THE ANCIENT JAPAN PORTAL
Showcased content about Ancient Japan
The history of Ancient Japan can be broken down into three distinct periods. The first period called Jōmon period is the time in from about 14,000 BC to 300 BC. The term "Jōmon" means "cord-patterned" in Japanese. It refers to the markings made on clay vessels and figures using sticks with cords wrapped around them which are characteristic of the Jōmon people.
The second period called Yayoi period is an era in the history of Japan traditionally dated 300 BC to 300 AD. It is named after the neighbourhood of Tokyo where archaeologists first uncovered artifacts and features from that era. Distinguishing characteristics of the Yayoi period include the appearance of new pottery styles and the start of an intensive rice agriculture in paddy fields. Yayoi culture flourished in a geographic area from southern Kyūshū to northern Honshū.
The last period called Kofun period of ancient Japanese history, beginning around AD 250, is named after the large tumulus burial mounds (kofun) that appeared at the time. The Kofun period saw the establishment of strong military states centered around powerful clans, and the establishment of the dominant Yamato polity centered in the Yamato and Kawachi provinces, from the 3rd century to the 7th century, origin of the Japanese imperial lineage. Japan started to send tributes to Imperial China in the 5th century. In the Chinese history records, the polity was called Wa and its five kings were recorded. Based upon the Chinese model, they developed a central administration and an imperial court system and its society was organized into occupation groups. Close relationships between the Three Kingdoms of Korea and Japan began during the middle of this period, around the end of the 4th century.
National Treasures of Japan are the most precious of Japan's Tangible Cultural Properties, as determined and designated by the Agency for Cultural Affairs (a subsidiary of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology). A Tangible Cultural Property is considered to be of historic or artistic value, classified either as "buildings and structures", or as "fine arts and crafts". Each National Treasure must show outstanding workmanship, a high value for world cultural history, or exceptional value for scholarship.
The designated items provide an overview of the history of Japanese art and architecture from ancient to modern times, with the earliest archaeological National Treasures dating back 4,000 years, and the Akasaka Palace dating from the early 20th century. In Japan, the first indications of stable living patterns and civilization date to the Jōmon period, from about 14,000 BC to 300 BC. Clay figurines (dogū) and some of the world's oldest pottery, discovered at sites in northern Japan, have been designated as the oldest National Treasures in the "archaeological materials" category. Some of the earliest items in this category are objects discovered in sutra mounds from the Kamakura period. A proportion of the oldest designated National Treasures were directly imported from mainland China and Korea.
The origins of sake are unclear; however, the earliest written reference to use of alcohol in Japan is recorded in the Book of Wei, of the Records of Three Kingdoms. This 3rd century Chinese text speaks of the Japanese drinking and dancing.
The term "National Treasure" has been used in Japan to denote cultural properties since 1897. The definition and the criteria have changed since the inception of the term. The writings in this list of documents designated as National Treasures of Japan contains items of various type such as letters, diaries, records or catalogues, certificates, imperial decrees, testaments and maps. Writing was physically introduced to Japan from China in the form of inscribed artefacts around the year 1 BC. Examples, some of which have been designated as archaeological national treasures, include coins of the reign of Wang Mang (AD 8–25), a 1st century gold seal from Shikanoshima, a late 2nd century iron sword from the Tōdaijiyama burial mound, the Seven-Branched Sword with inscription from 369 and a large number of bronze mirrors—the oldest dating to the 3rd century. All of these artifacts originated on the continent, most likely in China. The concept of writing came to Japan from the Korean kingdom of Baekje in the form of classical Chinese books likely written on paper and in the form of manuscript rolls. The oldest texts of Japanese origin, which show a clear understanding of the concept of writing, date to the 5th century and are inscriptions on stone or metal.
Examples include three archaeological National Treasures: Suda Hachiman Shrine Mirror from about the 5th century, which is a poor copy of a Chinese original, the Inariyama Sword from 471 or 531 and the Eta Funayama burial mound sword from about the 5th century. The abrupt transition from an unfamiliarity with writing to reading and writing complicated works in a foreign language required the earliest Japanese texts be composed and read by people from the continent such as Wani. The Inariyama Sword is also the oldest example of man'yōgana use, a writing system that employs Chinese characters to represent the Japanese language. Soon after the introduction of writing, scribes were appointed to the provinces to "record events and report conditions".