YAYOI HOUSES AND VILLAGES

YAYOI VILLAGES AND SOCIETY

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replica of interior of Yayoi house
Charles Keally wrote: “Yayoi villages typically have a number of squarish pit-dwellings with thatched roofs reaching to the ground and hearths in the center of the earthen floors. These dwellings were clearly in a direct line from Jomon pit-dwellings. But Yayoi villages also had raised floor buildings thought to be rice storehouses and predecessors of modern Shinto shrine architecture. These almost certainly came with rice from the area around the lower Yangtze River in eastern China. But recent finds of similar structures in much earlier Jomon sites might eventually require modification of this interpretation. Some villages also had ditches around them, generally considered to be part of defense works.” [Source: Charles T. Keally, Professor of Archaeology and Anthropology (retired), Sophia University, Tokyo, net.ne.jp/~keally/yayoi ++]

The “main artifacts from Yayoi sites are pottery and iron-bladed wooden tools, stone adzes and reaping sickles, and iron knives. In addition to rice, Yayoi farmers cultivated peaches, and they also hunted and fished and gathered wild plants to supplement their diet. In western Japan by Middle Yayoi, surpluses were supporting a highly structured class society and, by Late Yayoi, a society with a powerful elite class at the top.” ++

Aileen Kawagoe wrote: From excavating ancient Yayoi settlements, archaeologists get the picture that the Yayoi people lived in permanent farming villages, and that they constructed buildings of wood, thatch and stone. They accumulated wealth through land ownership and the storage of grain, traded in various goods, including rice, cloth, metals, salt, wooden tools and crafts, stone tools, ceremonial bronze mirrors, weapons and other commodities. [Source: Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com <^>]

“Those who were able to control the resources in Yayoi society became members of society with an elite status. They maintained their position and showed off their status by acquiring ceremonial goods that they considered prestigious like bronze mirrors and bronze weapons, the metal raw materials for which were hard to come by, and could only be got from the mainland.

Jomon and Yayoi Websites Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com; Charles T. Keally, Professor of Archaeology and Anthropology (retired), Sophia University, Tokyo, t-net.ne.jp/~keally/jomon.; Metropolitan Museum of Art Department of Asian Art. "Jomon Culture (ca. 10,500–ca. 300 B.C.)", Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, October 2002, metmuseum.orgWikipedia article on the Jomon Wikipedia ; Dogu Exhibition at the British Museum britishmuseum.org ; Back to the Future furutasigaku. . Historical Parks Sannai Maruyama is a Jomon Site in Northern Honshu sannaimaruyama.pref.aomori.jp ; Yoshinogari Historical Park (between Tosu and Saga on the JR Nagasaki line south of Fukuoka) is an interesting historical park that brings to life the Yayoi Period (400 B.C. to A.D. 300). Website: yoshinogari.jp/en ;Good Photos of Jomon, Yayoi and Kofun Sites at Japan-Photo Archive japan-photo.de . Prehistoric Archaeology of Japan” dil2.sakura.ne.jp is the Niigata Prefectural Museum of History website. It has pages on shell middens; plant exploitation and “Jomon subsistence“.

Good Early Japanese History Websites: Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com; Essay on Early Japan aboutjapan.japansociety.org ; Japanese Archeology www.t-net.ne.jp/~keally/index.htm ; Ancient Japan Links on Archeolink archaeolink.com ;Essay on Rice and History aboutjapan.japansociety.org

Good Japanese History Websites: ; Wikipedia article on History of Japan Wikipedia ; Samurai Archives samurai-archives.com ; National Museum of Japanese History rekihaku.ac.jp ; Japanese History Documentation Project openhistory.org/jhdp ; Cambridge University Bibliography of Japanese History to 1912 ames.cam.ac.uk ; Sengoku Daimyo sengokudaimyo.co ; English Translations of Important Historical Documents hi.u-tokyo.ac.jp/iriki ; WWW-VL: History: Japan (semi good but dated source ) vlib.iue.it/history/asia/Japan ; Forums Delphi Forums, Good Discussion Group on Japanese History forums.delphiforums.com/samuraihistory ; Tousando tousando.proboards.com



Yoshinogari

Yoshinogari is the largest Yayoi settlement excavated in Japan. Located in the Kanzaki area of Saga Prefecture, it was the center of a small "nation state" and existed for approximately 600 years, roughly dovetailing with the Yayoi period. Relics found at the site, including copper/bronze knives and decorative glass beads, show the extremely high academic value of Yoshinogari. [Source: Yoshinogari Historical Park yoshinogari.jp <=>

Structures at Yoshinogari include watchtowers, used to spot enemies and display the village’s greatness; semi-subterranean pit dwellings, used as residences and workshops; and platform buildings, used for storage and as residences. The area with the largest buildings is believed to have been a sacred area, where priests lived and carried out rituals, and political leaders held meetings. Large separate areas are thought to have been a marketplaces and a place where ritual objects were made.

It is difficult to determine the population of Yoshinogari. Based on the number of tombs and residences, environmental factor such as deforestation, and calculations on how much fuel wood was needed and how much food people ate, researchers determined that about 1,200 people lived inside the outer circular moat and about 5,400 lived in the Yoshinogari area at its peak.

Yoshinogari is considered one of the ministates that prospered during the Yayoi Period. It was discovered in 1986 when the area was being surveyed for a housing development. Archaeological digs uncovered numerous holes from pillars of pit dwellings as well as what are believed to be watchtowers, ritual and storage sites, plus moats surrounding the village and burial mounds. About 2,500 burial pots of different sizes were also found, including 400 with human bones and some with jewelry, pieces of silk or hemp cloth and arrows. Yoshinogari was designated by the government as nationally protected historical remains in 1990 and special remains the following year. [Source: Japan Times, March 17, 1999]


Yoshinogari


Yoshinogari began being excavated in the 1980s. Researchers had known for a long time that valuable ruins were situated there. During the excavation process, the sites of tombs and pillars appeared after removing the topsoil. The soil around the sites of tombs and posts holes was darker than that of the ground, plus the quality of soil was different around the places of archeological interest. To preserve important ruins, the surface of actual structural remains has been covered with two layers of earth — 30 centimeters deep — for protection. <=>

History of Yoshinogari

In the Early Yayoi Period (3rd century B.C. - 2nd century B.C.) villages formed sporadically along a stretch of hills in Yoshinogari. A moated village appeared along the southern edge of the area, and signs of development from "village" to "nation state" first appeared. In the Middle Yayoi Period (2nd century B.C. - A.D. 1st century) a large circular outer moat was dug around the southern part of the hills. Burial mounds for leaders and cemeteries full of burial jars form this period have been discovered. As the village developed so did its defenses, indicating the need for increased security and possible fighting. [Source: Yoshinogari Historical Park yoshinogari.jp <=>

Kawagoe wrote: “The earliest settlers came to settle at Yoshinogari site sometime before 400 B.C. They evidently found the site a good location for building a permanent village, for Yoshinogari was situated on top of a ridge in the foothills of the Sefuri Mountains, a mere 12 km from the Ariake Sea and most importantly, the location was surrounded by land on three sides that was suitable for cultivating rice. [Source: Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com <^>]



“The early settlers built a moated settlement that was about 2.5 hectares in area. They built there a small number of pit houses, and surrounded their village with ditches. They dug storage pits and buried their dead there in burial jars. By the Middle Yayoi period, the village had expanded in size to about 20 hectares in area. The villagers must have become somewhat prosperous for they built large wooden raised-floor grain storage houses (or granaries) in the middle and southern areas of the site. The largest building was 12.5 meters by 12.5 meters with huge wooden posts 40-50 centimeters in diameter. <^>

“The villagers also dedicated a special area of the village to crafts such as the casting of bronze objects and the making of pottery (of a kind that is similar to pottery found along the coastal areas of Korea). Archaeologists think that the villagers had strong contacts with Korean peninsula during this time perhaps in relation to interchanges with Korean bronze-casting specialists. <^>

In the Late Yayoi Period (A.D. 1st century - 3rd century) Yoshinogari developed into the largest moated village in the country. At that time it was encircled by a large outer moat dug down in a "V" shape. The village featured two special inner areas (the "Northern Inner Enclosure" and the "Southern Inner Enclosure"). Large buildings appeared, particularly in the Northern Inner Enclosure. <=>

Kawagoe wrote: “During the Late Yayoi period, the village had grown to an enormous 40 hectares. The defenses of the village had also been expanded, to completely surround the settlement and cemetery areas. Multiple defensive ditches were built, with the large outer ditch around the edges of the low hill and smaller ditches surrounding the pit houses and raised-floor buildings. There were even double ditches encircling the northern area. Palisades were built on the inside of the ditches.” <^>

Between end of the A.D. 3rd century and the beginning of 4th century, Yoshinogari was suddenly deserted. A few people remained. Evidence of a small village near Yoshinogari village has been found People from this village threw broken earthenware items into Yoshinogari’s circular moats. It is not known why Yoshinogari was abandoned. <=>



Was Yoshinogari the Capital of the Japanese Kingdom of Yamato?

Some scholars have argued that Yoshinogari was the capital of the ancient Yamato Kingdom — the kingdom that gave to imperial and modern Japan. Definitive proof of this has not been found, but the sites and structures discovered at Yoshinogari are similar to those described in the ancient Chinese chronicle "Gishi Wajinden" about the Yamato kingdom, In addition, the time period and location of Yoshinogari roughly corresponds in terms of both period and location with that of Yamato. <=>

At Yoshinogari moated villages began appearing along with evidence that these villages were starting to unify into a primitive state in the early Yayoi period. In the middle Yayoi period a large circular moat was built around a large area that encompassed several villages and had a designated area where priests lived and high officials met. There were burial mounds for leaders and cemeteries filled with burial jars.

In the late Yayoi period Yoshinogari was the largest known moated village in Japan, It was encircled by a large outer moats dug down in a “V” shape. Inside was special inner areas, some with very large buildings. The large outer moat was designed to protect the entire village from outside enemies; an inner moat inside protected a smaller area. The outer moat had a total length of 2.5 kilometers and encircles an area of more than 40 hectares, an area the size of 30 baseball fields.

Ties to China Unearthed from Yoshinogari Ruins

In March 1999, the Japan Times reported: “Ever since their discovery was first announced in 1989, the Yoshinogari ruins, widely recognized in Japan as one of the oldest-known communities surrounded by moats, have been providing visitors information about ancient Japanese society. “I think we can say from the findings so far that whoever reigned here had enormous power and attracted people and commodities,” said Tadaaki Shichida, 47, a Saga Prefectural Board of Education official and chief researcher of the ruins. “Some may even have come here to be protected from enemies.” [Source: Japan Times, March 17, 1999 ***]

“The Yayoi Period is generally considered to be the time when ancient Japanese took up rice farming, brought over from the Korean Peninsula. Findings from the Yoshinogari site indicate that a class society already existed at that time, he added. One of Yoshinogari’s charms is its resemblance to Queen Himiko’s legendary state of Yamatai that dominated Japan in the late second and early third centuries, as described in “Account of Wa People,” a sixth-century Chinese chronicle. Whether the Yoshinogari ruins were the state described in the book has sparked controversy among experts and the media, and has made the site even more attractive to history buffs. Shichida admits many Yoshinogari findings have their origins in China and Korea. ***



“The circular settlements surrounded by moats at Yoshinogari are similar in structure to ancient Chinese castle walls, he said. Such structures with moats during this era are found at only 12 sites in Japan, and nine are from ancient ruins in Saga Prefecture including Yoshinogari. “This could be one indication that the area was closer to Chinese culture than anywhere else in this country,” he said. Some findings from Yoshinogari also indicate the connections between this state and other parts of Japan. Last year, a type of bronze bell found in other parts of Japan was found in Kyushu for the first time at Yoshinogari. Other findings include moats that date back to a century before the beginning of the Yayoi Period. ***

“Historians and archaeologists from China and Korea occasionally visit the ruins, giving Shichida and his colleagues the opportunity to exchange information and opinions. Shichida also visits these countries to research the relationship between Yoshinogari and the two cultures. “Archaeology is the history of people’s communication,” Shichida said.” ***

Yayoi Architectural Styles

Kawagoe wrote: During the Yayoi period (400B.C.-300A.D.), several architectural advances were made in their buildings. The Yayoi people built many elevated buildings or buildings that were raised above the ground, with the buildings supported by six or seven posts. This advanced type of architecture — was built with wooden beams made of planks of a regular shape, with floors, doors and slanted supporting poles. A very sophisticated method called the mortise and tendon method was used to join the wooden beams, so experts think the people already had iron tools. [Source: Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com <^>]

“The buildings with their raised floors, had ladders carved of a single piece of wood rather than utilizing separate rungs. They also had wooden discs that were protective devices against rats attached to the posts just under the floor as well as at the top of the entrance ladder, a design common in buildings in Southeast Asia. <^>

“These elevated buildings were often used for shared communal functions — for excavated wooden tools were found to have been gathered and stored in one house probably for the collective use of the whole farming village. The raised floor buildings are thought to have functioned at first, mostly as warehouses or storehouses. <^>

“Although the elevated building had first appeared during the Jomon period (particularly at large trading settlements like Sannai Maruyama), they were rare then, and only became common during the Yayoi period. Over time, however, the building style was adopted for residences of the elite and important persons of society. Other Yayoi architecturally advanced forms were the buildings that had irimoya thatched roofs that flared out at the sides. This flared roof style became the style for residences or palaces (miya) for shaman leaders, chiefs and other elite tribal members of society. <^>

References and source readings: 1) Totman, Conrad (ed.), A History of Japan (Blackwell series) pps 41-43; 2) Inaba, Kazuya and Nakayama, Shigenobu, Japanese homes and lifestyles: an illustrated journey through history; 3) Nishi, Kazuo and Hozumi, Kazuo, What is Japanese architecture?; 4) Ancient Rice Paddies – Toro Ruins and Museums (Japan Navigator); 5) Yoshinogari Historical Park official website; 6) Rare remains of two mid-2nd century pit dwellings decorated with square clay tiles excavated from Ise site, in Moriyama, Shiga Prefecture.

Yayoi Houses

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replica of Yayoi underground house
Kawagoe wrote: Humbler dwellings were built over shallow pits like homes of the earlier Jomon period. However, unlike Jomon pit houses, many Yayoi buildings did not have indoor fireplaces and so must have been colder residences than those of the Jomon period. Pit houses were of two kinds: round pit houses (influenced by building styles in the Korean peninsula), and square pit houses with rounded off corners (continued in the Jomon tradition).[Source: Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com <^>]

“At the Toro site in Shizuoka prefecture, twelve dwellings were excavated. They were not the usual pit-dwellings — though they looked like pit-dwellings, they were surface dwellings. That is, the dwellings were built on the surface instead of at subdiluvial level. A double skirting wall of 30 centimeters was first built around the building and then the space between the walls filled in with earth … this technique probably worked to keep out the damp. Technically, the dwelling was not a “pit” dwelling since the floor inside was at the same level as the outside ground area, but the basic idea of a sunken living area was the same. <^>

“The shape was rectangular with rounded corners and measured 5-8 meters long inside the bank and 8-12 meters outside the bank so that there was an oval living area within. There was a sunken fireplace at the center with four posts round it sunk into the ground. A wooden plank had been replaced at the bottom of each post-hole to prevent sinking. Beams connected the posts at the top with rafters radiating from those beams to the ground. The roof was thatched with miscanthus or some other grass. <^>

Yayoi Defenses and Fortifications

The main defenses at Yoshinogari were located at the east gate of the village. An earthen bridge was built over the outer moat at this location with a large gate protecting the inner area. Extending from both sides of the gate was a spiked wooden fence/wall. From the extent of the defenses, it is supposed that this village was extremely important and perhaps the residence of successive rulers of the area. Seven gates similar to the east gate were located on the outer moat fence. Sentries were probably posted at all of these entrances. Sentries are believed to be armed with shields for protection and long spears and/or bow and arrows. They also wore body armor made of wood.

The outer defenses at Yoshinogari are believed to have consisted of an abatis and a spiked wooden fence to prevent enemies from entering. An abatis is a field fortification consisting of an obstacle such as a ditch or with the sharpened tops directed outwards, towards the enemy. The trees are usually interlaced or tied with wire.These defenses were also found on both sides of the Higashi entrance gate as well as both sides of the gates opening into important areas.


Yayoi defenses


Watchtowers near the gates of Yoshinogari were high-floored structures found at the four protruding corners of the circular moats. They are believed to have been used as lookout posts for enemies and may have served as worshipping areas, an inferences drawn from their placement in the sacred Kitanaikaku ( Northern Inner Enclosure). Important areas were surrounded by double circular moats and spiked wooden walls. Kitanaikaku is believed to have been the most important place because of the spiked wooden walls and moats placed around it.

Kawagoe wrote: As village settlements grew in size or became more crowded, they were often fortified and were erected in more strategic positions on higher ground than during Jomon times, sometimes over a hundred meters in altitude. One such fortified village located on a hilltop bluff location was Otsu village in Yokohama. At Tawaramoto Town in Nara prefecture, the Karako-Kagi ruins consists of a Yayoi era tower that is a two-storey building (12.5 meters high and 4 meters by 5 meters) The tower’s four main pillars were constructed of cedar wood and were 50 centimeters in diameter. The tower had a thatched roof, held in place by logs that look like the spokes of a wheel. The outer walls were made of wickerwork while the inner walls were board-lined. Carved ladders gave access to the tower. Of great interest are the spiral decorations on the roof made of wisteria vine. Three wooden birds have been fixed on both the east and west sides of the reconstructed Tower based on the three reverse S-shaped lines on the roof of building image incised on pottery.[Source: Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com <^>]

Areas of Yoshinogari

Minami no Mura at Yoshinogari is where commoners and farmers are believed to have lived. There are no moats or special structures like those found in the Northern and Southern Inner Enclosures. There is one high-floored storehouse for every three or four pit dwellings in the village, which is very similar to other Yayoi villages found in other parts of Japan. This village is located in southernmost part part of Yoshinogari, which may indicate low status. According to ancient Chinese beliefs, the north ranked higher than the south. [Source: Yoshinogari Historical Park yoshinogari.jp <=>]

Kuratoichi Commercial Area is believed to have been Yoshinogari's commercial center. It contained a large market and storehouses for trade goods. The reasons it is believed to be have been a market area is that the structures are very similar to ancient clay drawings of a Chinese market. There used to be a big river nearby on which boats were probably used as a means of transportation. The whole area is surrounded with moats. The buildings included a watchtower, the central building in Kura to Ichi, and storehouses which kept goods, presumably sold at the markte. In addition, the residence of the market overseer seems to have been here. <=>


areas of Yoshinogari


There was one place that is believed to be where people from different village traded daily necessities. Another place is believed to have been where valuables from overseas and other areas of Japan were traded. A storehouse for crop was located near the south gate leading to Kura to Ichi area from the Southern Inner Enclosure. A watchtower used as a lookout post and storehouses to keep unhulled rice for the following year, are thought to have existed here. The Big Storehouse of the "Nation-state" is thought to have been a special place where military and important tactical materials were stored based on the presence of a big ditch surrounding the area and indications that the place was guarded by soldiers. <=>

Residences for market workers — perhaps belong to a lower caste — are thought to have existed near the storehouses perhaps to keep an eye on the storehouses and market. A site called the Place of Judgment is thought to have been the place where the slave class, called Seiko, were exchanged and trials were held. A site in front of the prayer hall called the Place of Festivals is thought to have been where various festivals were held and people prayed to the souls of ancestors. Also, people threshed in one corner of this area. <=>

Rulers Area at Yoshinogari

At Yoshinogari there is evidence of large residences for local chiefs and leaders and meeting and ceremonial halls. Minaminaikaku (Southern Inner Enclosure) is the part of Yoshinogari that contained the rulers' residence. This is believed to be where the successive rulers of Yoshinogari and the surrounding village rulers resided during the peak of the Yayoi civilization. Judging from the formidable defenses of this area, including the circular moats, fences, and watchtowers, this place is considered to be where the rulers of Yoshinogari could be found. In contrast to the other living areas of Yoshinogari, the high-floored houses, as well as various iron products found in the area, show the elevated status of their residents . [Source: Yoshinogari Historical Park yoshinogari.jp <=>]

The ruler's residences are found in northwest Minaminaikaku. This important area was surrounded by fences and walls. These high-floored pit dwellings are believed to have been the residences of Yoshinogari's ruler and his family and relatives. The Shukainoyakata (Meeting House) is a a large high-ceilinged structure located in front of the rulers house. It is thought that this was where the ruler and the ruling class leaders met and talked. In another area, surrounding a large field, are many pit dwellings believed to belong to the ruling class. <=>



The first line of defense for the southern section of Minaminaikaku consisted of a large wooden gate, located between the two southern openings, an inner moat and raised dirt wall. Sentries are believed to have been posted here top to observe those seeking entrance. One pit dwelling is situated outside of the circular moat northwest of Minaminaikaku is different from structures inside moat, leading scholars to believe that it was a guard house. Four high-floored watchtowers are located in Minaminaikaku. They are found at the protruding sections of the inner moat, presumably to allow sentries to observe people entering the village. <=>

Kitanaikaku (Northern Inner Enclosure)

Kitanaikaku (Northern Inner Enclosure) is believed to have been the most important area in Yoshinogari and, perhaps, the state that surrounded it. It is here that the dates for rice planting and harvesting, seasonal festivals and ceremonies, and the largest market are thought to have been established. It is also where important meetings for matters of state are believed to have been held and where prayers were offered unto ancestors. During the Yayoi period, some scholars have suggested, when people could not come to agreement on important issues, a high priest or shaman, with the perceived ability to communicate with ancestors and gods, was asked to intervene, and decisions were made based in messages received from the ancestors and gods. [Source: Yoshinogari Historical Park yoshinogari.jp <=>]

The large, central building in Kitanaikaku is believed to have been a large shrine or sanctuary (the Main Shrine) where important meetings and ritual gatherings were held. On the second floor of this shrine, it is surmised, the ruler, leaders in Yoshinogari and heads of nearby villages gathered for important ritual ceremonies, On the third floor of the shrine people prayed to receive a revelations from ancestral spirits. Some scholars believe followers sent the message to the ruler and leaders waiting on the 2nd floor. <=>

Higashisaiden (the Eastern Sanctuary) is a high-floored structure believed to have been used for celebrations and rituals regarding solstices and solar observation. It is located on a direct line measuring the start of the summer solstice and the end of the winter solstice. The Saido (Purification House) is a high-floored building located between the east sanctuary and the Main Shrine. This structure is believed to have been used as a place of purification and dressing before ceremonies at the main shrine. Items used in the ceremonies were also thought to be stored here. <=>

Takayukajukyo (High-floored Residence) is a high-floored house almost a perfect square in shape. Located near the Main Shrine, it is believed to have been the residence of priests. The building was surrounded by a rope-like fence, suggesting it was a holy place, possibly used exclusively by priests. Takaiyukasouko (High-Floored Storehouse) is located near the Main Shrine. Sacred objects used in festivals and ceremonies and the burial jars were believed to be stored here. A high-ceilinged storehouse is thought to have been where rice for offerings and seed rice for the coming year are believed to have been stored. <=>


Yoshinogari


Kitanaikaku is believed to have been the most important place in Yoshinogari based on its defenses, which included double circular moats and closely-spiked wooden walls. A key-shaped wall prevented outsiders from entering straight into the compound. This was a common feature of ancient Chinese walled cities, which shows the Chinese influence at Yoshinogari. A watchtower — a high-floored structure — is found at the four protruding corners of the circular moats. It is believed to have been used as an enemy lookout post and additionally to have had a purpose in worshipping the area, inferred from the sacred nature of the Northern Inner Enclosure. <=>

Burial Mounds at Yoshinogari

Kitafunkyubo (Northern Burial Mounds) at Yoshinogari is thought to have been the final resting places of successive generations of Yoshinogari rulers. Located here are artificial mounds, very strong in structure, made up of layers of different kinds of soil. Fourteen burial jars were found in the mounds. One of them contained glass beads and an elaborately-designed bronze sword. These burial mounds were made and used in the middle Yayoi period around 1 B.C. The area was not used as a cemetery afterward, perhaps because it was believed to have been a resting place of ancestral spirits. [Source: Yoshinogari Historical Park yoshinogari.jp <=>]

The Prayer Hall here is believed to have been where people said prayers and made offerings to ancestral spirits resting in the mounds. The tall pole in front of the northern burial mounds is called Ricchu, or Column. It seems to have been a symbolic pole, marking where ancestral souls rested. A tomb path at the site is believed to have been used by people visited the burial mounds to worship souls of ancestors. <=>

Some funerary goods were found in one of the 14 burial jars. Although a grip of a regular bronze sword is made of wood, the sword found here was made entirely of bronze, which is very unusual. Raw materials of the beads cam from China. It is not clear however whether the beads were made in Japan or China, or even somewhere else. Such valuable grave goods indicates the man buried there was person of high status. <=>

The unglazed burial jars at Yoshinogari are of a distinctive type found only in the northern part of Kyushu. The body was bent to fit into the jar and then the jar was buried in the ground. This type of burial was common for about 200 years, during the middle of the Yayoi period. There are two types of burial jars at Yoshinogari. One is a two-piece jar divided in the middle that could be open, making is easier to place the body inside. The other is a simple jar covered with a big, flat-stone lid. Although differences in how the jars were used has not been determined, scholars speculate it probably had something to do with differences in social standing. <=>


Yayoi men's clothes


Approximately 15,000 jars are believed to have been buried in mounds in Yoshinogari. Among them, over 2,000 jars are buried in a 600-meter long row on both sides of the path in the middle of the northern mounds. (The path is thought to have been a way to visit the graves or a line to separate them by ranks.) People at the time seem to have paid homage to the deceased. <=>

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons; National Museum of Science, Tokyo kahaku.go.jp; Yoshinogari Historical Park yoshinogari.jp. Yayoi houses, Ray Kinnane

Text Sources: Aileen Kawagoe, Heritage of Japan website, heritageofjapan.wordpress.com <^>; Charles T. Keally, Professor of Archaeology and Anthropology (retired), Sophia University, Tokyo, figal-sensei.org *~*; Asia for Educators Columbia University, Primary Sources with DBQs, afe.easia.columbia.edu ; Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan; Library of Congress; Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO); New York Times; Washington Post; Los Angeles Times; Daily Yomiuri; Japan News; Times of London; National Geographic; The New Yorker; Reuters; Associated Press; Lonely Planet Guides; Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications. Many sources are cited at the end of the facts for which they are used.

Last updated January 2017

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