During the Asuka and Nara periods, so named because the seat of Japanese government was located in the Asuka Valley from 552 to 710 and in the city of Nara until 784, the first significant introduction of Asian continental culture took place in Japan.The transmission of Buddhism provided the initial impetus for contacts between China, Korea and Japan.The earliest complex art in Japan was produced in the seventh and eighth centuries in connection with Buddhism.In the ninth century, as the Japanese began to turn away from China, and indigenous forms of expression were developed, the secular arts became increasingly important.
The oldest dōtaku found date from the second or third century (corresponding to the end of the Yayoi era).
The Japanese, in this period, found sculpture a much less sympathetic medium for artistic expression; most Japanese sculpture is associated with religion, and the medium's use declined with the lessening importance of traditional Buddhism.
During the sixteenth century, the emergence of a wealthy merchant class and urban areas centered around industries such as the production of textiles created a demand for popular entertainment and for mass-produced art such as wood block prints and picture books.
They built simple houses of wood and thatch set into shallow earthen pits to provide warmth from the soil, and crafted lavishly decorated pottery storage vessels, clay figurines called dogu, and crystal jewels.
, bringing their knowledge of wetland rice cultivation, the manufacture of copper weapons and bronze bells (dōtaku), and wheel-thrown, kiln-fired ceramics.