CHAPTER V. MISSIONARY WORK IN JAPAN. THE changes which had taken place in Japan dur­ing the comparatively brief interval of Mr. Neesima's absence have no parallel in the history of nations. Politically, Japanese history may be divided into three periods. The first begins in mythological times and closes with the twelfth century. The national records of this period are unbroken, describing in one contin­uous story the exploits of the divine generations whence, after countless ages, in 660 B. c., sprung the first human sovereign, Jimmu Tenno. But a thou­sand years must be added to the alleged date of Jimmu Tenno's accession before we reach, in the seventh cen­tury A. D., any solid foundation of historical fact. The central figure of this period is the Mikado, an absolute, heaven-descended sovereign, lord paramount of the soil and of all its inhabitants, governing through the kuge, or court nobles, themselves allied to the imperial family, being chiefly descendants of the Mikado's younger sons. The second period, beginning in the twelfth century, and extending to 1868-69, is the feudal period of J ap­anese history, in which the political constitution of the empire assumes a more complicated phase. The Mi­kado, still the divine ruler and source of all authority, remains theoretically the head of the state, and the kuge nominally retain their offices and dignities.