Japan from the inside out

Website: The road to Yoshinogari leads through Seoul

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, January 28, 2007

If you’re looking for some absorbing websites—and you know dang well the Britney Spears crotch shots really aren’t worth looking at—you might wander on over to the extensive list at the right sidebar. That list alone could occupy your spare time for weeks on end.

One of them is the link near the bottom for the Yoshinogari Historical Park in Saga Prefecture. That’s the site of the largest moat-enclosed Japanese settlement from the Yayoi period, which dates roughly from the 3rd century BC to the 3rd century AD.

The site’s discovery generated a lot of excitment in Japan because it closely resembles the place visited by Chinese envoys described in the Gishi Wajinden, the earliest written account of any kind about the Japanese people. The text has frustrated scholars, however, because the location of the site is improperly explained. (If you followed the author’s instructions, you’d wind up somewhere in the middle of the sea.)

To commemorate the 20th anniversary of Yoshinogari’s discovery, the Japanese and South Koreans will hold a joint exhibit from October to December at the National Museum of Korea in Seoul. This will be the first time a full display of Yoshinogari artifacts will be shown overseas, and one of the few occasions for an overseas museum to hold an exhibit focusing on a single Japanese archaeological site.

The items found at Yoshinogari include earthenware vessels from the preliterate age that resemble those of Korean design, as well as the oldest molds for bronze discovered in Japan. They are clear evidence of the close interaction between Kyushu and the Korean Peninsula in those days. There will be about 250 Japanese items exhibited, including the bronze ware, swords, and cobalt blue, glass tubular beads. At the same time, the Koreans will exhibit about 150 items found during the same period on the Korean Peninsula to provide a comparison.

The exhibit will last for two months, and will then shift to the Saga Prefectural Museum (Japanese only) in January 2008.

In the words of a member of the local Board of Education (the bodies responsible for archaeological matters in Japan):

“Yoshinogari symbolizes the period of the greatest interaction between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.”

Perhaps this will help disabuse some people of the notion that relations between Japan and South Korea are dismal. A couple of years ago, during NHK Radio’s annual weeklong broadcasts from Seoul, a Korean guest asserted that Japanese-South Korean relations were very “mature” (his word), other than for a few politicians.


And to conclude, here’s one more that might shake up a few other preconceived notions–the leader of the Yoshinogari settlement was a queen named Himiko.

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