Outline of Exhibition

When did the Yayoi period begin !? - frontier of dating research -
Period Jul 3 (Tue) - Sep 2 (Sun), 2007
Venue Special Exhibition Galleries, National Museum of Japanese History

Adults ¥830 (¥560)
Senior high school & college students: ¥450 (¥250)
Elementary & junior high school students: ¥250 (¥130)
* Fees in parentheses apply to groups of 20 or more
* Admission to permanent collection included

Hours 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
(no entrance after 4:30 p.m.)

Jul 9 (Mon), 17 (Tue), 23 (Mon) , 30 (Mon), Aug 6 (Mon), 20 (Mon), and 27 (Mon)

Sponsor National Museum of Japanese History

Exhibition theme

In fiscal 2003, the National Museum of Japanese History announced that it was highly likely that the Yayoi period did not begin around the 5th to 4th centuries BC as had been previously believed, but began around 500 years earlier in the 10th to 9th centuries BC. Findings of subsequent dating research have greatly changed our thinking on the dating of the Jomon and Yayoi periods.

In this exhibition we use specific materials to demonstrate how we arrived at this new thinking on dates. It explains the transition in the northern Kyushu, Shikoku, Kinki and Tohoku regions of Japan from a Jomon culture centered on hunting and gathering to a Yayoi culture centered on wet rice cultivation. As a technique that entailed working cooperatively under a long-term plan, the system of wet rice cultivation developed a society that has carried through to the present day. By introducing the latest research findings in the present progressive form we show the beginning and spread of wet rice cultivation in the Japanese archipelago while relating it to the situation in East Asian at that time.

Exhibition Lineup

Fossils over the ages - Searching for dates for the Yayoi period

So when and how did wet rice cultivation begin? And how did Yayoi culture spread within the Japanese archipelago? In order to answer these questions it is necessary to identify the places where, and dates when, wet rice cultivation originated and undertake research following a time axis. Using time as a universal yardstick, we are then able to place Yayoi culture derived from this new thinking on dates onto a world time-line.

Methods of measuring dates

The exhibition introduces a variety of research methods used for identifying dates. From a natural science perspective there are the methods of dendrochronology, which uses tree rings, and the method of carbon 14 dating, which has strong links to earth and space science. We also demonstrate archaeological methods in detail, such as determining dates based on items like jars, coffins and bronze ware, and a wide-area chronology based on types of earthenware

From Jomon to Yayoi

By asking when Yayoi culture began and what sort of culture it was, we also ask what changes took place to differentiate it from Jomon culture. Using the results of dating as a basis in combination with archaeological sites from around Japan, we show the beginning of wet rice cultivation and the beginnings of Yayoi culture all over the Japanese archipelago. In this exhibition we explain that Yayoi culture developed in diverse forms throughout Japan as a result of interchanges between new arrivals and the Jomon people, and also between east and west.

Let's experience dating research!

In the final part of the exhibition there are various corners where visitors can enjoy a hands-on experience in dating research. There is an interactive video exhibit in which visitors holding items from the Jomon and Yayoi periods appear on a huge screen showing background scenes from these two periods. During the exhibition period we are also holding workshops on the tree-ring dating method for senior elementary school and junior high school students (adults are also welcome).

Main exhibition items

  • Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute: Yaku cedar tree ring disc
  • Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties & the National Museum of Japanese History: equipment used for measuring dates
  • Yoshinogari site, Saga Prefecture: iron implements
  • Sasai site & Itazuke site, Fukuoka Prefecture: earthenware, wooden items and lacquer ware
  • Tamura site, Kochi Prefecture: earthenware, stone items and lacquer ware
  • Ikegami-Sone site, Osaka Prefecture: wood from pillars
  • Karako-Kagi site, Nara Prefecture: earthenware, wooden items
  • Nakayashiki site, Kanagawa Prefecture: plant remains
  • Sunazawa site & Korekawa-Nakai site, Aomori Prefecture: earthenware, rice from early Yayoi, stone blades (important cultural properties)
Ohkubo site, Ehime Prefecture   Yamagata Prefecture
Ohkubo site, Ehime Prefecture:
Fragments of cast iron axes
4th century BC; Ehime Research Center for Buried Cultural Properties
Yamagata Prefecture:
Earthenware from Late Jomon through transitional Yayoi
Yamagata Prefectural Center for Archaeological Research
Itazuke site, Fukuoka Prefecture   Hashimoto-Itchoda site, Fukuoka Prefecture
Itazuke site, Fukuoka Prefecture:
Yayoi earthenware from the oldest rice paddies
10th century BC; Fukuoka City Archaeology Center
Hashimoto-Itchoda site, Fukuoka Prefecture:
Oldest Yayoi earthenware to be dated using carbon 14 dating
10th century BC; Fukuoka City Archaeology Center
Tamura site, Kochi Prefecture   Higashi-Irube site, Fukuoka Prefecture:
Tamura site, Kochi Prefecture:
Oldest Yayoi earthenware from Kochi
8th Century BC; Kochi Prefectural Center for Archaeological Research
Higashi-Irube site, Fukuoka Prefecture:
Detailed bronze sword
4th century BC; Fukuoka City Archaeology Center

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