The “Kojiki” is Japan’s oldest book. It was compiled in the eighth century and describes myths concerning how Japan was formed by the gods. Though it is not clear exactly when it began, it is said that the history of Japan covers more than 2,000 years. The first figure that stands out in the history of Japan has to be Himiko; according to an ancient Chinese book, she was the queen of the country of Yamataikoku. According to this book, the many countries in the nation of Wa (present-day Japan) fought among themselves, that is until Himiko was selected to rule over them all as queen, thus pacifying the conflict. The next major event was a political change that occurred in the capital of Asuka (in present-day Nara Prefecture) in the seventh century when the most influential family was wiped out. The then leader was Emperor Tenji and it is said that he built the foundations of a unified political system with the Emperor at its center. In the 12th century, samurai responsible for the safety of the Emperor rose up and seized real power from the Emperor. The HEIKE family played a leading role in the capital of Kyoto, dominating its politics to such an extent that it was said that “Only the Heike can rule the people.” However, following on from this, the Genji family, who had been defeated in a previous battle, rose up and destroyed the arrogant Heike, and the leader MINAMOTO no Yoritomo established the first military administration in Kamakura. After this, the military administration became unstable leading to a period of conflict. In the 15th century, former farmer TOYOTOMI Hideyoshi – a subordinate of ODA Nobunaga who had expanded his domain using unconventional tactics – unified Japan. After the death of Hideyoshi, his ally TOKUGAWA Ieyasu destroyed the entire Toyotomi Family. He then established his shogunate in Edo (present-day Tokyo) ushering in a peaceful period that lasted 260 years. In the 19th century, the Tokugawa shogunate had fallen under the threat of colonization by Western nations. A coalition displeased with the disorder fought and won against the Tokugawa regime wrestling political power back into the hands of the Emperor. The new government modernized Japan by adopting Western systems and technology. On the other hand, they adopted policies that increased national wealth and military power, winning conflicts with China and Russia. Then, the Japanese military, ambitious to expand its territories, entered into the Pacific War (World War II) under the pretext of defending Japan and releasing Asian nations from Western colonization. After defeat, Japan was reconstructed by rejecting militarism so that it has now become a technologically-advanced developed nation.
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