The rise of Japan (500-1868)
Standard: 7.5.2
  • Describe to explain in detail the reign of Prince Shotoku of Japan and The characteristics of the Japanese society and family life during his reign.
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The Age of Emperors

Key Terms and People

kami: gods and spirits

Prince Shotoku: Prince Shotoku brought reform to Japan and helped to unify the nation.

regent: someone who governs a country in the name of a ruler who is too young or otherwise unable to rule

constitution: plan of government

constitution: plan of government

Section Notes

Japan's Early History

  • In the 200s, Japan was divided into many local clans. Each clan had its own land and chiefs. Under Shinto, each clan worshiped its own local kami or gods and spirits. According to myth, Jimmu became Japan's first emperor in 660 B.C. Historians think the first emperor appeared much later about A.D. 200 or 300. Emperors were thought to be living gods on earth.

Prince Shotoku Unites Japan

  • In 593, Prince Shotoku took power in Japan. He did this by encouraging the spread of Buddhism. If people stop worshiping the local kami, and clan leaders would likely lose importance. In about 604, the Prince gave Japan its first constitution. The general principles of the Constitution were based on Confucian and Buddhist thought. In 607, Prince Shotoku said official representatives to China to study Chinese art and government. Japan adopted in China's court system and calendar. After Prince Shotoku died, other reformers started the Taika reform. New laws made everyone a subject of the Emperor. Lands and people controlled by the clan leaders now belong to him. In return the clan heads were given paid official jobs to make the reforms work, officials issued a new law code for the entire country in 702. The Taiho Code officially made the leader of the Yamato clan and emperor, the "son of Heaven."


Summary: A series of emperors established the Japanese state. One famous ruler, Prince Shotoku, introduced key reforms.

Study Guide Questions

How was early Japanese society organized and ruled?

How do myths and historians differ in explanations of the rise of the first emperors?

What were Prince Shotoku's goals for the Japanese government?

What powers did clan leaders lose as a result of the Taika Reform?

Practice Test

Homework: Choose one
  1. Workbook Chapter 12, section 1 (Page 146)
  2. Answer three of the study guide questions using complete sentences.
  3. Draw a picture of something important from this section and summarize this section of the text (three sentences minimum).