Yayoi period (弥生時代, Yayoi jidai) is an
Iron Age era in the
Japan traditionally dated 300 BC–300 AD. Since the
1980s, scholars have argued that a period previously classified as a
transition from the
Jōmon period should be reclassified as Early
Yayoi. The date of the beginning of this transition is
controversial, with estimates ranging from the 10th to the 6th
The period is named after the neighborhood of
archaeologists first uncovered artifacts and features from that era.
Distinguishing characteristics of the
Yayoi period include the
appearance of new
Yayoi pottery styles and the start of an intensive
rice agriculture in paddy fields. A hierarchical social class
structure dates from this period. Techniques in metallurgy based on
the use of bronze and iron were also introduced to
Japan in this
The Yayoi followed the
Jōmon period (14,000–1,000 BC) and Yayoi
culture flourished in a geographic area from southern
northern Honshū. Archaeological evidence supports the idea that
during this time, an influx of farmers from the Asian continent to
Japan absorbed or overwhelmed the native hunter-gatherer population.
2.1 Origin of the Yayoi people
2.2 Emergence of Wa in Chinese history texts
3 See also
5 External links
Yoshinogari site reconstruction
Yayoi period is traditionally dated from 300 BC to 300 AD.
The earliest archaeological evidence of the Yayoi is found on northern
Kyūshū, but that is still debated. Yayoi culture quickly spread
to the main island of Honshū, mixing with native Jōmon culture. A
recent study that used accelerator mass spectrometry to analyze
carbonized remains on pottery and wooden stakes, suggests that they
dated back to 900–800 BC, 500 years earlier than previously
Yayoi pottery was simply decorated and produced using the same coiling
technique previously used in Jōmon pottery. Yayoi craft
specialists made bronze ceremonial bells (dōtaku), mirrors, and
weapons. By the 1st century AD, Yayoi farmers began using iron
agricultural tools and weapons.
As the Yayoi population increased, the society became more stratified
and complex. They wove textiles, lived in permanent farming villages,
and constructed buildings with wood and stone. They also accumulated
wealth through land ownership and the storage of grain. Such factors
promoted the development of distinct social classes. Contemporary
Chinese sources described the people as having tattoos and other
bodily markings which indicated differences in social status. Yayoi
chiefs, in some parts of Kyūshū, appear to have sponsored, and
politically manipulated, trade in bronze and other prestige
objects. That was possible by the introduction of an irrigated,
wet-rice culture from the Yangtze estuary in southern
China via the
Ryukyu Islands or Korean Peninsula. Wet-rice agriculture led to
the development and growth of a sedentary, agrarian society in Japan.
Local political and social developments in
Japan were more important
than the activities of the central authority within a stratified
Direct comparisons between Jōmon and Yayoi skeletons show that the
two peoples are noticeably distinguishable. The Jōmon tended to
be shorter, with relatively longer forearms and lower legs, more
wide-set eyes, shorter and wider faces, and much more pronounced
facial topography. They also have strikingly raised brow ridges,
noses, and nose bridges. Yayoi people, on the other hand, averaged an
inch or two taller, with close-set eyes, high and narrow faces, and
flat brow ridges and noses. By the Kofun period, almost all skeletons
Japan except those of the Ainu are of the Yayoi type with
Jomon admixture, resembling those of modern-day Japanese.
Origin of the Yayoi people
Northern Kyushu is the part of
Japan closest to the Asian mainland.
The origin of Yayoi culture has long been debated. The earliest
archaeological sites are Itazuke or Nabata in the northern part of
Kyūshū. Contacts between fishing communities on this coast and the
southern coast of Korea date from the Jōmon period, as witnessed by
the exchange of trade items such as fishhooks and obsidians.
During the Yayoi period, cultural features from
China and Korea
arrived in this area at various times over several centuries, and
later spread to the south and east. This was a period of mixture
between immigrants and the indigenous population, and between new
cultural influences and existing practices.
Chinese influence was obvious in the bronze and copper weapons,
dōkyō, dōtaku, as well as irrigated paddy rice cultivation. Three
major symbols of Yayoi culture are the bronze mirror, the bronze
sword, and the royal seal stone.
Between 1996 and 1999, a team led by Satoshi Yamaguchi, a researcher
at Japan's National Science Museum, compared Yayoi remains found in
Japan's Yamaguchi and Fukuoka prefectures with those from China's
Jiangsu province and found many similarities between the Yayoi
Yayoi period dōtaku bell, 3rd century AD
Some scholars have concluded that Korean influence existed. Hudson has
cited archaeological evidence that included "bounded paddy fields, new
types of polished stone tools, wooden farming implements, iron tools,
weaving technology, ceramic storage jars, exterior bonding of clay
coils in pottery fabrication, ditched settlements, domesticated pigs,
and jawbone rituals." The migrant transfusion from the Korean
peninsula gains strength because Yayoi culture began on the north
coast of Kyūshū, where
Japan is closest to Korea. Yayoi pottery,
burial mounds, and food preservation were discovered to be very
similar to the pottery of southern Korea.
Bronze mirror excavated in Tsubai-otsukayama kofun, Yamashiro, Kyoto
However, some scholars argue that the rapid increase of roughly four
million people in
Japan between the Jōmon and Yayoi periods cannot be
explained by migration alone. They attribute the increase primarily to
a shift from a hunter-gatherer to an agricultural diet on the islands,
with the introduction of rice. It is quite likely that rice
cultivation and its subsequent deification allowed for a slow and
gradual population increase. Regardless, there is archaeological
evidence that supports the idea that there was an influx of farmers
from the continent to
Japan that absorbed or overwhelmed the native
Some pieces of
Yayoi pottery clearly show the influence of Jōmon
ceramics. In addition, the Yayoi lived in the same type of pit or
circular dwelling as that of the Jōmon. Other examples of commonality
are chipped stone tools for hunting, bone tools for fishing, shells in
bracelet construction, and lacquer decoration for vessels and
Alexander Vovin argues that the Yayoi spoke a non-Japonic language,
but traces are preserved in some borrowed rice agriculture vocabulary:
Proto-Japonic *(z/h)ina-Ci 'rice (plant)', *koma-Ci '(hulled) rice',
and *pwo 'ear of grain'. He claims that these were borrowed from an
Austroasiatic language spoken by the Yayoi, pointing to an origin in
A 2015 analysis using the Automated Similarity Judgment Program
resulted in the Japonic languages being grouped with the Austroasiatic
languages. The same analysis also showed a connection to Ainu
languages, but this is possibly because of heavy influence from
Japonic to Ainu.
Emergence of Wa in Chinese history texts
The golden seal said to have been granted to the "King of Wa" by
Emperor Guangwu of Han
Emperor Guangwu of Han in 57 AD. It is inscribed King of Na of Wa in
Han Dynasty (漢委奴國王)
The earliest written records about people in
Japan are from Chinese
sources from this period. Wa, the Japanese pronunciation of an early
Chinese name for Japan, was mentioned in 57 AD; the Na state of Wa
received a golden seal from the Emperor Guangwu of the Later Han
dynasty. This event was recorded in the Hou Han Shu compiled by Fan Ye
in the 5th century. The seal itself was discovered in northern
Kyūshū in the 18th century. Wa was also mentioned in 257 in the
Wei zhi, a section of the San Guo Zhi compiled by the 3rd century
scholar Chen Shou.
Early Chinese historians described Wa as a land of hundreds of
scattered tribal communities rather than the unified land with a
700-year tradition as laid out in the 8th-century work Nihon Shoki, a
partly mythical, partly historical account of
Japan which dates the
foundation of the country at 660 BC. Archaeological evidence also
suggests that frequent conflicts between settlements or statelets
broke out in the period. Many excavated settlements were moated or
built at the tops of hills. Headless human skeletons discovered in
Yoshinogari site are regarded as typical examples of finds from the
period. In the coastal area of the Inland Sea, stone arrowheads are
often found among funerary objects.
Third-century Chinese sources reported that the Wa people lived on raw
fish, vegetables, and rice served on bamboo and wooden trays, clapped
their hands in worship (something still done in Shinto shrines today),
and built earthen-grave mounds. They also maintained vassal-master
relations, collected taxes, had provincial granaries and markets, and
observed mourning. Society was characterized by violent struggles.
Hashihaka kofun, Sakurai, Nara
The Wei Zhi (Chinese: 魏志), which is part of the San Guo Zhi, first
Yamataikoku and Queen
Himiko in the 3rd century. According to
Himiko assumed the throne of Wa, as a spiritual leader,
after a major civil war. Her younger brother was in charge of the
affairs of state, including diplomatic relations with the Chinese
court Kingdom of Wei. When asked about their origins by the Wei
embassy, the people of Wa claimed to be descendants of the Grand Count
Tàibó of Wu, a historic figure of the Wu Kingdom around the Yangtze
Delta of China.
For many years, the location of
Yamataikoku and the identity of Queen
Himiko have been subject of research. Two possible sites, Yoshinogari
Saga Prefecture and Makimuku in
Nara Prefecture have been
suggested. Recent archaeological research in Makimuku suggests
Yamataikoku was located in the area. Some scholars assume
that the Hashihaka kofun in Makimuku was the tomb of Himiko. Its
relation to the origin of the Yamato polity in the following Kofun
period is also under debate.
Japanese era name
^ a b c Keally, Charles T. (2006-06-03). "Yayoi Culture". Japanese
Archaeology. Charles T. Keally. Retrieved 2010-03-19.
^ Habu, Junko (2004). Ancient Jomon of Japan. Cambridge University
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^ a b Shōda, Shinya (2007). "A Comment on the Yayoi Period Dating
Controversy". Bulletin of the Society for East Asian Archaeology.
^ Mizoguchi, Koji (2013). The
Archaeology of Japan: From the Earliest
Rice Farming Villages to the Rise of the State. Cambridge University
Press. pp. 35–36. ISBN 978-0-521-88490-7.
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Establishment of High-Precision Chronology by Carbon 14 Age Analysis,
National Museum of Japanese History
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IN FORAGER-FARMER INTERACTION Archived 2009-09-23 at the Wayback
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Wayback Machine., Information-technology Promotion Agency
Doi, Naomi, University of the Ryukyus
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^ Mizoguchi (2013), p. 54.
^ Kidder, J. Edward, Jr. (1993). "The earliest societies in Japan". In
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^ "Long Journey to Prehistorical Japan" (in Japanese). National
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^ "Yayoi linked to Yangtze area: DNA tests reveal similarities to
early wet-rice farmers". The
Japan Times. March 19, 1999.
^ Mark J. Hudson (1999). Ruins of Identity Ethnogenesis in the
Japanese Islands. University Hawai'i Press.
^ a b
Jared Diamond (June 1, 1998). "Japanese Roots". Discover
Magazine. 19 (6, June 1998). Retrieved 2008-05-12. Unlike Jomon
Yayoi pottery was very similar to contemporary South Korean
pottery in shape. Many other elements of the new Yayoi culture were
unmistakably Korean and previously foreign to Japan, including bronze
objects, weaving, glass beads, and styles of tools and houses.
^ Mizoguchi (2013), p. 119.
^ Vovin, Alexander. "Japanese rice agriculture terminology and
linguistic affiliation of Yayoi culture". In Blench, Roger; Spriggs,
Archaeology and Language II. London: Routledge.
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^ Jäger, G (2015). "Support for linguistic macrofamilies from
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^ "Gold Seal (Kin-in)". Fukuoka City Museum. Retrieved
^ 魏志倭人伝, Chinese texts and its Japanese translation
^ 首なしの人骨[permanent dead link], Niigata Prefectural
^ 魏志倭人伝, Chinese texts of the Wei Zhi, Wikisource
^ Karako-kagi Archaeological Museum (2007).
Database of Archaeological Site Reports in Japan. Retrieved
Nikkei Net, March 6, 2008
Sankei Shimbun, March 6, 2008
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Yayoi period.
Yayoi Culture, Department of Asian Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Yayoi period at Japanese History Online (under construction)
An article by Richard Hooker on the Yayoi and the Jōmon.
Comprehensive Database of Archaeological Site Reports in Japan, Nara
National Research Institute for Cultural Properties
Article "Japanese Roots Surprisingly Shallow" from
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