Let’s Research! 【Japanese Archology for Kids】

This project is subsidized by

~Toshiba International Foundation~


This is a chronological timeline of Japanese history.
The Japanese archipelago stretches from north to south.
This causes diversity in climate, people’s lifestyle and historical timeline.
Let’s learn regional diversity together.



About the japanese of “period”

As for how to determine the age of ancient times without writing,in addition to measuring by scientific methods, in archaeology, it is based on things that know the age of the era with writing.) to give an approximate age.
However, both methods can only be expressed in terms of “about what year”.The dates of each era written here cannot be categorized as 0/0/20XX like the present day.not.So please understand what I mean by “roughly”.

The English version of “Let’s check” is completed!

Palaeolithic Period

It was Cold during the Palaeolithic Period

❶ 旧石器時代(きゅうせっきじだい)は寒かった

The first human beings appeared in Africa about 7million years ago.About 2.6million years ago, people started to make ‘chipped(or flaked stone) tools’.Tool-making is almost unique to human beings; few other animals do that.The time when people started tool-making is called the ‘Palaeolithic Period’.
In the past, the Earth has experienced several Ice Ages.Between Ice Ages,there were some warmer intervals but they were very short.The Final Ice Age(Last Glacier Stage) lasted from about 70,000years ago to 10,000years ago.Japan had its Palaeolithic period during the Final Ice Age.

Japan’s Palaeolithic Period


About 40,000years ago, human beings arrived on the Japanese island chain(archipelago).At that time,the land was not connected to the Eurasian continent, so people came across the ocean by boat. However, no boat has been discovered at any Palaeolithic site;it is still a big mystery how people moved to Japan.
People spread across the land, and the population started to grow. Today,there are over 10,000Palaeolithic sites discovered in Japan.That is quite a large area when we think of the area of the land.

The Coldest Time


It was the coldest 20,000years ago during the Final Ice Age.It was probably 7-8C˚cooler than today’s average temperature, so Miyazaki and Fukuoka in the south would have been the equivalent of Hokkaido in the north.
During the cold period,evaporated sea water fell as snow and became an ice sheet on the land.Then,the sea level became lower because of the reduced amount of sea water.This is how Hokkaidō, Honshū,Shikoku and Kyūshū were all joined up to make one island.
The land was covered with alpine plants,and not many trees.There were large animals such as Naumann’s elephants and Giant Japanese elks, as well as smaller ones such as boar, rabbits and badgers.
Naumann’s elephant bones have been found on the seabed of Setonai Inland Sea.They were indeed roaming around then even though it is under the water today!

People’s Life


It seems that there were forests with larch and beech but not many nut-bearing trees.Human beings were hunting animals and moving from one place to another.They caught animals with spears and by trapping in holes(pit traps).
In those days people were living in tents on grassland(or steppe), or in caves and rock shelters which were also used as graves.Their shelters were very simple so that there aren’t many sites which have been discovered as residences.However, there are plenty of sites discovered with stone tools which show signs of people’s life.

Various Tools


Hardly any wooden and bone tools from this period have survived,as they rot,but there are many chipped and flaked stone tools which have been discovered.Not just any stone can be used to make tools.People created stone tools with sharp blades by chipping edges.Among the stones, a natural glass called obsidian is very sharp.Other types of rocks such as chert, shale and sanukite were used depending on their regional availability.
Stone tools were mainly used for spears for hunting and cutting meat.Some of them were fine pointed knife-like tools to shave bones and wood as well as gimlets(small hand-held drills) to pierce.
There were also polished stone axes,which were rare anywhere in the world.Stone axes were probably used for hunting large animals, tree-felling and chopping wood, and butchering animals.

Jōmon Period

Once the Earth Became Warm


The earth started to become warm about 16,000years ago and people’s lifestyle changed dramatically from the Palaeolithic.From this time to the beginning of rice-farming is called the ‘Jōmon period’.
When the climate became warmer, deciduous and evergreen forests spread fast.Animals and birds gathered in forests for food.Melting ice made the sea level higher, so that coastlines with fish and shellfish expanded.With the dramatic change in climate,came a wider variety of food.

Life with Rich Natural Resources


During the Jōmon period, people used polished stone tools,bows and arrows, and fishing tools.Their pottery often, although not always,had cord patterns (jōmon).Deciduous and evergreen forests were rich with akebia, grapevines, berries such as strawberries, mushrooms and mountain weeds, and nut-bearing trees such as oaks, chestnuts and walnuts.
However, some of these are poisonous or inedible in their raw state. This problem was solved by the use of pottery.Heating food in pots can kill bacteria and remove poison, and helps digestion and absorption of nutrients.
The sea level became higher as the temperature rose.Small bays and sandy beaches appeared;and lakes and rivers became wider.The water temperature also rose, and then people could go into the water.They also made fishing tools and dugout boats to catch fish and shellfish.
To hunt agile animals, people used bows and arrows.

Forming of Villages


As it became warmer, there was more food found in nature than in the Palaeolithic period.People no longer needed to move about chasing animals and started to settle down.
In order to settle, people had to fell trees and build houses in open spaces.For this, polished tools such as axes,made of hard stone,were needed.People dug holes to build ‘pit-houses’, and later ‘post-built houses’ above ground by putting up wooden posts.Several families had to help each other for building, and then they lived together.This is probably how villages formed.

Prayers and Rituals


In villages people prayed to their gods for food.People also practised rituals to give thanks for food after hunting and fishing.
People prayed for safety as they were probably frightened of natural disasters such as typhoon storms,earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.They also prayed for a baby’s safe arrival,and buried the dead near their home.
People made various objects for prayers and rituals.It is thought that clay ‘dogū’ figurines were used for prayers.

New Era


There are more Jōmon sites in eastern Japan, but few in western Japan other than Kyūshū. At the end of Jōmon period, the number of Jōmon archaeological sites declined.
As the climate became cooler, life in eastern Japan with a big population may have become harder.More items for prayers and rituals were made during this period as people were probably praying more to the gods.
There were also people who moved to western Japan, so eastern cultures spread to the west.

Yayoi Period

Migrants Arrived!


In cooler weather, there were fewer nuts and animals to eat.Jōmon people who were eating food which they hunted for and gathered in nature would have struggled to survive.
Around the same time, rice-farming started on the Korean peninsula (the present Korean peninsula), too, but it was becoming too cold for growing rice.Those people might have thought about moving to somewhere warmer.
Korean fishing communities were probably welcome to move to northern Kyushu.Migrants started to live along with local people.



Migrants from the Korean peninsula started to grow rice on rice paddies along with local people.Rice can be stored for a long period so that people no longer needed to worry about a lack of food.Rice-farming spread fast across western Japan.Along with farming techniques Korean-style pottery and stone tools were brought from the Chōsen peninsula.
However, eastern Japan and the southern Kyūshū and Okinawan islands are not suited to rice-farming because of volcanic ash or coral deposits in the soil.It was too cold in Hokkaido in the north for rice-farming, too. People in such regions adapted their lifestyle to the climate and also traded with rice-farming people.

Wars Broke out


During the mid-Yayoi period, various materials and new technologies were brought from the Korean peninsula,such as bronze, iron goods,silk fabric and beads.Among bronze goods were weapons such as daggers and spears called ‘dōhoko’.Finally, wars started on the Japanese archipelago.
The cause of war was likely to be fighting for materials which make people richer,such as rice and iron.Whist people were fighting, large chiefdoms formed ruling from the centre of a region.Such centres of several regions formed a state (county).
There were elites then who were buried with luxurious goods in their graves.

Prayers and New Cultures


Once rice-farming started, goods used for Jōmon rituals disappeared and new types of prayers and rituals were practised.Korean-style small bronze bells were made into the Yayoi-style, called ‘dōtaku’,and these bells may have been tolled for the gods at their rituals.A new type of grave was made with wood and stone coffins as well.

Joining the International Community


Northern Kyūshū elites sent their envoys to Han China via the Korean peninsula and received various goods back.Around that time, the Japanese archipelago was called ‘Wa’, and the people ‘wajin’. It was during the Yayoi period that official exchanges were established with China.Various goods from China and the Korean peninsula have been discovered in western Japan, especially northern Kyūshū.
At the end of the second century AD(or CE), when a lot of fighting was going on within Wa, Himiko became the shamanic chief-woman of Japan and united the country.
According to a document called the ‘Account of Wa’,Himiko sent her envoy to Wei China and received various souvenirs.However, the locations where Himiko lived are still unknown.

Kofun Period

Kofun (old mound, ancient tomb) period?


Kofun are large-sized mound tombs of different shapes:keyhole, circular, square, scallop-shaped,etc.There are about 160,000kofun known in Japan.
There are no kofun in Okinawa in the south,in the Tōhoku region or Hokkaidō in the north,but only smaller size circular kofun from the seventh century.The oldest the keyhole-shaped burial mound is believed to be from the third century,located in the Yamato region (present Nara prefecture).Grave styles have local characteristics.

The Keyhole Kofun and Yamato Kingdom


Among various shaped kofun the largest is the keyhole-shaped kofun.Circular and square tombs are found around the world,but the keyhole shape is unique to the Japanese archipelago.The keyhole-shaped tombs are found widely in Japan, but concentrated around Osaka.These are said to be the top elites’tombs.
The ‘Yamato’ central state was supported by a number of regional kings.The King of Yamato was inscribed on bronze mirrors and daggers which were discovered in the kofun in the area.

Structure of Kofun


Kofun tombs look like small mountains with trees, however,the surface was covered with stones.Probably soil and trees gradually covered the tombs over the centuries.
The tombs were placed with terracotta figures called ‘haniwa’ on top and terraces stuck out from the sides.Some tombs were surrounded by ditches.
There were different ways of burial.Early Kofun period wooden coffins were placed in ‘pit-type’ chambers through a vertical passage,then stone coffins were used during the middle Kofun period, and in the late Kofun period tombs widely had ‘corridor-style stone chambers’, accessible from the side.

People’s Life


In the Kofun period there were a large number of migrants from the Korean peninsula bringing their cultures and technologies.A new type of pottery for steaming rice was introduced.People started to construct a more efficient covered hearth for cooking in their houses.
For fashion, gilded bronze crowns and earrings were brought from the Korean peninsula.
Horses were also brought from the peninsula and became popular, because they were useful for fighting.Horse riding men started to wear trousers and shoes.

Exchange with Korean Peninsula


During the Kofun period, Japan was actively exchanging with all The Three Kingdoms from the Korean peninsula (Baekje,Silla and Goguryeo).It was not only the Korean people visiting Japan, but Japanese people also went to Korean peninsula.The various goods found in the tombs show the strong influence of the Korean peninsula cultures through their active exchange.
Also, in a similar way, there were some pottery figures ‘haniwa’, burial goods and the keyhole tombs discovered in the southern Korean peninsula, proving their active cultural exchange with Japan.

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