The Yamato Court, Japan's first imperial government, was established in western Japan around the 4th century A. D. Prior to emergence of the Yamato Court, many powerful clans each controlled a separate territory.
(The Yamato Court and The Deep North)
For several hundred years, while the Yamato Court slowly extended its power over these provincial clans, northeastern Japan remained out of reach. It was therefore given the name Michi-no-ku, meaning "a land far removed from the road" and reflects the fact that it was a virtually unknown region.
By the mid-7th century, a new political system was established, putting all of Japan under direct control of the national government. From around this time, northeastern Japan was formally named Mutsu-no-kuni.
Introduction of BuddhIst Culture
In the 6th century, Buddhism was introduced into Japan from Asian mainland. At first, this religion was followed mainly by influencial nobles in the capital. Later, it won the patronage of the Imperial family itself, which helped spread the religion nationwide while encouraging the construction of Buddhist temples throughout Japan. The area of what is now called Fukushima Prefecture came under the influence of the Yamato Court ahead of the rest of Michinoku; Buddhism is said to have been transmitted to the area in the 7th century.
During the golden age of Buddhist culture, from the 9th to l2th centuries, the Fukushima area flourished as one of the centers of Buddhist culture in northeastern Japan. Many important temples, such as E'nichi-ji Temple in Aizu and Shiramizu Amidado Pavilion in Iwaki, date from this era.
The Birth of Military Government
By the 12th century, the Fujiwara clan based in Hiraizumi in what is now Iwate Prefecture had become the dominant power in northeastern
Japan, while the Taira clan, relatives of the Imperial family by marriage, held the reins of the central government.
However, in 1184 and l185, the Minamoto clan, rivals of the Taira, defeated the Taira in a series of battles. Four years later, the Minamoto clan attacked the Fujiwara clan and destroyed it. This enabled the Minamoto to establish Japan's first military government, with Kamakura, near present-day Tokyo, as the seat of power in 1192. Soon afterward, the government rewarded three of its brave warrior leaders with the fiefs of Aizu, Date and Soma, respectively. As time passed, the leaders' families came to identify themselves, respectively, as the Ashina(Aizu area), Date(Date area) and Soma(Soma area) clans.
Tsurugajo Castle and the Rise of the Aizu Clan
In the 14th century, the Ashina clan erected Kurokawa Castle in Aizu. During the Warring States Period (1467-1568), when the central military government collapsed, the Date clan based in the Fukushima Basin and the Ashina clan based in the Aizu Basin emerged as strong powers in northeastern Japan.
Lord Masamune Date, full of ambition to reunite the country, defeated the Ashina clan in battle and took Kurokawa Castle in l589. However, when the nation was reunified the following year by Hideyoshi Toyotomi, a more powerful warrior leader based in southwestern Japan, the Date clan was removed from its fief in Aizu, and Kurokawa Castle was occupied by Ujisato Gamo, a Hideyoshi retainer. At about this time, the castle came to be called Tsurugajo Castle.
Hideyoshi's eventual successor, Ieyasu Tokugawa established the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1603. The shogunate, ruling the country from Edo (now Tokyo), placed two Tokugawa related clans, the Aizu and Shirakawa, in the Fukushima area, from where they were to oversee northern Japan. The Aizu clan's founder was Masayuki Hoshina, a younger half brother of the third Tokugawa shogun. Thence, throughout the centuries of the Edo Period (1643-1871) , the nine generations of the Aizu clan were firm supporters of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
The Fall of the Tokugawa and the Imperial Restoration
By the mid-19th century, the Tokugawa Shogunate's power was in decline, and Japan faced an economic and political crisis. Clans from southern and western Japan sought to overthrow the shogunate and re-establish a national government centered on the Emperor. The collision between these clans and the pro-shogunate forces is known as the Boshin Civil War. As the backbone of the shogunate, the Aizu family, allied with other clans in northeastern Japan, fought desperately until the end in 1868, even after Edo Castle had surrendered. In the Fukushima area, Tsurugajo Castle in Aizu fell only after six months of fierce fighting. Among its loyal defenders were the Boy's Corps of Nihonmatsu and the Byakko-tai (White Tiger Corp) , each consisting of boy soldiers no older than 17, who died heroically and whose tragic story is remembered by Japanese to this day.
The restoration of the Emperor to power marked the beginning of the Meiji Period (1868-1912) . In 1871, the Meiji government abolished the former clan system and established a prefectural system in its place. As a result, the 11 clan territories in the Fukushima area were replaced by three prefectures Fukushima, Wakamatsu and Iwamae. Five years later, these were merged to form the Fukushima Prefecture of today, and the buildings of the prefectural government were erected on the site of the Fukushima Castle in Fukushima City.
Some years afterward, in 1888, a natural catastrophe stunned the people of Fukushima. Mt. Bandai, a volcano, suddenly erupted, destroying three villages and killing some 500 people. Rocks and muddy debris from the explosions and landslides blocked the Hibara and Nagase rivers, creating the Bandai Plateau with over 100 lakes, ponds and marshes of various size.
Fukushima Prefecture's Place in Japan's Modernization
As Japan industrialized during the Meiji Period, Fukushima Prefecture flourished. After the Tokyo-Sendai section of the Tohoku Honsen railway line opened in 1887, the Date area of Fukushima Prefecture, which had thrived as a major center of sericulture since the late Edo Period, used the railway to transport large amounts of raw silk to coastal areas, from where they were exported.
Construction of the Joban railway line was begun in 1894, and in 1898 the Mito-Iwanuma section of the line was opened, spurring industrial activity in the Hamadori district. In particular, the Joban coalfield in Iwaki City, in operation since the late Edo Period, greatly enhanced its productivity with the introduction of highly efficient modern equipment; at its peak, the coalfield supplied most of the coal consumed by the Tokyo area. The pace of prefectural development was so rapid that in 1899 the Bank of Japan selected the prefecture as the location for its first branch in the Tohoku region.
The building of hydroelectric power stations was also energetically pursued to help meet the increasing energy requirements of industrial development. One example, the Tagokura Power Station, Japan's largest reservoir-type power station, was constructed in 1959 in Tadami Town, an area blessed with rich water resources. The power station has served as a vital component of the industrial infrastructure up to the present, helping speed the prefecture's economic recovery after World War II, and the region remains a major center of hydroelectric power generation. The mid-20th century saw the start of construction of nuclear power stations in the central part of the Hamadori region, and today, in terms of electric power generated, nuclear power generation is the foremost energy source.