The YAYOI PERIOD (弥生時代, Yayoi jidai) is an
Iron Age era in
the history of
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 centuries BC.
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
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.
* 1 Features
* 2 History
* 2.1 Origin of the Yayoi people
* 2.2 Emergence of Wa in Chinese history texts
* 3 See also
* 4 References
* 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
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 excavated
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
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
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
Jiangsu remains. A
Yayoi period dōtaku bell, 3rd
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 via 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.
excavated in Tsubai-otsukayama kofun,
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
EMERGENCE OF WA IN CHINESE HISTORY TEXTS
The golden seal said to have been granted to the "King of Wa "
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
The Wei Zhi (Chinese : 魏志), which is part of the San Guo Zhi ,
Yamataikoku and Queen
Himiko in the 3rd century.
According to the record,
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 that
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
* 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 Press. p. 258. ISBN 978-0-521-77670-7 .
* ^ A B Shōda, Shinya (2007). "A Comment on the Yayoi Period
Dating Controversy". Bulletin of the Society for East Asian
* ^ 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 .
* ^ The Origin of the Farming in the Yayoi Period and East Asia:
Establishment of High-Precision Chronology by Carbon 14 Age Analysis,
National Museum of Japanese History
* ^ EASTERN JAPANESE POTTERY DURING THE JOMON-YAYOI TRANSITION: A
STUDY IN FORAGER-FARMER INTERACTION Archived 2009-09-23 at the Wayback
Machine ., Seiji Kobayashi,
Kokugakuin Tochigi Junior College
* ^ http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/yayo/hd_yayo.htm
* ^ Lock, Margaret (1998). "Japanese". The Encyclopedia of World
Cultures CD-ROM. Macmillan . Retrieved July 10, 2015.
* ^ Pearson, Richard J. Chiefly Exchange Between Kyushu and
Okinawa, Japan, in the Yayoi Period. Antiquity 64(245)912–922, 1990.
* ^ Earlier Start for Japanese Rice Cultivation, Dennis Normile,
Science, 2003 (archive)
* ^ 縄文人の顔と骨格-骨格の比較 Archived 2007-12-23 at
Wayback Machine ., Information-technology Promotion Agency
University of the Ryukyus
University of the Ryukyus
Jared Diamond (June 1, 1998). "Japanese Roots". Discover
Magazine. 19 (6 June 1998). Retrieved 14 December 2013.
* ^ Mizoguchi (2013), p. 54.
* ^ Kidder, J. Edward, Jr. (1993). "The earliest societies in
Japan". In Brown, Delmer . Cambridge History of Japan, vol. 1: Ancient
Japan. Cambridge University Press. pp. 48–107. ISBN
978-0-521-22352-2 . p. 81.
* ^ Mizoguchi (2013), p. 53.
* ^ "Long Journey to Prehistorical Japan" (in Japanese). National
Science Museum of Japan. Archived from the original on 21 April 2015.
* ^ "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. ISBN 0-8248-2156-4 .
* ^ 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.
* ^ "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, Niigata Prefectural Education Center
* ^ 魏志倭人伝, Chinese texts of the Wei Zhi,
* ^ 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
Yayoi period at Japanese History Online (under construction)
* An article by Richard Hooker on the Yayoi and the Jōmon.
* Comprehensive Database of Archaeological