Heian Period - History

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History

The Heian period was preceded by the Nara period and began in 794 after the movement of the capital of Japan to Heian-kyō (present day Kyōto), by the 50th emperor, Emperor Kammu. It is considered a high point in Japanese culture that later generations have always admired. The period is also noted for the rise of the samurai class, which would eventually take power and start the feudal period of Japan.

Nominally, sovereignty lay in the emperor but in fact power was wielded by the Fujiwara nobility. However, to protect their interests in the provinces, the Fujiwara and other noble families required guards, police and soldiers. The warrior class made steady gains throughout the Heian period. As early as 939, Taira no Masakado threatened the authority of the central government, leading an uprising in the eastern province of Hitachi, and almost simultaneously, Fujiwara no Sumitomo rebelled in the west. Still, military takeover was centuries away, when much of the strength of the government would lie within the private armies of the shogunate.

The entry of the warrior class into court influence was a result of the Hōgen Rebellion. At this time Taira no Kiyomori revived the Fujiwara practices by placing his grandson on the throne to rule Japan by regency. Their clan (Taira clan) would not be overthrown until after the Gempei War, which marked the start of the shogunate. The Kamakura period began in 1185 when Minamoto no Yoritomo seized power from the emperors and established a bakufu, the Kamakura shogunate, in Kamakura.

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