The Nara Period covers the History of Japan from about A.D. 710 to 784. The Empress Gemmei established the capital at Nara, also known as Heijo kyo, where it remained the capital of Japanese civilization until the Emperor Kammu established the new capital at Nagaoka.
Most of Japanese society during this period was agricultural in nature, centered around villages of pit dwellings. Most of the villagers followed the Shinto religion, based around the worship of natural and ancestral spirits (kami).
The capital at Nara, however, was a planned city in imitation of the capital city of Tang China. In many other ways the Japanese upper classes patterned themselves after the Chinese, including the Chinese written characters (kanji) and the religion of Buddhism.
Nara Period Literature
Concentrated efforts by the imperial court to record and document it's history produced the first works of Japanese literature during the Nara period. Works such as Kojiki (古事記) and Nihon Shoki (日本書紀) were political in nature, used to record and therefore justify and establish the supremacy of the rule of the emperors within Japan itself and to China and Korea.
With the spread of written language, Japanese poetry, known in Japanese as waka, started to be written. Over time, personal collections were referenced to establish the first large collection of Japanese poetry known as Man'yoshu (万葉集) sometime after 759. Chinese characters were used to express sounds of Japanese until Kana was invented. The chinese characters used to express the sounds of Japanese is known as manyougana.