1868 - Meiji Restoration ended the Tokugawa era (since 1600), emperor moved capital from Kyoto to Tokyo
1872 - Universal Military Service modeled on German army; first railroad opened to Yokohama.
1877 - Modern army defeated traditionalists in the Satsuma rebellion
1889 - Constitution created the 2-house Diet, new legal codes
1894 - Japan defeated China in the Sino-Japanese War, won economic concessions and independence of Korea
1895 - Treaty of Shimonoseki, China ceded Formosa (Taiwan) to Japan
1904 - Japan defeated Russia in the Russo-Japanese war with surprise attack on Russian fleet at Port Arthur. Portsmouth Treaty in 1905 ceded southern Sakhalin to Japan, gave lease on Liao-tung peninsula.
1910 - Japan annexed Korea after three years of fighting.
1912 - Taisho era (1912-1926) of economic expansion, rule by Liberal party
1914 - Japan declared war on Germany and joined World War I on the side of the Allies.
1919 - Treaty of Versailles gave Japan some territorial gains in the Pacific.
1923 - Earthquake in Tokyo region killed more than 100,000 people.
1925 - Universal male suffrage caused electorate to increase fivefold.
1926 - Showa era (1926-1989) of emperor Hirohito
1931 - Japan invaded Manchuria, renames it and installed a puppet regime.
1932 - Japanese prime minister assassinated by ultra-nationalist terrorists; military influence grew.
1936 - Japan signed an anti-communist agreement with Nazi Germany, concluded a similar agreement with Italy in 1937.
1937 - Japan invaded China. By the end of the year, Japan has captured Shanghai, Beijing and Nanjing. Japanese forces commit atrocities, including the "Rape of Nanjing", in which up to 300,000 Chinese civilians are said to have been killed.
1939 - Outbreak of World War II in Europe. With the fall of France to Nazi Germany in 1940, Japan began occupation of French Indo-China.
1941 - Japan launched a surprise attack on the US Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The US and its main allies declared war on Japan the following day.
1942 - Japan occupied a succession of countries, including the Philippines, Dutch East Indies, Burma and Malaya. In June, US aircraft carriers defeat the Japanese at the Battle of Midway. The US begins a strategy of "'island-hopping", cutting the Japanese support lines as its forces advance.
1944 - US forces began bombing raids on Japanese cities.
1945 - US planes dropped two atomic bombs, one on Hiroshima (6 August), the second on Nagasaki (9 August). Emperor Hirohito surrendered and relinquished his divine status. Japan was placed under US military government. All Japanese military and naval forces were disbanded.
1947 - A new Japanese constitution comes into force. It establishes a parliamentary system, with all adults eligible to vote. Japan renounces war and pledges not to maintain land, sea or air forces for that purpose. The emperor is granted ceremonial status.
1951 - Japan signed peace treaty with the US and other nations. To this day, there is no peace treaty with Russia.
1952 - Japan regained its independence. The US retained several islands for military use, including Okinawa.
1955 - Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) formed. Apart from a brief interlude in the early 1990s, the party governed almost uninterruptedly for the rest of the century and beyond.
1956 - Japan joined United Nations.
1964 - Olympic Games held in Tokyo.
1972 - Japanese prime minister visited China and normal diplomatic relations were resumed. Japan subsequently closed its embassy in Taiwan. Okinawa was returned to Japanese sovereignty, but US retained bases there.
1982 - Japanese car firm Honda opened its first plant in the US.
1989 - Heisei era began, emperor Hirohito died, succeeded by Akihito.
1993 - Elections held against a background of bribery scandals and economic decline; the LDP ousted for the first time since 1955. A seven-party coalition took power.
1994 - The coalition collapsed. An administration supported by the LDP and the Socialists took over.
1995 March - A religious sect released the deadly nerve gas sarin on the Tokyo underground railway system. Twelve people were killed and thousands injured. Three US servicemen based on Okinawa raped a local schoolgirl; mass protests demanded the removal of US forces from the island.
1998 - Keizo Obuchi of the LDP became prime minister.
2000 - Obuchi suffered a stroke and was replaced by Yoshiro Mori. Obuchi died six weeks later.
2001 February - A US submarine executed an emergency surfacing manoeuvre off Hawaii and collided with a Japanese training vessel. Nine Japanese were missing after the incident.
2001 March - Mori announced his intention to resign as LDP leader and prime minister.
2001 April - Junichiro Koizumi became new LDP leader and prime minister.
2001 August - Koizumi paid homage at the Yasukuni shrine dedicated to the country's war dead, provoked protests from Japan's neighbours. The memorial also honoured war criminals.
2001 October - Koizumi visited Seoul and offered an apology for the suffering South Korea endured under his country's colonial rule.
2001 December - Birth of Japan's new princess - first child of Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako - reignited debate over male-only succession law.
2002 September - Koizumi became first Japanese leader to visit North Korea. North Korean leader Kim Jong-il apologised for abductions of Japanese citizens in 1970s and 1980s and confirmed that eight of them are dead.
2004 February - Non-combat soldiers arrived in Iraq in first Japanese deployment in combat zone since World War II.
2004 September - Japan, along with Brazil, Germany and India, launched an application for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.
2004 December - Dispute with North Korea over the fate of Japanese citizens kidnapped by North Korea during the Cold War. Pyongyang declared any sanctions by Tokyo will be treated as declaration of war.
2005 April - Relations with Beijing deteriorated amid sometimes-violent anti-Japanese protests in Chinese cities, sparked by a Japanese textbook which China says glosses over Japan's World War II record.
2005 September - PM Koizumi won a landslide victory in early general elections called after the upper house rejects plans to privatise the postal service, the key part of his reform agenda.