Jomon or Yayoi?

Jomon or Yayoi?

Jomon or Yayoi?

Jomon or Yayoi?

One’s friend jokingly (or not), asked whether one is Jomon or Yayoi.

Image of Jomon People

Somewhat taken aback, one had to look into this question more deeply, and ponder it carefully, as these ancient eras at the dawn of Japanese civilization are not something that comes to mind naturally.

These two periods, Jomon and Yayoi are truly most fascinating in the history of the Japanese.

Jomon long house

Jomon and Yayoi each possess distinctive DNA-level characteristics to which a Japanese will posses both, with one of them being stronger than the other.

Jomon is regarded as the dawn of civilization on the archipelagos of Yamato. This is where the indigenous population as hunter gatherers came into full fruition.

Hunter gatherer civilizations live a seasonal lifestyle, entailing collecting buds in the Spring, fishing in the Summer, gathering nuts and grains during the Autumn, and hunting during the Winter.

Jomon hunter gatherer

There is evidence of animism having started during Jomon, and families being buried in clan groupings, suggesting the very earliest roots of the ceremonial veneration of one’s ancestors.

Cultural note: Veneration of one’s ancestors is the foundation of Japanese culture and society, and these conventions can be observe in action throughout Japan into this modern day.

Moreover, there are some important historical artifacts such as a certain pottery style, which was characteristic of the first phases of the Jōmon culture.

Jomon Pottery Example-01

These ancient objects were decorated by impressing hemp cords into the surface of wet clay, and these remnants of an ancient civilization are generally accepted to be among the oldest in the world.

Jomon Pottery Example-02

Interestingly enough, one can also see Jomon period clay figurines on display, and these figurines were assumed to have been used in fertility rites.

jomon fertility rights pottery

Indeed, old customs die hard here in the Land Of The Rising Son, and one can still see fertility rituals being carried on even now in modern Japan.

Honen Sai Matsuri (Fertility Festival) of Tagata Shrine in Komaki-City, Japanese here.

Yayoi is where a major influx of others came from the big land mass over yonder, and through this meaningful connecting with the outside world, the Bronze age occurred from around the beginning of Yayoi.

Yayoi Pottery 02

In fact, one could actually say these travelers from afar were the very first “gaijin” to land upon the shores of Japan, no visa necessary.

Not clear on what a “gaijin” is?

Translation: “outside person”

The Japanese language uses this two-character compound (外人) to discern people who are not original from the archipelagos of Japan, post Yayoi.

These newly arriving immigrants were racially different from the citizens of Jomon, and the intermarriage between the Korean and Chinese immigrants, and the original Jomon residents have resulted in the Japanese of today.

The population also expanded dramatically during this period to around 1 million inhabitants.

Note: It really looks like the fertility rituals worked!

This is also where along with the wide-spread implementation of wet-rice farming culture came seasonal rituals based on planting and harvesting.

apan's Vanishing Terraced Rice Fields

This could very well be considered the dawn of Shintoism, as there is evidence these citizens were the first to leave artifacts that can reasonably be linked to the development of Shinto.

So, a hunter gatherer (Jomon) or a wet rice farmer (Yayoi)?

My beloved and dear friend is definitely Jomon!

He has 7 children and a deep rooted hunting spirit. He leaves his dwelling daily and hunts for deals and treasure, and bringing home the bacon for his hungry clan at the end of the day.

The author of this story, however, is most defiantly Yayoi, as one came from afar away distant land, metaphorically still sometimes stinks of butter, and will always be unable to hide the fact of being born of a different skin tone than the Japanese.

Here one submits:

Do not judge a book by its cover..

One can not change birth circumstances, but can only make the choice to free oneself from the shackles of the past, as all join in commonalty and build a shared future as one.

Join other like-spirited fellow travelers where contributions are made to each others journey, as all travel one’s own unique journey

Heart-Head Dogu Heart Head Dogu, Gunma Prefecture, Important Cultural Property-Jomon

​Bonus: More Pottery Examples Here

Kata – Way Forward – Part 6

Kata – Way Forward – Part 6

Kata – Way Forward – Part 6

Kata – Way Forward – Part 6

What does the future hold for Japan?

Seeing the Japanese as katified throughout the evolution of this ancient civilization, one would have to say there are some bright spots, not only for the future of Japan, but for the shared future of an advancing civilization based upon ancient moral codes.

These codes bind members of a society through accountability, a shared purpose, and a common vision, along with obligations to one another based upon the desire for a peaceful, harmonious, and healthy society.

Japanese Cultural Code Words

Even though the Japanese are looked upon as insular people, one could honestly say, based upon over 3 decades of living in the countryside of Japan, the Japanese are understanding and accepting people. 

kimono clad girl covering mouth while laughing-01

It is the mask which one must wear here which perhaps leaves those in the outside world with no exposure to the Japanese in any meaningful way as them being somewhat “mysterious”.

Indeed, the Japanese will take what has been brought, and make it better, much much better, as this is the Way of the Japanese.

So why are the Japanese able to take such good ideas and process them into something anew along with the special Japanese touch?

This is because the Japanese are still, and will always be, instilled with order, process, and form, throughout one’s life as a matter of being Japanese.

Indeed, the true wonders of our advanced civilizations has been a collaborative effort, and all must continue to strive toward to deeper understanding of others, and a deeper understanding of one’s own-self, as all reach in unity to create a harmonious future, for children, grandchildren, and those who are to come after this chapter is long dead and gone.

Here, one submits.

Known by many different names since the dawn of civilization, Amaterasu Oomikami is the Japanese Sun Goddess.

Amterasu Oomikami-01

Let us all be thankful for our shared Mother Earth’s Star illuminating our common existence each day, and beaming life to all of our shared earth.

While one gives thanks every day to the Sun for her life giving rays of warmth and hope, let us also give thanks to one’s Ancestors for the hardship and perseverance they endured as they walked a treacherous journey bringing us to this extraordinary point in civilization.

We are all citizens under the Sun, and products of our Ancestors. Now is the time to look toward the future and create a new paradigm in unity for the sake of our shared earth and the future of life on our planet.

Mother Earth

Thank you so very much for stopping by the Land Of The Rising Son. If one finds this blog interesting and informative, please share it with your friends and anyone who may be interested in Japan, and as one does so, our beloved sun Goddess Amaterasu Oomikami Sama, will continue to shine her brilliant rays of life on you, as she does on everyone of our shared earth.

Make sure to come by again next week where one will talk about “The Micky Mousification of Japan”. 

Amterasu Oomikami-02

Kata – Part 4 – Katafication

Kata – Part 4 – Katafication

Kata – Part 4 – Katafication

Kata – Part 4 – Katafication

Keep in mind the social harmony one see in Japan is based upon following proper kata etiquette in daily behaviour, and remains the guiding constitution in all Japanese relationships.

To understand this further one must look back into the indigenous belief system of the Japanese, known as Shintoism, and then one can see from whence this all came. 

Shintoism is an animistic believe system based upon cosmic oneness among god’s, spirits, people in the physical world, and nature. 

Small Shinto Shrine

Indirect, but culturally permeative, it is the genesis for the attitudes and customs that distinguish the Japanese from all other people.

It was under the influence of Shintoism that led the Japanese to refer to themselves as the people of Wa (harmony), substantiating the very early commitment by the Japanese to the principles of Wa as the foundation of Japanese society.

Early in Japan’s history the function of religious and secular leaders were combined, and these combined entities were equally concerned with both form and essence, with the overriding principle adopted from Confucianism, which is harmony between heaven and earth, and between those who ruled and the ruled.

heaven earth harmony

From this there evolved a highly controlled behaviour system prescribing subservience and respect towards superior beings, with stylized ceremonies associated with worship infused into the conduct of daily affairs of Japanese life.

From the dawn of Japanese history, stylized rituals were preformed dozens of times throughout each year, and made up an intricate part of routine Japanese life, even so now now unto this very day.

Even if one is simply but a casual observer of Japan, one can see the Japanese have a deep affinity for formalizing and institutionalizing procedure and processes. 

Perhaps one cannot say this stylized behaviour originated in Shintoism wholly, but surely these characteristic Japanese behaviours have been infused with these pervasive ceremonial practices, which were indeed prevalent from early on in Japanese life as related to the evolution of Shintoism.

香取祭山車

In order to have a deeper understanding of Japanese society and the foundation of Wa, one can always consider Wa to be the central pillar of Japanese cultural, influencing Japan in its texture, essence, spirit, and in the continuing evolution of the Japanese Way.

An important point to note when examining kata is when wet rice farming was introduced to Japan from China sometimes between 1000 and 300 BCE. This lead to a profound effect on the country social system and subsequent character and behaviour of the Japanese.

rice fields in japan

The process of rice farming was prescribed down to the last detail, and the lifestyle accompanying wet rice farming instilled the Japanese with an extraordinary degree of patience, perseverance, diligence, cooperativeness, and group dependence.

The whole economy became based upon the way of rice and made group behaviour, cooperation, self-sacrifice and harmony obligatory.

Along with the introduction of wet rice farming and also having a profound influence on the evolution of the Japanese was the introductions of the kochikomin system. 

This means the land and the people belong to the emperor, with no right to private property, or to be independent. 

This was the catalyst for virtually absolute control over the people by the state and the evolution of many of the cultural traits that make up Japanese society.

With Wa firmly established as the essence of the Japanese social system, the ruling class of Japan fashion all of their social rules and institution as well as their language to contribute to the cultural goals of Wa.

See you again next week for Part 5 of Kata as we peel away the mystery of kata and the continuing influence on the Japanese.

Shintoism, the way of the Japanese

Akemashite Omedetogozaimasu

Akemashite Omedetogozaimasu

Akemashite Omedetogozaimasu

Akemashite Omedetogozaimasu

One grew up in the occidental tradition in central British Columbia, Canada.

When recalling the way New Year’s Eve was celebrated so many years ago now, the images of these New Years Eve parties were very boisterous and rollicking, ringing in the Happy New Year with drink, dance, song, mirth, merriment, and gaiety. 

On January 1, one’s family would gather and have one’s mother’s homemade traditional New Year’s Day buffet, then back to work on the 2nd, and life would continue on in the sameness as in the previous year.

One always found a deep and stark contrast between this and the celebration in Japanese New Year tradition.

The Japanese view the turning of the year with more solemn eyes. They take this period as a time for reflection on what had transpired in the previous year, and look toward what is to come. 

Traditionally, families gather in the ancestral home and watch the NHK Red and White song contest, an important feature of the Japanese New Year tradition to be certain (about kōhaku uta gassen here).

Snacking on osechi ryori (about osechi ryori here), and sipping the night away with excellent sake; this tickles the fancy. 

お節料理

Always included on the celebratory table (about kotatsu here), is a delicious array of raw fish and crab (delights of the sea; sashimi here). I am particularly fond of the brains of the hairy crab, an exquisite and delightful treat.

毛カニ味噌

Chiba prefecture, where I have lived for the last 34 years, is also renowned for their extraordinarily delicious locally grown peanuts, and one is always delighted to taste the incredible pea-nutty peanuts over the course of the evening, as well as slowly nibbling on the above mentioned hairy crab brains and the delightful assortment of raw fish.

Chiba Prefecture

千葉産落花生

Continuing along with the Japanese New Year’s Eve tradition, the song contest ends at 23:45, and the government run NHK then goes to different scenes all around Japan of people lining up at Shrines and Temples for the first pray of the year. 

Hatsumode is one of many Japanese New Year’s Customs, and the most important custom of the many of the “first of the year” rituals, in one’s humble opinion. 

香取神宮初詣

Whatever the customs and rituals are in one’s own family traditions among the rich and diverse peoples of our shared earth, all must reflect upon 2020 as the time when the planet experienced a seismic paradigm shift into an new reality.

The wish for the coming year, and into the shared future to which we all belong, is for the citizens of the world to look to the examples described in the first constitution of Japan, established in the 7th century, which codified the idealized virtues of the Japanese. 

Honesty, integrity, goodwill, trust, confidence, and selflessness.

One believes all agree (unless you are a psychopath), that these are all things to aspire to, as we set examples to each other of tolerance and goodwill, noble aims to be certain.

Dearest readers, thank you so very much for coming by this last year and being a part of the Land Of The Rising Son as we continue the journey together into the future of Japan, one’s society, and our world. 

PS: Please come again next week as one continues the exploration of kata and how kata continues to influence the Japanese and our society. If you missed the beginning of kata one can discover it here.

丑年

Why Ancestors Worship?

Why Ancestors Worship?

Why Ancestors Worship?

Why Ancestors Worship?

What does it actually mean to worship one’s ancestors?

First of all, there are different ideas about the word “worship” and what it encompasses in a “religious” context. 

The perferred word “veneration” can be translated nicely into Japanese as sonkei (尊敬), which is more, “down-to-earth.”

While thinking about the Japanese society, and the social conventions to which the Japanese adhere, one came to the realization that venerating the ancestor, along with the Sun is the best way to express gratitude toward our world and what it gives us. 

By the way, Amaterasu Oomikami is the Japanese Sun Goddess.

Amaterasu Oomikami ama shinning her life on us

This notion of expressing gratitude to those who came before and the life giving energy of the Sun embodies a sense of unity with all people of the world, for we all share the Sun and each has one’s own ancestors. 

I have very fond memories of one particular ancestor, my maternal grandfather.

As a child he had tuberculosis and was cared for in a small room for a year where ones Really Great Grandmother and Great Grandfather were simply waiting to see if he lived or died. 

Helen Otta Kean -Inglis-Richardson- Stephen Kean Filiatrault Great Grandmother

Helen Otta Kean -Inglis-Richardson

Fortunately for my mom and I, he lived (Dad is also happy about this as well).

It was during this time in sickness where he read 100s of books which left him a very well read and intelligent man. 

One’s heart fills with fondness when recalling the time spent together with grandfather and his spirit being manifested in me. This leaves me with a feeling that the spirit of grandfather still resides in part here in the material world. 

One could say that once the last of the people who were directly touch by this extraordinary man pass away, this spirit of grandfather will also fade away. 

Even if this may be so, the spirits of the ancestors live on in our alter along with all relatives who have already crossed the SANZU NO KAWA into the afterlife. Mitsunobu_Sanzu_River

Here in Japan, ancestors are remembered on specific holidays, one of them being around this time of year, the Autumnal Equinox Day (Shūbun no Hi), which usually occurs on September 22 or 23. On this day, people will reconnect with their families by tending to the graves of ancestors, and visiting shrines and temples. 

WorshipingDuringObon

Pragmatically so, the Japanese believe all virtue and frailty of being human are natural, and look upon all departed as some kind of Gods, which represent the entire spectrum of the human experience. 

One finds the inclusiveness of this way of thinking refreshing, and indeed to be a much more practical way to think about and live one’s own life.

Looking at ancestor veneration from a different lens, one likes to celebrate present relatives who will one day become “ancestors.”

Like when taking the in-laws on an overnight trip, and saying to mother-in-law, “I believe we should also venerate our ancestor while still here on earth, so you can celebrate this wonderful world you have left your descendants while still here.”

She had a good laugh and concurred with these sentiments. 

Say thank you to our shared Sun Goddess Amaterasu Oomikami and venerate one of your living ancestors today as one tells them…Thank you, thank you so very much.

Izanagi-Izanami

Finding One’s “WAY”

Finding One’s “WAY”

Finding One’s “WAY”

Finding one’s “WAY”

Japan’s natural religion, Shinto (神道), consist of 2 ideograms: “God (神)” and “Way (道)”.

Note that Shinto (神道) is polytheistic, therefore there are countless Gods and Ways.

I noticed there are many different Japanese disciplines contain “Way (道)”.

(Judo) 柔道 Way of Flexibility
(Sado) 茶道 Way of Tea
(Kendo) 剣道 Way of Sword
(Shodo) 書道 Way of Calligraphy
(Yado) 弓道 Way of Bow
(Aikido) 合気道 Way of Self-defence
(Iaido) 居合道 Way of Drawing Sword
(Kado) 花道 Way of Flower
(Bushido) 武士道 Way of Warriors

One could also think of “Way (道)” as “Art (術)”, in a way; for example, one could refer to Aikido as “the art of self defence”, or Sado as “the art of tea”.

I find it interesting in the West one often hears them say “life imitates art”.

Here in the Land Of The Rising Son, I would have to say life IS art.

I am certain visitors to Japan will have found this most extraordinary country full of art, from the presentation of Japanese food to the lavatory’s cleanliness and our highly sophisticated toilet systems, and to include the quaint and quirky shops one will encounter along ones way, whether here in person, or virtually.

Perhaps one has had the pleasure of entering a small and charming coffee shop, where the master takes 30 minutes to brew one’s cup of coffee, after having carefully handpick and roasted one’s beans, all the while being served in a formalized “Way (道)”.

Indeed, after this experience, one could truly consider the Master of this small coffee shop to have found their “Way (道)”, and one can now consider this to be the “Way of Coffee”.

I wrote a blog post about the Japanese cake shop, and for certain the title is apt “THE JAPANESE WAY OF CAKE”.

The ideogram “Way (道)” also makes an appearance in the Japanese for “principle” or “morality” (dotoku 道徳).

It would seem the “Way (道)” also encompasses the characteristic of morality and principles.

Perhaps we can look upon the Japanese and our polite society to have had the “Way (道)” ingrained into the Japanese DNA over the millennia.

Yes indeed, in light of this, and for your edification dear reader, one can now consider the “Way (道)” to be the most important thing in ones own life, and the quest for all is to find ones own “Way (道)”.

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