Japan 1911

The Japanese Empire (circa 6th to 19th centuries, C.E.) is the historical political entity from which the game Way of the Sword draws many cultural, political, and military elements.


The Yamato Line and The Taika ReformsEdit

Viewed in the long sweep of Japanese history, the Taika Reforms established important philosophical norms, legal principles, and fundamental institutions that continued to shape the nature of governance in meaningful ways throughout Japan’s premodern history. They also ushered in an era of stability when the court and aristocracy flourished.

Prior to the 6th and 7th centuries C.E., the island of Japan was split into varying fiefdoms. They dominated the regions of Honshu, Kyushu, and Shikoku. The clans were ruled by provincial leaders who traced their lineage to divine origin. Each clan existed independent from others, being self-sufficient in economy and isolated in political affairs.

Around the late 5th century C.E., the Yamato family established a clear dominance over their region, which eventually expanded to clans in the South and West. In 645, seeking to gain more power over the region and over Japan, the inner circle of the Yamato Line invited rival leaders to a banquet. Amid the darkness and drunkenness of the night, the Yamato massacred then massacred them.

In 646, the chief of the Yamato instated the Taika Reforms. The reforms were inspired by emissaries who had traveled to China and witnessed the success of centralized state rule there. The effect of the reforms was to establish the head of the Yamato as the emperor of the country. The Yamato used their own origin myth, that they were direct descendents of Amaterasu Omikami the sun goddess, to legitimize their “sacred and inviolable” power.

The Taika Reforms established a bureaucracy across the whole of the Japanese country. The nation was split into sixty-six provinces, each headed by a civil governor. The Taiho and Yoro Codes of 702 and 757 respectively solidified the warrant of governance by divine appointment for the Yamato, and specifically delineated the duties of administrative officials.

In 710, the country’s court convened in the capital city of Heijo, today’s Nara. Then, in 794, the Yamato line changed their city residence to the new city of Heian, the “Capital of Peace and Tranquility,” which is today’s Kyoto.

With a strong financial and political base, the emperor of Japan’s first dynasty took a less administrative role and performed more religious rituals, such as praying over the sowing of rice in spring. [1]


1. James L. Cain, Japan: A Modern History, W.W. Norton & Company, 2002

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