Japanese Eras – A Clear Glance Into the Stone Age

Japanese Eras - A Clear Glance Into the Stone Age

Is the history of Japan so different from the Western ones? Read our article to discover the names and some curiosities about the Japanese eras!

The Stone Age: The Jōmon And The Yayoi Period

We will start with the prehistory: in Japan, it goes from around the 10000 BC to the IV-III century BC. Prehistory lasted until the introduction of writing, and is divided into 3 eras. Let’s discover them!

The earliest era: Jōmon 

The name Jōmon (縄文・じょうもん) comes from a particular type of ceramics decorations, made with ropes. In fact, people would create many artifacts: some in ceramics with rope or straw decorations, and some in terracotta. The last ones were usually recalling the shapes of animals or women in pregnancy status. They are called Dōgu, and were intended to secure safe childbirth, or ensure a successful hunt. 

Dogu ceramics decorations Jomon period Japanese eras

During this age, people would live by collecting roots and fruits, hunting, and fishing, until around the III century BC.

But what is so special about the Jōmon civilization? Find it out in this Hiragana Times article!

In addition, learn where the world’s oldest earthenware has been discovered

The Yayoi period historically starts around the IV or III century B.C., ending in the III century A.D. This was the time of the introduction of rice cultivation, probably introduced by some populations of the Korean peninsula. Consequently, this marked the beginning of sedentary life. 

Obviously, the process was gradual throughout the whole archipelago. However, some villages in the northern area stuck to the Jōmon lifestyle. 

At that time, people started to work with metals like bronze and iron. Furthermore, the first signs of Shinto (Japan’s main religion) beliefs and rituals began to spread across the archipelago. 

Curiosities about Japan’s Stone Age

The name Yayoi comes from the district in Tokyo where the first artifacts associated with the period were found in 1884 CE.

Moreover, the myth about Japan’s national foundation day starts during the Stone Age!

It is believed that during that time, the first emperor of Japan, Jinmu, was crowned on the 11th of February, year 660 B.C. Thus, this day signs the beginning of the Japanese state, and it’s meant to promote Japan’s national pride!

Check this article from our content partner, the bilingual magazine Hiragana Times, to find out curiosities about it!

Kofun – The imponent Mound Tombs Era

Starting from the 3rd to the 7th century, a new activity spread across the Japanese archipelago: the construction of Kofun – 古墳・こふん. 

Kofun are a particular type of mound tombs, many surrounded by a moat, with circular, square, or “keyhole” shaped (see the picture below). 

Kofun Era mound tombs and keyhole shaped tombs
An example of an old keyhole-shaped kofun, in Sakitama.

Around kofun, you could find haniwa, terracotta clay figures that were made for ritual use and buried with the dead as funerary objects

In addition, in this period a deep social organization, with clan divisions, including the first priests.

Because of that, conflicts between clans began, until writing was introduced during the VI century, marking the beginning of Japanese history.

Keep in touch with us to read more about Japanese history!

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