History of Kanagawa

掲載日:2011年3月1日

Profile of Kanagawa Prefecture | Prefecture's Symbols | 

Medieval Times | Early Modern Times | Modern Times | Contemporary Period | 

Prehistory and Ancient Times

A pull in the shape of a human face (Kuden-cho,Yokohama City)

A pull in the shape of a human face (Kuden-cho, Yokohama City)

The region of Kanagawa Prefecture is known for having a lot of ancient remains. There are about 7,500 prehistoric sites left by our distant ancestors in the prefecture, including shell mounds, settlement ruins, tomb mounds, and tunnel tombs dug into the hillsides. Kanagawa faces the Tokyo Bay and Sagami Bay, with Hakone and Tanzawa mountain ranges to the west. It has plateaus and plain fields suitable for propagation of wild plants and animals. This topography, combined with the mild climate, made Kanagawa a very comfortable place for people who lived on nature in these times. This is considered to be the reason why there are so many ancient relics in the prefecture.

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Medieval Times

portraito of Minamoto Yoritomo(reproduction)

portraito of Minamoto Yoritomo(reproduction)

Since the middle of the Heian period (around the end of the 11th century), some local strongmen in Kanagawa developed into ryoshu (proprietary lords). They nominally donated their lands to the nobles, large temples and shrines in Kyoto, where the central government was located, and exercised actual control over those estates as the resident managers. And thus, they gradually gained power and became samurai warriors. Supported by groups of those lords from Togoku (the eastern region of Japan), Minamoto Yoritomo, the first shogun (military ruler), placed his headquarters in Kamakura and established the foundations of military government.

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Early Modern Times

A detailed depiction of Totsuka from the Fifty-Three Stations of Tokaidou Road,a famous series of woodblock prints

A detailed depiction of Totsuka from the Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido Road, a famous series of woodblock prints

During this period, the region of Kanagawa consisted of two provinces of Musashi-no-kuni (eastern Kanagawa) and Sagami-no-kuni (western Kanagawa). Musashi-no-kuni was divided into 3 counties of Tachibana, Tsuzuki, and Kuraki; and Sagami-no-kuni in 9 counties of Kamakura, Miura, Tsukui, Koza, Aiko, Ozumi, Yorogi, Ashigara-kami, and Ashigara-shimo. At the end of the Edo period, there were only a few han (military lord domain) in Kanagawa, that held lands entrusted by the Tokugawa shogunate; Odawara han whose land produced 113,000 koku (1koku =180 liters) of grain per year, Oginoyamanaka han whose land produced 13,000 koku of grain, and Kanazawa han (or Mutsura han) that produced 12,000 koku of grain. Other lands were held by the Tokugawa shogunate, hatamoto (direct samurai retainers of the central government), temples or shrines.

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Modern Times

A scene of Yokohama Dontaku(Zongtag)

A scene of Yokohama Dontaku (Zongtag)

Western countries that underwent rapid industrialization in the 18th century advanced to Asia from Europe, seeking raw materials and markets for their products. At the end of the 18th century, their ships began to appear near Japan's waters and demanded to open trade with them, although Japan had been closed to the outside world under the strict seclusion policy. However, the shognate government finally bowed to the military pressure of the American naval fleet led by Commodore Matthew Perry, and opened the country. Thus, the Treaty of Peace and Amity was concluded between Japan and the United States. Port of Yokohama was one of the gates opened to the world, through which western civilization was introduced into Japan. Against this backdrop, an economic zone was gradually formed around Yokohama.

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Contemporary Period

A festival in Yokohama

A festival in Yokohama

The history of contemporary Japan began with the reconstruction efforts after the Great Kanto Earthquake, which struck the Kanto region, including Kanagawa, in 1923. Kanagawa was a militarily important region, and became the true "military city" in the 1930s. After the Manchurian Incident in 1931, it was placed on a full war footing. The U.S. air-raids intensified in the late 1940s, and the urban areas of Kanagawa were once again reduced to rubble. After Japan's defeat in the war, Kanagawa was considered as one of the most important regions occupied by the Allied Forces, and various democratic reforms and reconstruction work were carried out. In the late 1950s, Japan entered the period of high economic growth. Social capital was greatly developed, but on the other hand, various social problems were also produced, such as pollution and traffic congestion. During this period, Japanese lifestyle was significantly modernized.

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