involves a class system. Around a hundred clans have formed which fight each other for dominance throughout the rest of the period. Despite this fighting, the clans also form alliances when necessary, creating small kingdoms for the purpose of ensuring military power or mutual economic success. The Chinese Han Shu history of AD 82 is one source for this information.

Tanshihuai of the Xianbei
Contemporaneously, Tanshihuai had ruled the great Xianbei confederation for forty years at the height of its power to the north of the Chinese state

fl AD 220s - 248

Himiko / Pimiku

Queen of Yamato clan, attested by Chinese travellers. Died.

c.220s - 240s

Ruling around the 220s-230s for an unknown length of time, Himiko is the female ruler of the Yamato, Japan's largest and most powerful clan at this time. She is recorded in the Wei Zhi, a history of the Wei kingdom in 'Three Kingdoms' China.

Himiko is described as a shaman, practicing magic in her spare time, while having come to power through many years of war and conquest.

Those wars have decimated the number of chiefdoms, according to Chinese records, cutting them from over a hundred to around thirty. In her later years Himiko is effectively supreme ruler of Japan (Wō or Wa to the Chinese).

248 - ?


Unnamed, unpopular king. Removed.

248 - ?

Upon the death of Himiko at the age of sixty-five, she is succeeded by an 'unpopular king'. Whether he is of the same clan is unclear, as is whether he is already an established king - which would suggest a different clan - but a period of turmoil seems to follow his accession.

Peace is only restored by the accession of one of Himiko's female relatives after an uncertain amount of time has passed.

Queen Himiko of Japan
Queen Himiko is mentioned by a number of contemporary and near-contemporary Chinese sources (shown here with her single male advisor) but seems to have been airbrushed out of early Japanese records, which suggests that a change of dynasty made her a figure to be avoided



Female relative of Queen Himiko. Aged 13.

c.AD 300

The Yayoi period is succeeded by the Kofun period in Japan. A central ruling power has by now emerged and within a century all of Japan is united under its control.

This ruling power claims descent and continuity from the far more dubious and uncertain rulers of the Legendary period which essentially covers the arrival, settlement, and ascendancy of the Japanese during the Yayoi period. Japan's dynastic history has begun.

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