Special Exhibition

Current Special Exhibition

What is Yayoi Culture?


Period Tuesday, July 15 – Monday, September 15, 2014
Venue Special Exhibition Galleries, National Museum of Japanese History
Admissions Adults: ¥830 (¥560)
Senior high school & college students: ¥450 (¥250)
* Fees in parentheses apply to groups of 20 or more
* Admission to permanent exhibitions included
* Free admission for elementary & junior high school students
* Free admission for senior high school students every Saturday
Hours

9:30 a.m.–5:00 p.m. (entrance closed at 4:30 p.m.)

Closed Mondays (When Monday is a national holiday, the Museum is closed the following Tuesday.)
Organizer National Museum of Japanese History

Outline of Exhibition

Are clay dolls from the Jomon culture?

The Yayoi period continued for about 1,200 years from the time when wet-field rice farming began in North Kyushu in the 10th century BC until burial mounds with a square front and a round back were built in Kinki in the 3rd century. The Japanese archipelago of that time not only had the Yayoi culture but also a variety of cultures such as the Jomon culture in the east of Honshu (before the 4th century BC), the post-Jomon culture in Hokkaido (after the 4th century BC), the Kaizuka culture in Amami and Okinawa, etc. It was the first period when various cultures blossomed in the Japanese archipelago.

The Yayoi culture with full-scale wet-field rice farming also presents various faces depending on the region and the period. For example, some regions continued wet-field rice farming until the Kofun period while others abandoned this type of rice farming and returned to the hunting and gathering lifestyle.
We have always considered such various faces shown in various regions cultivating rice in wet fields as the diversity of the Yayoi culture, but we also considered them as different cultures from the Yayoi culture, and planned this exhibition from such a viewpoint.

The exhibition starts from such a question. It deals with the farming culture and the people who performed the festival of clay dolls used by Jomon people while cultivating rice in wet fields, etc., which are evaluated differently depending on researchers, and makes us think about what the Yayoi culture actually is through this first exhibition that resulted through the discussion between Shin’ichiro Fujio, Professor at the Museum, and Hiromi Shitara, Professor at The University of Tokyo.

Highlights

Two professors develop their unique “theories of Yayoi” based on about 400 items including the articles excavated from the nationwide archaeological sites of the Yayoi period, and the materials.

The exhibition will open the door from the mysterious excavated articles called the “clay dolls of the Yayoi period,” and under four themes, it will present the “theories of Yayoi” of the two professors: Shin’ichiro Fujio, Professor at the Museum, and Hiromi Shitara, Professor at The University of Tokyo with the display of about 400 items including the articles excavated from the nationwide archaeological sites of the Yayoi period, and the materials. At the end, we would like you to think about which real “Yayoi culture” is for you, and vote for it. After passing through the Prologue, all of you will become researchers of the “Yayoi period.” Please imagine the ancient Japanese world with us.

The earliest domestic cats (bones) in Japan will be displayed. The roots of domestic cats were explored.

The ecosystem of the time when the Japanese archipelago was formed after the last glacial period shows that there was no animal of the cat family other than wildcats in Japan. If so, when and from where did Japanese cats come? Surprisingly, the question has not been solved yet. The exhibition will introduce the bones (partial) of adult and young cats of the 3rd century BC discovered in the Karakami Site in Iki with a panel. Because traces of domestic cats have been discovered also in Korea of the same period, the exhibition will show African wildcats, which are considered as the ancestors of domestic cats, with a panel. Back then, only noble people could raise foreign cats. Those cats are assumed to be the “domestic cats of noble people.”

The life-sized figure of a woman of the Yayoi period was restored. The estimated age of the noble young woman is 17 years old.

The exhibition has prepared various restoration models and panels to help you imagine the Yayoi period more realistically. The highlight is the life-sized figure of a woman of the Yayoi period. The face was restored based on a real skull discovered in Doigahama, Yamaguchi , and the full-length figure was imagined from the skull. The costume is that worn by noble women at that time, and the accessories were reproduced based on the excavated articles assumed to be worn by “young ladies” in the Yayoi period. The ancient young lady will welcome you.

We invite you to give a name to this woman in the venue. Please give her a lovely name!

The noble Yayoi fashions were restored! The same dyeing and texture as at the time were reproduced.

It seems that the people in the Yayoi period, especially nobles, also enjoyed colorful and gorgeous fashions. So, the dyeing components and the texture were analyzed from excavated pieces of cloth, etc. to restore the costume of the time. The costume was dyed with indigenous plants in Japan, and has a texture based on various research results. The accessories such as a belt, a bandana, a necklace, etc. were also reproduced. These items show that the people in the Yayoi period enjoyed dressing up with a good sense of color.

We also prepared pieces of cloth to allow you to experience the feel of the fabrics of the time. Please touch and feel them.

Exhibition Lineup

Prologue: Are dotaku (ritual bell) and dohoko (bronze pikes) from the Yayoi period, and clay dolls from the Jomon period?

出雲大社

The clay doll shown on the left was used by wet-field rice farmers in Aomori in the 4th century BC.
Are they Jomon people, or Yayoi people? Let’s explore the Yayoi world that is not written in textbooks together!

[Main Artifacts]

  • Dotaku and dohoko seen by Yayoi people (Restoration replica, Museum Collection)
  • Clay doll used by wet-field rice farmers (Hirosaki City Board of Education)

Part I: DNA of Yayoi

This corner will deal with the three genes of the Yayoi culture: Jomon, China and the Korean Peninsula, and Yayoi’s unique DNA. In this corner, let’s investigate which genes are those of the famous materials of the Yayoi period in textbooks.

[Main Artifacts]

  • Stone tool and bone tool from Asahi Site (Aichi Prefectural Center for Archaeological Operations)
  • Bird-shaped wooden product from Megazuka Site (Numazu City Board of Education)
  • Soil whistle from Nishikawatsu Site (Shimane Prefectural Archaeological Center)

Part II: Looking at Yayoi

This corner deals with the three faces of the Yayoi culture: farming, society, and festivals. The face of the Yayoi culture changes depending on the region with subtle changes in the combination of the three faces. In this corner, let’s look at Yayoi from the farming culture with various faces in various places.

[Main Artifacts]

  • Bronze arms seen by Yayoi people (Restoration replica, Museum Collection)
  • Burial accessories of the earliest king from Yoshitake Takagi Site (Restoration replica, Museum Collection)
  • Miniatures of early rice fields in various places in Japan (Miyakonojo City in Miyazaki, Inadani, and the foot of Mt. Iwaki, Aomori; Museum Collection)

Part III: Length of Yayoi period

The length of the Yayoi period differs depending on the region. The longest Yayoi period is in North Kyushu where wet-field rice farming was started first. The shortest Yayoi period is in South Kanto where wet-field rice farming was started late. Let’s think about the length of the Yayoi period that differs depending on the region.

[Main Artifacts]

  • Last Jomon pottery (Kagoshima Prefectural Archaeological Center, Aomori Prefectural Museum)
  • Earliest Yayoi pottery, replica (Fukuoka City Archaeology Center)
  • Seashell ornament from Hirota Site (Museum Collection: Important cultural property)

Part IV: Spread of Yayoi

The eastern limit of Yayoi changes depending on how we think about the farming culture in Tohoku and North Kanto. This corner sheds light on wet-field rice farmers in North Tohoku to allow you to think about the spread of Yayoi.

[Main Artifacts]

  • Tool of the last Jomon people in North Kyushu - Ohara-D Site, Fukuoka (Fukuoka City Archaeology Center)
  • Tool of the earliest wet-field rice farmers - Hashimoto Icchoda Site in Fukuoka City, Sasai Site, and Hara Site (Fukuoka City Archaeology Center)
  • Tool of the last Jomon people in South Kyushu - Inarizako Site (Kagoshima Prefectural Archaeological Center)
  • Tool of the earliest wet-field rice farmers in South Kyushu - Sakamoto-A Site, Kurotsuchi Site, and Hijiana Site (Miyakonojo City Board of Education)
  • Tool of the earliest upland farmers in Chubu District - Yazaki Site, and Ishigyo Site (Iida City Board of Education), and Ishigo Site (Matsumoto City Museum of Archaeology)
  • Tool of the earliest rice farmers in Tohoku - Sunazawa Site (Hirosaki City Board of Education: Important Cultural Property)
  • Polished stone tool from the continent in North Tohoku - Araya Site (Hachinohe City Nango Historical Museum)
  • Tool of rice farmers in Tohoku - Tareyanagi Site (Inakadate Village Board of Education)
  • Takada-B Site from which the most important wooden farm tool in Tohoku was excavated (Sendai City Board of Education)

Epilogue

We have looked at the DNA, the faces, the length of the period, and the spread. We believe you now understand that various farming cultures blossomed in various places. Which of them do you think is the Yayoi culture? All of them, or some of them? Please vote for the Yayoi culture based on your opinion.

[Main Artifacts]

  • Life-sized doll called Yayoi-chan (tentative name) restored from the skull of a woman discovered from the Doigahama Site in Yamaguchi

Beauty of Jomon, beauty of Yayoi

Do you think Rekihaku displays only replicas? In fact, it has so many real materials as shown below. We will not give further explanations. Please appreciate the excellent Jomon and Yayoi materials possessed by Rekihaku. This is the beginning of the first archaeological art exhibition at Rekihaku.

[Main Artifacts]

  • Clay doll wearing white ball from Ayukawa Cave in Hokkaido; pottery, stone tool, comma-shaped jade bead from Tsukinoki Site in Aomori; incense burner-shaped pottery from Korekawa Site in Aomori; Jomon pottery from Yanagida Site in Yamanashi; stone club from Arami Site in Narita City; and deformed pottery with a table from Inonagawari Site in Sakura City
  • Collection of burial accessories from Shigenodan Site in Nagasaki (Important Cultural Properties); collection of flat bronze swords from Yasuda Site in Ehime; collection of middle-thin bronze swords from Kotsuro Site in Hyogo; Renko-mon pattern mirror with inscription of “seihaku” and gaikyubo from Jizodo Site in Yamaguchi; Naikokamon mirror with the inscription of “chogishison” from Mt. Zuiryoji in Gifu; Ritual Bell with flowing water design from Ward 1, Lake Biwa in Shiga; Ritual bell with crossed band design from Ward 4, Noguchi Owada Station Yard in Osaka; Ritual bell with crossed band design from Ward 6, Akame Site in Mie; Ritual bell with crossed band design from Ward 6, Hatakeda Site in Tokushima; Ritual bell with crossed band design from Ward 6, Mukasa Site in Fukui; Middle-thin ritual halberd from Minami Hiede Site in Fukuoka; middle-wide bronze pikes from Tenjinura Site in Fukuoka; Wide bronze pikes from Uehara Site in Oita; and Wide bronze pikes from Dazaihu in Fukuoka
Clay doll from Sunazawa Site in Aomori   Clay doll-shaped containers from Oka Site in Yamanashi (replica)

Clay doll from Sunazawa Site in Aomori, 4th century BC

Hirosaki City Board of Education

 

Clay doll-shaped containers from Oka Site in Yamanashi (replica), 4th to 3rd century BC

National Museum of Japanese History
Shellfish ornament from Hirota Site in Kagoshima (important cultural property)   Dotaku (ritual bell) seen by Yayoi people in the 3rd century BC

Shellfish ornament from Hirota Site in Kagoshima (important cultural property), 4th century

National Museum of Japanese History

 

Dotaku (ritual bell) seen by Yayoi people in the 3rd century BC, restoration replica

National Museum of Japanese History
Dohoko (bronze pikes) seen by Yayoi people in the 1st century BC,   Collection of beads from Tsukinoki Site in Aomori, 3,000 to 2,700 years ago

Dohoko (bronze pikes) seen by Yayoi people in the 1st century BC, restoration replica

National Museum of Japanese History

 

Collection of beads from Tsukinoki Site in Aomori, 3,000 to 2,700 years ago

National Museum of Japanese History

Note: Please note that items in the exhibition are subject to change.