Jomon period 縄文時代

10,000 years ago to about the 3rd century BC

They are thought to have lived mainly as hunters and gatherers.
The word “Jomon 縄文” means “rope pattern,” and the name came from the fact that people often applied this pattern on their earthenware at this time. There are many places where shellfish and other garbage were collected.

Yayoi period 弥生時代

From about 300 B.C. to about 300 A.D. 8~.
Some say it dates back to around 900.

In this era, people from the continent came along with rice cultivating technology. For this reason, they kept their houses intact, but built warehouses on stilts to store their crops. This was also the time when people began to group together and a nation began to be established.
People use earthenware, not the ropey kind, but the simple, unglazed kind. The name “Yayoi” is based on the name of the place where this type of earthenware was first discovered.
Yayoi ware

The Jomon culture is often characterized by hunting and gathering, while the Yayoi culture is characterized by rice cultivation, but in reality the mainstream view today is that both cultures were mixed. But, even after this, the Yayoi culture remained strong in western Japan, while the Jomon culture remained strong in eastern Japan. However, it was during this period that a nationwide shift occurred from hunting and gathering to agriculture. With the spread of rice cultivation, people gradually created their own kingdoms. This was the era.

Connection to mythology

This era is also an era of mythology. For more information on mythology, please see the following page.
To put it brieflyー
First, out of chaos, the first gods are born. A couple of generations later, Izanagi and Izanami, stirred up the chaos with a pike to create the present-day Japanese islands.
It was the time of Amaterasu, the sun goddess, and her feud with her brother, Susanoo. This causes Amaterasu to hide behind the Iwato (a rock door) and the world becomes dark. The deities pulled her out again in the “Opening of the Amano Iwato” incident. Susano’o, who was banished, fought a monster called the eight-forked serpent in a spectacular incident. The story goes on.

Susanoo slays the eight-headed serpent painted by Tukioka Yoshitoshi 月岡芳年

Eventually, the deities had two powers, the Kunitsu-kami (deities of land) and the Amatsu-kami (deities of heaven), and came to live together. The Kunitsu-kami reside in the island of Japan, while the Amatsu-kami apparently reside in the heavens.
Eventually, a deity named Amaterasu sends her grandson Ninigi down to the islands. On the island of Izumo, there lived a king of the deity named Okuninushi. The heavenly deities send messengers to force him to give up his kingdom. Okuninushi refused, but was finally defeated by Amaterasu’s forces. This is called the “transfer of power. Okuninushi retires into hiding.
Ninigi descends to the island. This is thought to be present-day Kyushu region. Several generations of his descendants finally became mortals. The name is “Jimmu 神武”. *He makes an expedition from Kyushu to the area around present-day Nara Prefecture, where he becomes king. This is the first generation of the current emperor.
*Jimmu is a Chinese-style name given to him by later generations, and he actually has a Japanese-style name.

These two historical books, “Kojiki 古事記” and “Nihon-shoki 日本書紀”, tell the story. However, the contents of the two books differ slightly. To begin with, the two books were established at similar times, and only the Nihon Shoki (Chronicles of Japan) has been used by successive governments as the first official history book. Why were the two history books necessary? Why was the “Kojiki” kept secret? There are many mysteries.

Yamatai-koku 邪馬台国

One of the biggest mysteries in Japanese history is where the Yamatai Kingdom was located.
In the first place, there is almost no literature about the old times other than “Kojiki” and “Nihon-shoki”. Both of these books were written by the regime in the 7th century. By this time, the current Imperial family established in Nara Prefecture had consolidated control of the country. Naturally, they wrote only what was convenient for them. There is no mention of the name “Yamatai-koku” in the book.
So where does it appear? It appears in a Chinese historical book, which was written during the period of the Wei Dynasty (The first half of the 3rd century, the era depicted in the movie “Red Cliff”). There is a brief description of the surrounding countries, and this book mentioned Japan in the description. It says that there was a country called Yamatai-koku, where a queen* ruled, and that she sent envoys to the Wei Dynasty.
*It is said that there was originally a male king, but when the country was in turmoil, the people appointed a queen named Himiko, and the country was brought under control. Many scholars speculate that Himiko may have been a shaman-like figure.
It also says how to get there, but while it is written in units of “ri” until halfway through, it changes to how many days it takes to get there by water and how many days by land. Moreover, we aren’t really certain whether these number of days are accurate or not. It is unclear to what extent the content of the report is accurate (since it is only a Chinese history book, anything about the surrounding countries are trifling details).

This is why there are many theories about the location of Yamatai kingdom today.
However, Kyushu region and Nara prefecture are two of the most popular. Kyushu is the closest to the continent and the most popular place for foreigners to visit officially at that time. The other is Nara, where the ancestors of the emperor’s family laid the foundation of the dynasty that continues to this day. Therefore, those who believe that the emperor’s family has always been the king of Japan, both now and in the past, strongly support this theory.

big ancient tomb in Nara from wiki
the Yoshinogari ruins in Kyushu

In the field of archaeology, many bronze mirrors, said to have been sent by China, have been unearthed in Nara, and many ironware, said to be the most advanced at the time, have been found in Kyushu. In addition, a large number of Dotaku (bell-shaped bronze vessel of Yayoi period) have been unearthed in the region which centered Shimane Prefecture, but there is no mention of them in either the Nihon-shoki or the Kojiki. As you can see, there are many mysteries.
This issue is actually a kind of sensitive issue because it has a lot to do with the origins of the emperor’s family. There are two of Japan’s leading universities, the Tokyo University and Kyoto University. Tokyo university supports the Kyushu theory and Kyoto supports the Nara theory. Unfortunately, in Japanese universities, there is a pyramid structure with professors at the top. Therefore, if you disagree with a professor’s theory, it means that you will not be able to get ahead. This is especially true in fields such as Japanese history, where external persons are not allowed in. For this reason, I feel that there are many strange theories that go around. I will return to the details later.
In one of the TV programs, Chinese experts read the history books mentioned earlier, and all of them declared that it could not be any other place but Kyushu. This is because it states that they did not use horses. They said it would be impossible to travel deep inland to Nara by human power. Also, a gold seal sent by a Chinese king was found in Kyushu.