0071-01-01 00:00:00

Emperor Keiko

Emperor Keiko ruled during years 71-130. He lived in Hishiro palace at Makimuku, which is modern day Nara. He had a total of eighty children with his many consorts and concubines. His second son was named Oh-usu (big mortar) and third son was named O-usu (little mortar). O-usu would later be known as Yamato-takeru for killing the two heroes of Kumaso under the orders of the emperor (Borgen and Ury 89).

0230-01-01 00:00:00

Queen Himiko

Queen Himiko ruled over Japan roughly during this time period, known as the Yayoi prehistoric period. She was said to have been skilled in the "Way of the Demons" and ruled by keeping everyone under her spell. She lived in solitary in a palace with one thousand maid servants and many armed guards. She did, however, establish good relations with China during their expeditions to Japan and sent them many gifts (Kidder 14-18).

0300 BC-01-01 00:00:00

Yoyoi Prehistoric Period

The Yoyoi prehistoric period is said to have existed during this time period. The area is currently a modern neighborhood in Tokyo. Many bronze and irons artifacts were found during this time period, suggesting advancements in technology. People from Korean were also thought to have migrated to Japan during this time, reflecting on how Japanese culture incorporated new practices and international cultures (lecture from 1/20/19).

0300-01-01 00:00:00

Kofun Prehistoric Period

The Kofun prehistoric period is thought to have existed during this time. It is known as the "burial mound" period because many rulers would be buried in huge burial mounds that were guarded by clay warriors. The burial mounds died off after 645 possibly because Buddhism was incorporated into Japanese culture and new burial rites as well as perspectives on death were introduced (lecture from 1/20/16)

0574-01-22 09:57:04

Prince Shotoku

Prince Shotoku lived during the Kofun prehistoric period from 574 to 622. He was instrumental in establishing Buddhism as a national religion in Japan. However, twenty years after his death his entire family was exterminated. In an attempt to assuage his evil spirit and prevent any catastrophes from occurring due to his evil spirit, the state government re-established the Horyuji and the Hall of Dreams (Plutshow 136-137).

0592-01-01 00:00:00

Beginning of Buddhism in Japan

Buddhism primarily rose during the Asuka and Nara periods that spanned from years 592-794. The religion was introduced by a Korean king Baekje and it was incorporated into Japanese culture. Some of the first significant impacts that Buddhism had included the building of Great Buddha statues that were built to be extremely large as a testament to the power and wealth of the ruling class (lecture of 2/3/16).

0600 BC-02-01 00:00:00

Buddhism in India

The origins of Buddhism can be traced back to India during the 7th century BC. It was created mainly as a reflection and even criticism of the class system that existed in the country. It focused on aspects like Samsara, which is the rebirth cycle of consciousness based on karma. Buddhism also included the now pervading idea of Three Jewels or Treasures, which are the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha (Ancient History Encyclopedia and the lecture from 2/1/16).

0685-01-01 00:00:00

685 Butsudan Imperial Decree

In 685, the government exacted an imperial decree that stated that all households must possess a butsudan or private altar. The family's ancestors would be worshiped at these altars and it ws the first evidence of altars being developed in Japan. The decree was mainly targeted at aristocratic families but soon all social classes adopted the practice (RCJ 84).

0700-02-11 01:20:46

Shinto Texts

The earliest Japanese Shinto texts of Nihongi and Kojiki were written during this time. The texts were originally written to legitimize imperial rule but set the foundations of how important the Kami are to everyday life. The texts tell of Izanami and Izanagi, deities who were given birth to by Kami. These two created Japan and also gave birth to many other Kamis of influence, such as the fire god. Izanami, however, dies while giving birth, and Izanagi follows her into the underworld only to find horror and anger. Thus, the sharp distinction between life and death is established. Izanagi then gives birth to other Kami, such as Amaterasu, the sun god, who Japanese people are said to have descended from (RJP 23-24 and Nihon Shoki and Kojiki).

0700-07-03 03:33:17

Origins of Zen Buddhism

Zen Buddhism can trace its origins back to China in the 8th century. It was known as "chan" and centered around lineage and transmission of teachings from master to pupil. It also strongly emphasizes the idea of meditation (Lecture notes from 3/21/16).

0700-10-20 09:48:11

En the Ascetic

Also known as En no Gyoja, he is considered the founder of the practice of the religious tradition Shugendo with a heavy emphasis on going into the mountains in order to obtain powers and perform ascetic practices. He was well known for his "magic" but was eventually exiled due to political reasons. Today, he is well-known in many legends and tales (RJP 343).

0710-01-01 00:00:00

Nara Period

The period known as Nara occurred during this time. State structures and centralized rule were established and legal governance began. There were also many military campaigns during this time in order to incorporate the "barbarian" tribes of the north into the government. There was Chinese influence, especially with the building of their capital facing South while the rest of the city faced North towards the emperor. It was the time when literacy rose, textual production began, and marked the rise of Buddhism as a central influence to Japanese culture (lecture from 1/27/16).

0774-01-01 00:00:00

Shikoku Pilgrimage

Starting at around the time of Kukai, people began to make pilgrimages around temples on the Shikoku island of Japan. In modern times, there are 88 temples to travel to during the pilgrimage and it takes around 45 days to do it by foot. The pilgrimage revolves around the idea that Kukai is actually taking it with you and that it is a time of self-reflection and has an emphasis on rebirth (film screen and class notes from 3/2/16).

0774-01-01 00:00:00


Kukai is one of the most famous Buddhist figures in Japanese history that started the Shingon School of Esoteric Buddhism. He was born in an aristocratic family but decided to travel to China in order to learn Shingon philosophy from Shingon master Huiguo. He brought what he learned back to Japan and started his own temple at Mt. Koya. He started radically new philosophies of Buddhism that included the idea that the dharma body is tangible in body, speech, and mind. He emphasized the importance of incantation in order to achieve enlightenment (Heisig 51-52).

0780-01-01 00:00:00


Kiyomizudera was a famous temple in Kyoto founded by priest Enchin in 780 who had a dream of a spring pure water that led him to leave Nara in search of the source. While meditating, he witnessed a warrior kill a deer. With great remorse, he built a temple there which would become Kiyomizudera. The building of the temple was one of the first events that eventually led to the capital moving to Kyoto during the time (RCJ 142).

0787-02-04 11:20:52

Nihon Ryoiki

Written by Monk Kyokai, the Nihon Ryoiki is a Japanese Buddhist text that incorporates many different stories with underlying moral principles. For example, the story of Shiragabe no Imaro follows a man who refused to give food to a begging monk and ended up being crushed to death later in life. This story, as well as the rest, all have universal themes of karma, being born in one of the six realms based on karma, and living a virtuous life while giving offerings to the Three Treasures (Original text translated by Kyoko Motomichi Nakamura).

0794-01-01 00:00:00

Heian Period

The Heian period of Japan existed during this time period. The courts and capital were moved to Kyoto by Emperor Kammu. It was a time distinctively marked with decline in imperial power through the Regency and Insei systems as well as the rise of many new Buddhist sects such as esoteric Buddhism and Pure land Buddhism. The regency system involved forming familial ties with the emperor through marriage and the Insei system allowed retired emperors to retain private power. Both of these system resulted in a weakened imperial system where the Emperor traditionally holds the majority of authority (lecture from 2/8/16 and

0800-09-30 04:26:37

Itako Mediums

Itakos are blind spirit mediums. They are all female and usually underdoe long apprenticeships to another medium where they learn the techniques of summoning the spirits of the dead and undergo long periods of intense asceticism. They are still very popular today at Osorezan, where it is said that the spirits of the dead may return to earth if contacted by the living. The Itako often give a more theatrical performance rather than personal power (RCJ 130-131).

0806-09-30 04:26:37

Tendai: Sennichi Kaihogyo

Also known as the 1000-day mountain-circumambulating austerity, the Sennichi Kaihogyo is one of the most difficult austerity practices in Buddhism that only 50 monks have accomplished since 1571. The austerity involves first circumambulating the mountain for the first 700 days then going 9 days without food, water, or sleep, and then finishing the rest of the 300 days. The few who have completed this austerity are said to have gained powers and they use them to bless others. There is a less intensive 100-day austerity that monks must complete if they wish to become head priests,

0807-01-01 00:00:00

Kogo Shui

The Kogo Shui, or "Collection of Old Narratives," was written by Imbe Hironari in 807 and presented to the emperor of that time. The work incorporated textual reconstructions of the Nihonji and justified the Imbe family's place in the government as part of the enthronement ritual. It also established grounds for many emperors to rule by saying that they were descendants from Amaterasu and Ninigi. The revised interpretation of the Nihongi is representative of how many religious texts were used in order for certain people to establish their right to power and position in Japan.

0809-12-17 21:04:14

Vow of Uninterrupted Study of Lotus Sutra

Many monks would vow to devote themselves to only studying the Lotus Sutra based on Saicho's teachings on 809. They made the vow on top of Mount Hiei. They also reference Kanmu has the great protector of Saicho (Daishi 140).

0835-01-01 00:00:00

Kukai Eternal Meditation

In 835, Kukai is said to have sat in the lotus position, formed the titual hand gesture of the Great Sun Buddha, and peacefully entered a state of eternal meditation. Memorial services were performed every week for seven weeks in order to keep him clothed and shaved and eventually he was enclosed in a stone structure. No funeral was held since many people still consider him alive today waiting for the next Buddha to arrive (RJP 358-359).

0900-02-11 01:20:46


Chan Buddhism, which would eventually be known as Zen Buddhism in Japan, emerged as a separate school in the eighth century in China. Many Japanese monks traveled to China during the eighth and ninth centuries to learn about Chan and it would become the dominant school in China during the Sung dynasty (Yampolsky 140).

0903-01-01 00:00:00


Kuya, also known as Koya or Kosho, was the first monk to successfully spread the practice of Nembutsu. He would chant the name of the Amida Buddha in the Kyoto marketplace while playing a gong. Before him, chanting the Nembutsu was only a practice for pacifying the spirits of the dead rather than achieving enlightenment ((RJP 268).

0942-01-01 00:00:00

Tendai School of Buddhism

The Tendai School of Buddhism focused on the idea of "Suchness" and that enlightenment is an inherent part of all living creatures. The school was started by the great scholar Genshin and promoted simple practices, such as the meditative practice of Lotus Sutra, in order to achieve enlightenment. The practice also stresses the philosophy of the three truths of emptiness, provisional existence, and the middle, which are perspectives that must be cognized all at once to realize "suchness" or the reality that an enlightened person sees (RJP 200).

10000 BC-01-01 00:00:00

Jomon Prehistoric Period

The earliest discovered prehistoric period of Japanese history, known as the Jomon period, existed during this time. The period is known as the "cord-patterned" due to the archaeological features of pots and other artifacts. Agriculture also emerged during this time, which led to class division and the rise of kings and priests. Possible religions that existed during this time may have had focus on death and fertility (lecture notes 1/20/16).

10000 BC-02-04 11:01:46

Hells of Buddhism

Buddhism does believe and incorporate Hell into their practice. According to some texts, there are eight hot hells, eight cold hells, four neighboring hells, and a number of trifling hells. Each layer of hell is indicative of a certain offense or crime that a person might have committed in a past or current life, and the punishment usually is related to the misconduct. It is interesting to consider the parallels between Buddhism hells and those described by Dante in his work Inferno. Both include separate layers based on the severity of wrongdoing (Lopez 23-25).

1133-01-01 00:00:00


Honen is regarded as the founder of the Pure Land Path sect of Buddhism. He preached that simply saying the nembutsu will allow people to attain birth in the Pure Land. He argued that any other practices are not effective due to the fact that the world is in mappo (RJP 269).

1173-01-01 00:00:00


Shinran was a pupil of Honen and is known to have started the True Pure Land sect of Buddhism, arguable the most pervasive sect to ever have been created. Shinran argued that faith in Amida is the only way to be born into the Pure Land. However, his perspective of faith is that it has to come naturally and cannot be pursued (RJP 279).

1200-01-01 00:00:00


Dogen was born to wealthy parents but they died when he was young. He entered Mount Hiei at the age of 12 and later studied with Eisai's disciple Myozen. He traveled to China in 1223 with Myozen and received dharma transmission from a master. He then returned to Japan and established a monastery in Kyoto. He was the founder of Soto Zen Buddhism, which was extremely popular with the common people (Lecture notes from 3/23/16)

1200-07-03 03:33:17

Rinzai Zen Buddhism

Rinzai is a sect of Zen Buddhism founded by Eisai (Yosai). The sect focused on the elite warrior class in medieval Japan and important figures included Japaneze citizens who traveled to China to learn about Zen as well as native Chinese citizens. The monasteries that developed during this time became centers for literary and artistic production (Lecture notes from 3/23/16).

1222 BC-01-01 00:00:00


Nichiren was a Buddhist monk who lived during the years 1222-1282. He is most famous for his Nichiren School of Buddhist thought, which heavily incorporates the Lotus Sutra as the only means of enlightenment as well as a way to bring the buddha land into the present world. His opinions against the other sects of Buddhism during his time led to two exiles but he continued to believe in his teachings. His ideals also supported positive engagement in society and had lasting effects on Japanese culture during the growing mercantilism-based economy at the time (Stone 565-567).

1237-09-25 18:22:07

Instructions for the Cook

Dogen wrote instructions for the cook in 1237. He emphasizes the idea of all practices being spiritual and that the cook should take the time to perfect his craft in even the tiniest of details. He talks about how you should not waste ingredients and do everything with care and patience.

1500-10-22 14:55:44


The largest of the Nichiren Buddhist temple denominations. The head temple is at Kuonji at Mount Minobu in Yamanashi Prefecture, where Nichiren spent his last years. There are other modern denominations that mainly emerged from the many schisms during the 14th to 16th century (Stone 595).

1549-01-01 00:00:00

Introduction of Christianity in Japan

The first Jesuit missionaries arrived in Japan at around 1549 during the time that the Spanish and Portugese opened up trade. The spread of faith was fairly successful and led to there being more Christians in the country then than there are in current day society. The religion would soon be outlawed during the Tokugawa period but later re-emerge (Mullins 134).

1859-01-01 00:00:00

Reintroduction of Christianity

During a time of widespread chaos at the end of the Tokugawa period, Christianity rose in popularity again in 1859 and onward. The ban on Christianity was also lifted in 1873. Churches began to increase their missionary goals but they did meet some challenges as the Meiji government stabilized and began to promote Shinto. However, with the creation of the secular constitution following WWII, Christianity became a permanent part of Japanese history.(Mullins 135).

1869-01-01 00:00:00

Yasukuni Shrine

Yasukuni Shrine is an enormous shrine built in present day Tokyo, Japan in 1869. It was originally built to worship certain Kami but eventually became a memorial for fallen soldiers. Many emperors, such as Emperor Hirohito, visited the shrine often due to its history and what it represented. Post WWII, the shrine developed an incredible following of over 80,000 members including the rich and powerful. However, the shrine became shrouded in controversy as many Class A WWII war criminals would be buried there (Breen 5-7).

1871-01-01 00:00:00

Makiguchi Tsunesaburo

Makiguchi was the first president of the Soka Gakkai organization. He initially started the organization as a means of propagating educational reform since he was a teacher at Tokyo University. However, he eventually converted to Nishiren Buddhism and began to slowly move away from educational reform into a full-fledged religious movement. He denounced imperialist Japan's emphasis on Shinto and was eventually imprisoned for his actions (McLaughlin 281-282).

1882-05-21 00:00:00

Yashukun War Museum

The Yashukun War Museum was established in 1882 and mainly focuses on Japan during the world wars. It incorrectly white-washes history and depicts Japan as the victim of Western aggression. The museum clearly glorifies Japan and their actions during WWII (Nitta Hitoshi 130-132).

1889-01-01 00:00:00

Watsuji Tetsuro

Watsuji Tetsuro was a critic-scholar that lived from 1889 to 1960. He is most famous for his text Sonno shiso to sono dento, which gave a different perspective on the impact that the Kojiki and Nihongi had on the course of Japanese history. His argument is that, rather than relying on political power, the ethically aware people of Japan looked to the emperor as a moral standard and sought to establish the emperor centrality on Japanese culture as a moral authority. This interpretation of the imperialist Japanese system continued to persevere even after post-WWII to legitimize the emperor as a unifying figure (Takamitsu 67).

1930-01-01 00:00:00

Soka Gakkai

Sokai Gakkai is the largest organization in Japan with over 8 million registered members. It started out as an organization meant for educational reform but eventually turned into a Nichiren-based Buddhist organization that expanded tremendously following WWII. It has had three major leaders: Makiguchi Tsunesaburo, Toda Josei, and Ikeda Daisaku. The organization has international headquarters, its own flag, media, political party, and more (McLaughlin).

1946-01-01 00:00:00

Secular Constitution

The new Japanese constitution drafted after WWII separated religion and politics, so festivals held by state and local authorities had to be secular and kamiless. However, many festivals in modern Japan, even when sponsored by government, are still deeply rooted in tradition and reflect the overall atmosphere of community and identity to the old festivals of the past. The continued turnout and support of festivals correlates with the idea of religion being a community-based event that is meant to strengthen social ties (RCJ 72-74).

1946-02-11 08:16:29

Class A War Criminals

After World War II, many of the Japanese officers and generals that were responsible for organizing events like the Rape of Nanking were labeled as Class A War Criminals. They were executed but controversially enshrined in the Yasakuni Shrine. This controversy still exists today as many prime ministers and other political figures refuse to visit the shrine (Breen 8).

1948-06-14 04:54:52

Jizo Statues

The mizuko kuyo practice for paying respects to aborted babies involves setting up an image of Jizo on the Buddhist altars at home as well as setting up a stone statue of Jizo at the Mizuko Jizo Temple or the family temple. Jizo is said to guide the aborted fetuses out of the realm of departed souls (RJP 194-195).

1948-06-14 04:54:52


Abortion was made legal in Japan in 1948 and is the main method of birth control. The controversial ceremony of mizuko kuyo is practiced where the parents of an aborted fetus will pray to kamis and set up altars in order to appease their aborted baby's angry spirit (Underwood 743).

1948-12-06 10:36:39

Mizuko Kuyo

MIzuko Kuyo is the controversial practice of giving funeral rites to aborted fetuses on Japan. It has become an increasingly popular practice since abortion is the most common form of birth control in the country. There is also an an increasing belief of spirituality in Japan, especially vengeful spirits (Underwood 743).

1964-05-15 02:00:34

Clean Government Party

The Clean Government Party was a political party created in 1964 under Soka Gakkai. It was originally created to expand the groups religious goals but met a lot of controversy and opposition since under the new constitution Japan was a secular state (McLaughlin 243).

1971-01-01 00:00:00

Yokota Harumasa

Yokota Harumasa is an abbot of Chofukuji, a Soto temple in the Niigata prefecture. He is a self-proclaimed cleric of pets and combines Buddhist, animistic, and Christian notions that focuses on the idea of the rainbow bridge and heaven. He believes that there is a heaven for pets to live in peace while waiting to be reunited with their owners (Ambros 501-502).

1977-01-01 00:00:00

Tsu City Religion Case

In 1977, a communist councillor sued Tsu City on the grounds that the city participated in a Shinto ground-breaking ceremony to pray for a safe conclusion of the construction of a gymnasium. The councillor argued that these actions violated the 3rd Clause of the 20th Article of the Japanese Constitution, stating that State and Religion should be separate. The Supreme Court ended up ruling against the councillor, thereby setting the precedent that State and Religion should not be entirely separated as long as there is no malicious intent (Nitta Hitoshi 129).

1980-02-27 07:37:57

Celebrity Christian Weddings

There were two widely televised weddings of Japanese celebrities. Actor Miura Tomokazu and vocalist Yamaguchi Momoe got married in 1980 and superstars Kanda Masaki and Matsuda Seiko in 1985. These two events inspired consumer trends and generated interest in Christian wedding ceremonies that would soon become the norm (LeFebvre 187).


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