The Rise and Fall of the Imperial System (4th-12th Century AD)
Japanese History is the embodiment of Imperial History. Its story begins with the Yamato race which established itself in a small province in central Imperial Japan during the 4th century. In the course of about the next 300 years, the Yamato family gradually gained control over the numerous warring tribes and clans in the surrounding provinces.
It was by way of trade connections with Korea and China (under the Han Dynasty) that Japan gained the political and cultural foundation upon which Japanese culture was built. However, as cultural contact with China was interrupted towards the end of the 9th century, Japanese civilization began to take on its own special characteristics and form. Life in the capital was marked by great elegance and refinement. While the court gave itself up to the pursuits of the arts and social pleasures, its authority over martial clans in the provinces became increasingly uncertain.
Effective control passed into the hands of two rival families, the Minamoto and the Taira, who both traced their descent from previous Emperors. The Minamoto finally prevailed, annihilating the Taira clan in 1185. This Minamoto victory marked the end of the Imperial Throne as the effective political power in Japan, and the beginning of seven centuries of feudal rule.