Gallery One explores the processes shaping Japanese culture between the time when humans first appeared in the Japanese archipelago in the Paleolithic age, and the time of the Nara court in the eighth century, when a Tang China-inspired imperial, bureaucratic polity emerged that is known as the "Ritsuryo-State." Many artifacts guide us into the world of prehistoric and early Japan-Jomon pottery; Yayoi metal work that bespeaks exchanges with the Asian mainland; relics from the burial mounds of the Kofun (tomb-mound) period; and offerings from Okinoshima Island that illuminate the origins of shrine worship. The architecture of the Heijo-kyo Palace and documents from the eighth-century Shosoin Imperial Storehouse are presented here as well.
The Dawn of Japanese Civilization (50000 - 2400 Years Before Present)
Archaeological findings from the Paleolithic to the Jomon period are featured in this display. Observe evidence of the transitions from the life of the earliest known inhabitants of JAPAN to the birth of a distinct culture.
Pottery ware from the Middle Jomon period
This display includes pottery ware from various sites in Japan.
Restoration of a house removed from the Maruyama archaeological site in Sannai, Aomori Prefecture
This display presents traces of a large-scale village which existed for 1500 years, ca. 3500 B.C. to 2000 B.C. (Early to Middle Jomon period).
Rice Growing and Japanese People (5th Century B.C. to 3rd Century A.D.)
The rice plant was not indigenous to Japan, but was introduced from the Asian continent. Rice began to be grown on a large scale during the Yayoi period. This display shows how the cultivation of rice influenced and changed the lives of people during that time.
Elevated rice storehouse (1st century A.D.)
This storehouse was built with a raised floor in order to store harvested rice.
Ruins of Otsuka (1st Century B.C.)
This is an example of a typical village surrounded by creeks and earthen fences.
Bronze bells (Dotaku)
This bronzeware was used for religious rituals during the Yayoi period. It consists of a hook and a cylindrical body.
The Age of Keyhole-Shaped Burial Mounds (KOFUN Period, 3rd-7th Centuries)
Huge ancient tombs called kofun were built between the 3rd and 7th centuries for the burial of kings and powerful clan leaders. The biggest tomb with a keyhole-shaped burial mound was as much as 486 meters long. This display explains why the great tombs and burial mounds in the various regions continued to be constructed for 400 years.
Scale model of the Hashihaka burial mound (3rd century)
This is the largest keyhole-shaped tomb from the early Kofun period. It is 276 meters long.
Special pottery jars and jar stands to cylindrical haniwa figures (2nd - 3rd centuries)
Cylindrical haniwa figures evidently evolved from special offering jars and jar stands such as those found in late Yayoi-period burial tombs of clan chieftains centered in the area of Kibi (modern Okayama Prefectures).
Stone sarcophagus (5th century)
This stone sarcophagus from the Ofujiyama tomb in Gunma Prefecture consists of several stone pieces.
Okinoshima (4th - 10th Centuries)
Okinoshima Island, a tiny, solitary island in the middle of the Genkai Sea Off the northern coast of Kyushu, measures only 1.5 km from east to west and 1 km north to south. It is a sacred island worshipped since ancient times and with a shrine called Okitsumiya, a branch of Munakata Taisha Shrine. The shrine received offerings to the kami (spirit or god) of the island, and it has become clear that worship was conducted on a grand scale between the 4th and 10th centuries. The surprising splendor of certain extant offerings suggests a connection with the Yamato court and gives national significance to what were probably prayers for safe voyage between Japan and the Korean Peninsula or China.
Scale model showing the distribution of archaeological sites revealing Shinto rituals on Okinoshima Island
A model of an archaeological site (iwakura) No. 17 on Okinoshima Island (second half of the 4th century)
A model of an archaeological site (iwakura) No. 8 on Okinoshima Island (8th century)
The Ritsuryo State (7th - Early 10th Centuries)
At the beginning of the 8th century, the first permanent capital of Japan was constructed in Nara. It spanned 5.9 km from east to west, and its streets were laid on a grid-like plan after Tang-dynasty Chinese urban planning. This city, which featured Sujaku Street, the widest street with a width of 70 meters, and white-walled buildings brightly accented with red and green painted wood, surely astonished people with its beauty. In this display one can get a sense of life in this urban center, as well as in contemporary villages, and document the administration between the central government and the local districts.
Replica of Rajomon (or Rashomon)
This was the main (southern) entrance gate to Heijo capital. It was more than 20 meters high.
Replicas of shields used by soldiers from Kyushu (hayato)
These shields bearing magical designs were used by soldiers from Southern Kyushu when they participated in ceremonial rituals at the Capital.
Model of Shosoin Imperial Storage House
This Imperial elevated storage house made with wood, preserved documents and treasures from the Nara period to modern times.