2019.11.30

20,000 Years Under the Sendai

The Jomon period (c. 14,000–300 BCE) is a time of Japanese prehistory defined by hunter-gather societies which showed signs of a sophisticated culture. Groups settled along rivers or the coastline where they constructed pit dwellings, produced stone tools, and gained an appreciation for art through the creation of jewelry and special “cord-pressed” pottery, which is the literal translation of the word “Jomon.”

We can learn much from the Jomon people through shell mounds, the garbage dumps of ancient Japan. Villagers threw away clam shells, as well as food remains and broken pottery in a designated pile. From those remains we can understand things such as the diet of the people by examining animal bone fragments. When pieced together with historical remains, the image of the Jomon people becomes much clearer. Historical sites can be found all across Japan, though they are heavily concentrated in the Tohoku region, with several in Miyagi Prefecture, and much to see even here in Sendai City.

A great start to learn about the Jomon civilization is the Sendai City Tomizawa Site Museum. The themed museum centers on the Paleolithic Age. “Remains of a forest and human activity from 20,000 years ago, excavated at the Tomizawa ruins, have been preserved and are open to the public. The discovered artifacts on display vividly bring back to life the environment and human activity of that time.”

The subterranean open display of a time capsule of this part of Earth 20 millennia ago is simply breathtaking. Why not have a closer look at Jomon technology by experiencing cutting paper with stone tools made by staff? https://sendai-experience.com/en/ex/147
Most of these stones cut better than modern-day scissors!

If you are looking for more hands-on activities and to see some reconstructed pit dwellings, head over to the sister museum: Sendai City Jomon Site Park. The facility conserves and makes use of Yamada-Uenodai site, which was a large village in the Jomon Period approximately 4,000 years ago. They offer experiences to learn the skills and wisdom of the Jomon people, such as making magatama (curved beads) jewelry, pottery, and starting a fire, all available without a reservation. We recommend making the fashionable shark tooth accessory! https://sendai-experience.com/en/ex/171

While most visitors to Japan have images of feudal samurai or pop culture, the Jomon culture is fascinating in its own way and has much to teach us. Perhaps Japanese technology and sense of aesthetics which is now famous around the world owes at least some of its success to the “rock foundations” laid down by the Jomon people thousands of years ago.

For the Jomon super fans, explore even more at small permanent Jomon exhibits inside the Sendai City Museum, Tohoku Gakuin University Museum, and Tohoku History Museum in nearby Tagajo City.

See you soon,
Sendai Experience Program Team