The Jomon era of Japan was the only time in world history when there was a 10,000 year period without war.
It was a period when those who wanted to hunt, hunted freely, those who want to plow, plowed freely, and those who wanted to gather, gathered freely without fear of opposition or suppression. It was due to this freedom that Japanese culture advanced to the high level which it enjoys today. Now is the time to return to the Spirit of Jomon! Now is the time we must help one another as the Jomon people did.
Jomon pottery emerged fifteen thousand years ago, and made the long-standing history for more than ten thousand years. During the period, the ebb and flow of over eighty styles, which shared the certain characteristics at each region at each period, had evolved from Hokkaido to the Southwest Islands of Okinawa.
The raw material of Jomon pottery are, needless to say, clay. It is a very impressionable material, and we can make any shape as much as we are satisfied to the full. Therefore, the skill and habit of the potter are expressed in Jomon pottery itself, and an individual pottery corresponds to its potter. The reason why Jomon pottery is attractive is that the wish of Jomon people is universally crawling behind it.
Jomon pottery is no doubt filled with formidable excellent shaping power. However, Taro Okamoto has seen through that is a matter which is closely related with cultural breeding ground that bought out Jomon pottery rather than just taking part in evaluation of individual Jomon pottery. It was the moment and the starting point that Jomon pottery had been released from an object of archaeological research, and tried to approach Jomon people’s culture or mentality.
Thus, Jomon pottery has leaped into the middle of the stage of the universal art for the Pan mankind, and has even dominated as one of the leading artworks not in the lease instead. We now realize again that Jomon pottery is the existence which goes beyond space-time as always the eternal present time, coping with the artistry of the Paleolithic wall paintings of Europe.
According to the provisional calculation made by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, there are 88000 sites of structural remains of the Jomon period in the whole country, and more than 50000 of them are of the latter half of the Jomon period such as Middle, Late and Final periods. There is a case that over 10000 sets of pottery were produced at a settlement among them, and it will be allowed to estimate roughly that five hundred million sets of Jomon pottery had been produced thoughtout the entire Jomon period.
Needless to say, not all of them deserve the art, however, there are some remarkably conspicuous masterpieces. I can remember immediately more than five hundred of them, not only a national treasures, the Flame-style pottery. They are the ones that have the value in the artistry, and have never been chosen only by the self-satisfied tastes. They are masterpieces which represent the absolute majority. They must be ones which have passed the certain criteria.
As for the criteria, I would like to discuss further in another article since careful arguments are necessary. Here in this book, I would like to introduce eight sets of pottery which have splendidly fulfilled the criteria and have captivated the writer’s heart very much.
Emeritus Professor, Kokugakuin University
It was approx. 15,000 years ago when Jomon pottery emerged in the Japanese Archipelago before the rest of the world. Jomon people insisted loudly their unique sensitivity, making the maximum use of the unrestricted character of additions, deletious and/or corrections in their formations, The whole body with graceful refined curved stands in perfect taste with dignity.Not to mention the Japanese Archipelago,it is even one of the oldest pottery excelling others in the world.
It is assumed that there are three locations where pottery was invented in the world, They are Iran and Iraq of West Asia, regions of the Amazon River basin and Pacfic Coast of Central and South America, and East Asia where Jomon pottery of Japan is listed first. Although East Asia especially is located at the ends of the vast Eurasian Continent, the beginning of the pottery production is more than three thousand years earlier than West Asia of the second place. The reason has not been clarified yet,however,high density of population, which can be assumed from a large number of sites in the Japanese Archipelago at that time, can be one of it. ”Population power which relies on numbers must have had cultural vitality and immeasurable possitibity. It cannot be ignored as the background of an advanced Jomon pottery.
On further reflection , we can see the Origin of beauty of Jomon pottery from the refinement of this liner relief pottery, which definitely transcend the oldness, and the power which is as strong as freshness of the present products.
Aomori Prefecture Museum of Culture
Important Cultural Property
Although jars were temporarily produced in Kyusyu in Initial Jōmon and the Chūbu region in Early Jōmon, the traditional was not deeply rooted throughout the Jōmon
period, and they did not revive even in Middle Jōmon when Jōmon pottery reached the climax in the rising history. As it became Late Jōmon, a trend to produce jars reached a peak again particularly in the Tōhoku region, spreading gradually all over the Eastern Japan, and has become prosperous in Final Jōmon.
This jar is one of the perfect examples emerged as the leader. Its plump figure has the broadest part at the lower half of the body, and the neck is daringly narrowed, with a small rim on the top. The surface of the body is divided by linear reliefs and the lowest bottom part is plain, with the main body part of wide decorative zone. The liner reliefs are of clay rolls like vermicelli pasted on the surface, and the edges of the both sides are traced by deep grooved lines, which are intentionally designed to achieve powerful effects by the contrast. Red color painted all over the surface still remains well, making it exceptionally attractive. After it was formed and somewhat dried, the top portion was truncated by a sharp spatula. It is an admirable device which can easily pour the contents separately.
Tsugane-goshomae, Yamanashi prefecture
Hokuto City Archaeological Museum
Jōmon people believed the spirit world dwell on all nature from not only beast, fish, shellfish, trees and plants but also to mountains, clouds, rains etc. It is the world of animism. Not only pottery and stone implements, but all implements made of bone, horn, tusk, shellfish are animated, and they have lives once their forms are materialized. Therefore, people like Ainu did not forgotten rituals for broken things which should be sent off courteously to the afterlife. We,people of the present, also do not stamp down books on the floor and sympathize with their feelings.
Jōmon pottery was not just a vessel to put in them. It is conceivable that such feelings could be the motives for expressing human bodies or faces on rims and bodies of pottery.
This round face has been formed softly and spherically. Although it is natural to realize that the eyes turning upward show sternness, this one conveys childlikeness together with the round mouth opened a little bit. It is an act of calm disposition of Jōmon people.
Black Spouted Vessel
Late Jōmon（1500-1000 BC）
Tsumagoi Village Folk Museum
Jōmon pottery burned in the open outdoor incineration is fragile and get cracked or broken even by a small carelessness. On the contrary, one and all were discovered in perfect condition, which we should not say just lucky, but it was rather arranged by Jōmon people. In short, it is significant that it was found at the special ancient stone pavement structure, and it must have played a key role at any rituals so that it has been courteously treated until the end.
We should not overlook the fact that it is a set of two. It is often noticed that the contrasting two things coexist in the Jōmon world such as east and west or south and north axes of grave pits at common graveyards, two locations of garbage pits or two groups of pit dwellings surrounding plazas. There was the worldview of the binary opposition aiming a social system or a principle of duality.
In any event, if we call it in the modern expression, these two are teapots. They both look the same from the forms, patterns, designs to the finishing in black. The only difference is the sizes of two, however, they seem to be pair of teacups for a married couple, and we can see their characters in each background. Although the question is the content, if we suppose it to be fruit wine, we can regain our sanity.
Ōyu stone circle, Akita prefecture
Kazuno City Board of Education
A new remarkable movement of Jōmon culture has begun especially in the northern Tōhoku region after the uplifted boom of Middle Jōmon, it looked like, at a glance, it shifted to the modest trend though. It is the emergence of stone circles.
The most well-known ones are the Ōyu stone circles located in the south of Lake Towada, Akita Prefecture, and they have been designated as the special national historic site. They are of large-scale and highly visible. A lot of ordinary pottery, stone implements, dogū（clay figurine）, stone rods, stone swords and other ritual related article for rites and magic etc. have been found at around this Jōmon monument. There are many conspicuous and superb pottery also. This goblet is one of the most famous ones among those masterpieces.
Red spots slightly remain on the surface indicating that it was once painted deep red over the entire surface. First of all, it is characterized by its high pedestal which is widely spread, and the bowl like a wine cup on the top brings out the well-balanced form as the whole because it bends strongly outward, although it is small. Moreover, the three small projections around the rim firmly express a glimpse of particular concept on odd numbers which Jōmon people fixated together with “five”.
Fuefuki City Board of Education
Jōmon period has a long history of over 10,000 years. And Jōmon pottery,which were produced and used in large quantities at any places and any time during the period, are classified into six periods based on the variations of the shapes and patterns.
The first stage is incipient Jōmon, and then, passing through Initial, Early, it reaches Middle period when “cultual power” of Jōmon opens at maximum power and it grows remarkably and lively across te country. In Late Jōmon it calms down, and closes the curtain at the last sixth stage, Final Jōmon.
During Middle Jōmon, the culture showed record phenomenal prosperity in the Chūbu mountainous region including Nagano and Yamanashi Prefectures. Lots of large scale sites appeared there, and Sori-style pottery was developed, following the profoundly sensitive Katsusaka-style pottery.
This pottery is Sori-style. Although the upper half is missing, it is a large-sized one reaching way over 70 cm if it is perfect. It is regrettable that the shape of the missing rim part cannot be easily imagined. The reason for this is that the similar products, which the spiral patterns are applied all over the body surface, have not been found elsewhere yet. Yet, the remaining part itself only has overpowering powers and presence, and its beauty is firm and impregnable, even though it is largely broken.
Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education
Edward S. Morse who discovered the shell mounds of Ōmori, Tokyo published a report called “Ōmori Kaikyo Kobutsuhen” two years after the excavation. During that short period, he countinued to observe closely pottery, stone, bone and horn implements, and have described a number of insightful views.
He astutely observed that there were no pictorial elements at all such as sketches of nature or plant design in Jōmon pottery, in spite of that the figures are of infinite, endless variety, and the patterns also vary widely. It is absolutely true as he pointed out , however, it does not mean that Jōmon people were short of expressiveness.
The clear evidence of this is that some line incising drawings of deer, fish or human have been actually found to date. That is a question of Jōmon people’s manner.
It is known that those designs which express giant flying squirrels, wild boars or abalones, spiral shells and a rare article like a shape of walnuts cut in half have been found. This pottery is just a bat spreading wings. Its silhouetted figures is interesting. We wonder if Jōmon people could notice the effect created e the light of a health in a pit dwelling.
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