The Jomon period (13,000 BC to 400 BC) 縄文時代

Art in prehistoric Japan with corded ceramics from Jomon

Prehistory is divided into two sub-periods in Japan. The Paleolithic, which begins almost 40,000 years ago BC, and the so-called Jomon period, which begins almost 13,000 years before our era. Discover more. 

Japanese Hunter-Gatherers

We usually distinguish the Paleolithic from the Neolithic, the two great eras of prehistory, by the existence of agricultural and animal husbandry systems within the human groups studied, systems which lead to the sedentarization of individuals.

The Jomon era (13,000 BC to 400 BC) is a so-called Mesolithic era, an intermediate era during which the inhabitants of Japan were still engaged in hunting and gathering while they began to build settlements. 

Sannai maruyama

Traditional habitat of the early Jomon era

wikimedia commons

The Era Of Prehistoric Pottery

The Jomon period takes its name from the two kanji "jo" meaning "strings" and "my", which can be translated by "decor" or "sign".

Indeed, very many potteries decorated with the impression of cord from this period were exhumed across the country, the ancestors of the Japanese being one of the very first populations in history to use this process. For comparison, a similar culture, that of corded ceramics, was also found in Northern Europe and in western Russia, but dating from a much later period (from around 3000 to 2200 years).

This process can be found in the decoration of the very enigmatic dogu. These terracotta statuettes with spread legs and tiny arms used for ceremonies were found from the south of Hokkaido to the Osaka region.

A Jomon-era figurine

A Jomon-era figurine


The More Complex Buildings Of The Jomon Era

The Jomon era was also characterized by the formation of the first villages to be found on the islands.

With many of these structures organized in a circle, they generally included 5 to 10 dwellings, with semi-buried houses and larger buildings, which were to have community gatherings. The dead were buried around the center of the village.

House or attic on stilts

House or attic on stilts

Wiki commons

 The village of Sannai Maruyama site in Aomori

The village of Sannai Maruyama site in Aomori


Latest Articles

Japan Visitor - itocity10.jpg

William Adams: The First Englishman to Reach Japan and Become a Samurai

Read a biography of William Adams, the English seafarer and samurai of the Edo Period. Adams became an adviser to shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa.

Japan Visitor - edo-period-1.jpg

Tokugawa Ieyasu - The unifier of Japan

Read a biography of Tokugawa Ieyasu, who became shogun in 1600 and established the Tokugawa shogunate that was to rule Japan for over 250 years.

Yayoi era storage jar

The Yayoi period (400 BC to 300 AD)

The Yayoi period (400 BC to 300 AD) is a pivotal period in the history of Japan during which Japan starts cultivating rice and the first sedentary communities appear.

See All (56)