Human beings may have inhabited the Japanese island chain as early as 200,000 years ago. Very little is known about where these people came from or how they arrived on the islands. IT is most likely they crossed a land bridge that temporarily linked the Japanese islands to the Korea Peninsula and eastern Siberia on the Asian continent. The Paleolithic culture of prehistoric Japan gave way to a Neolithic culture around 10,000 BC. Known as the Jomon people, these immigrants used more sophisticated bone and stone tools and low-fired clay pots, but they did not know how to work metals
The arrival of paddy rice cultivation, bronze weapons, and iron-working techniques in Japan around 300 BC revolutionized the lives of the islands' inhabitants. Agriculture enabled peasants to store food from year to year and encouraged them to abandon the nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle and live in fixed settlements.
The use of iron farming tools as well as other implements made of wood increased peasants' productivity, and as productivity grew, so did the population. By 300 a.d the new agricultural way of life had spread to the majority of the population.
The earliest settlers of the islands did not have a very complex political organization. They lived in small, relatively self-sufficient village communities. Eventually, clusters of villages united in small territorial or tribal units under local chieftains.
For all of their expanding influence, the rulers were not absolute monarchs, nor were their powers clearly defined. They relied on chiefs of subordinate clans to manage local peasant populations. The clans controlled their own territories although years of war divided the Clans along class lines: members of the top clans gained special privileges. These nobles began military aristocracies. Incidentally early Japanese structures were highly matriarchal which gave women relatively equal social...