The two most dominant religions in Japan were Shinto and Buddhism. Buddhism spread to Japan from China. It is the belief of the afterlife. Many Buddhist temples were built in Japan with Buddhist priests. Inside the Todaiji temple, holds Japan's largest statue of Buddha. There is also Zen Buddhism. It teaches people to find their inner peace through self control and a simple way of life. They practice meditation, which cleans your thoughts and desires, and martial arts, combat and self-defense. Pure Land Buddhism was another type of Buddhism. They developed into different kinds of sects. They beleived in Lord Amida, a buddha of love and mercy. Shinto was also a big religion in Japan. Shinto had the belief of animism. Animism is the belief that all things have spirits. They called the spirits kami. To honor the kami, they worshipped at shrines. It was a holy place for them. For an example, mountains, trees, and winds have spirits.

Art and Architechture

Japan borrowed a lot of ideas from China and Korea. The arts of Japan revealed the Japanese love of beauty and simplicity. Artisans in Japan made wooden statues, furniture, and household items. On many of their work, they used lacquer. Origami was another set of art because it was folding paper. This helped arrange flowers. It was used to decorate the emperor's court. Next came gardening, flower arranging, and plays. They were all great features of art. Builders used Chinese or Japanese designs. Shinto shrines were built in Japanese style near a sacred rock, tree, or natural feature. People entered a shrine through a gate called a torii. Buddhist temples were built Chinese style. The temples were richly decorated with many statues, paintings, and altars. Around their buildings, the Japanese created gardens designed to imitate nature in a miniature form. They were built this way to create a feeling of peace.

Poems and Plays

During A.D. 500s, Japan borrowed China's writing system. They came up with calligraphy, the art of writing beautifully. The Japanese wrote poems, stories, and plays. The oldest form of poetry was the tanka. It was an unrhymed poem of five lines. They captured nature's beauty and the joys and sorrows of life. Haiku was next and it consisted of 3 lines of words and 17 syllables. These poems were powerful. Murasaki Shikibyu was a female novelist. She wrote the world's first novel, The Tale of Genji. The greatest Japanese collection of tales is The Tale of the Heike. The Japanese also wrote plays. The oldest type of play is Noh. Noh plays were used to display Buddhist ideas. They were performed on stage with actors wearing masks. They acted out the poetry to music.

Economy and Society

Japan's wealth came from the hard work of farmers.They grew rice, wheat, millet, and barley. They worked on daimyo estates.They used better irrigation and planted more crops. As a result, they could send more food to markets that were developing in the towns.Artisans made weapons, armor, and tools. Merchants sold these all over Japan. As trade improved, Japan had a lot of wealth. Kyoto was the center of production and trade. Artisans and merchants lived there and formed guilds. It protected and increased their profits. Japan's wealth also came from trading with Korea, China, and Southwest Asia. They sold lacquered goods, sword blades, and copper for silk, dyes, pepper,books, and porcelain.


A Japanese family included grandparents, parents, and children. The father was the head. A woman had to obey her father, husband, and son. In the time of Prince Shotoku, women had a high place in society. Several women rulers could even own property. When Japan was ruled by samurai and daimyo, the women lost their chance. In farm families, they could marry whoever they liked and worked a lot. Wives of artisans helped with business, family, and ran homes. Some women had contributed to Japan's culture like Murasaki Shikibu and Tomoe.