Monday, 9 April 2012

JAPAN -- Ancient History


Many thousand years ago the Pacific Ocean was frozen over. This enables people to walk from the Asian mainland to today's Japan.

It is assumed that the first inhabitants to live in today's Japan came from North Asia 100,000 years ago. There is not a lot of evidence of these first settlers and therefore the knowledge of their way of life is little


However, in around 10,000 people began to make potteries and they were found in excavation. To begin with they decorated their potteries by drawing cords across. The Japanese word for this type of decoration is jomon and has been adopted to this prehistoric Japanese period from 10,000 to 300 BC.

The settlers were followed by blue-eyed, white-skinned people called Ainu, Nobody knows where these people came from. Some Japanese people still claim to be descendant. However, there are only about 300 of pure Ainu blood people now. Later on, during the 8th century the Ainu people were more or less driven out by today's Japanese people who came from Asia.

During this period the people were hunter/gatherers. The tools which were found tell of fishing, collecting fruits and killing deers and boars. The tools were made from stone or bones.

It is known from archaeological finds that from 3,500 BC some settlers moved inland but having no knowledge of farming yet they were not able to find enough food to live on and therefore moved back Therefore, from around 2000 BC many people live around the coast.


Life changed in Japan dramatically when people from Korea introduced rice-growing. It was first established on the island of Kyushu about 500BC by the Yayoi people. The second period of prehistory which lasted from 300 BC to 300 AD is named after them.

The Yayoi brought the rice culture to the Japanese island of Honshu but never went northerly to Hokkaido. They were more farmer and the start of villages emerged with a complex hierarchy and rules. The Yayoi people also had also a knowledge of weaving and wheel-made pottery. At the same time bronze tools and weapons came from the Asian mainland plus iron versions of the same.

The successful method of growing rice, it has to be grown in flooded fields called paddies. They are low banked up earth to contain enough water for a good harvest. Japanese villages which grew rice started over 2000 years ago. It soon became a staple food. Granaries were build to contain the rice after the harvest. They were raised on stilts, one reason to keep the grains dry and the other reason to keep rats and mice out. 

At the end of the Yayoi Period warlike chieftains leading communities. One of such chieftains was based in the Yamato Plain in south-east Honshu. The Yamato people buried their rulers or chieftains. The mounds were called Tumuli and other inhabitants adopted this practice. The era that followed in Japanese prehistory is called the Tumulus Period (about 300-552 AD)

These chieftains became more and more powerful as the Tumulus Period progressed. They conquered other groups and made them swear their alliance. .It was not always military power when they conquer other communities. One Yamato chieftain insisted that he is from the Sun Goddess Amaterasu and with that achieved superiority over his rivals. At the beginning of the 6th century some Yamato chieftains were ruled by an emperor from the Sun Line and he was living in the new capital of Nara.

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