THE ANCIENT JAPAN PORTAL
Showcased content about Ancient Japan
The history of Ancient Japan can be broken down into three distinct periods. The first period called Jōmon period is the time in from about 14,000 BC to 300 BC. The term "Jōmon" means "cord-patterned" in Japanese. It refers to the markings made on clay vessels and figures using sticks with cords wrapped around them which are characteristic of the Jōmon people.
The second period called Yayoi period is an era in the history of Japan traditionally dated 300 BC to 300 AD. It is named after the neighbourhood of Tokyo where archaeologists first uncovered artifacts and features from that era. Distinguishing characteristics of the Yayoi period include the appearance of new pottery styles and the start of an intensive rice agriculture in paddy fields. Yayoi culture flourished in a geographic area from southern Kyūshū to northern Honshū.
The last period called Kofun period of ancient Japanese history, beginning around AD 250, is named after the large tumulus burial mounds (kofun) that appeared at the time. The Kofun period saw the establishment of strong military states centered around powerful clans, and the establishment of the dominant Yamato polity centered in the Yamato and Kawachi provinces, from the 3rd century to the 7th century, origin of the Japanese imperial lineage. Japan started to send tributes to Imperial China in the 5th century. In the Chinese history records, the polity was called Wa and its five kings were recorded. Based upon the Chinese model, they developed a central administration and an imperial court system and its society was organized into occupation groups. Close relationships between the Three Kingdoms of Korea and Japan began during the middle of this period, around the end of the 4th century.
The first signs of human occupation of Japan appeared with a Paleolithic culture around 30,000 BC, followed from around 14,000 BC by the Jōmon period, a Mesolithic to Neolithic semi-sedentary hunter-gatherer (possibly Ainu) culture of pit dwelling and a rudimentary form of agriculture. Decorated clay vessels from this period, often with plaited patterns, are some of the oldest surviving examples of pottery in the world.
The Yayoi period, starting around 500 BC, saw the introduction of many new practices, such as wet-rice farming, a new style of pottery and metallurgy brought by migrants from China and Korea. The Japanese first appear in written history in China’s Book of Han. According to the Chinese Records of Three Kingdoms, the most powerful kingdom on the archipelago during the third century was called Yamataikoku.
Buddhism was first introduced to Japan from Baekje, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, but the subsequent development of Japanese Buddhism and Buddhist sculptures were primarily influenced by China. Despite early resistance, Buddhism was promoted by the ruling class and eventually gained growing acceptance since the end of the Kofun period.
The origins of sake are unclear; however, the earliest written reference to use of alcohol in Japan is recorded in the Book of Wei, of the Records of Three Kingdoms. This 3rd century Chinese text speaks of the Japanese drinking and dancing.
- ...that in Shinto, yorishiro, such as sacred trees, attract spirits, give them a physical space to occupy and make them accessible to people for religious ceremonies?
- ...that according to a legend, the Heishi rock (pictured) represents the God of the Sea of Japan?
- ...that the stone "lions" seen at the gates of Shinto shrines are actually Korean dogs?
The term "National Treasure" has been used in Japan to denote cultural properties since 1897. The definition and the criteria have changed since the inception of the term. The weapons in this list of archaeological materials designated as National Treasures of Japan span a period from about 4,500 BC to 1361 AD. The Japanese Paleolithic marks the beginning of human habitation in Japan. It is generally accepted that human settlement did not occur before 38,000 BC. Archaeological artifacts from the paleolithic era consist of stone tools of various types. From about 14,000 to 8,000 BC, the society gradually transformed to one characterized by the creation of pottery used for storage, cooking, bone burial and possibly ceremonial purposes. Dogū—small clay figurines depicting humans and animals—can be dated to the earliest Jōmon period but their prevalence increased dramatically in the middle Jōmon. Three dogū from 3000 to 1000 BC have been designated as National Treasures. The ensuing Yayoi period is characterized by great technological advances such as wet-rice agriculture or bronze and iron casting, which were introduced from the mainland. Iron knives and axes, followed by bronze swords, spears and mirrors, were brought to Japan from Korea and China. The primary artistic artifacts, with the exception of Yayoi pottery, are bronze weapons, such as swords, halberds and dōtaku, ritual bells. In addition ornamental jewels were found. The starting date of the Kofun period (c. 250–300 AD) is defined by the appearance of large-scale keyhole-shaped kofun mound tombs, thought to mark imperial burials. Typical burial goods include mirrors, beads, Korean Sue ware, weapons and later horse gear. Mirrors, swords and curved jewels, which constitute the Imperial Regalia of Japan, appear as early as the middle Yayoi period, and are abundant in Kofun period tombs. Characteristic of most kofun are haniwa clay terra cotta figures whose origin and purpose is unknown. A haniwa of an armoured man has been designated as National Treasure; and a 1st-century gold seal, designated a National Treasure, shows one of the earliest mentions of Japan or Wa.