The following review focuses on how the study of anatomy in Japan has evolved throughout the centuries; specifically, we investigate anatomical knowledge during the primitive, ancient, feudal, and early modern periods of Japanese history. Early vague and mythical anatomical concepts derived from China prevailed for many centuries in Japan. Kajiwara wrote one of the earliest anatomical works in 1302. As a science, anatomy was the first basic science to be established in Japan, beginning simplistically during the 1600s and flourishing more recently with the onset of Meiji Restoration. As a result, Japan has produced several of the most influential anatomists of the 20th century, including Buntaro Adachi, who added detail to our knowledge of the vascular system and its variations; and Sunao Tawara, who discovered the atrioventricular node. Herein, we discuss the ways in which Japan has added to and promoted the anatomical sciences.