Tokyo National Museum (Ueno Park)13-9 Ueno Park, Taito 110-0007, Tokyo Prefecture (Ueno, Asakusa), Japan
The Jomon period is thought to have begun about 13,000 years ago. Its people relied mainly on hunting, fishing, and gathering for sustenance, while exercising their ingenuity in daily life by creating a variety of tools full of vigor and mysterious charm. Under the theme of “Jomon Beauty,” this exhibition presents outstanding works of art created in diverse regions of the Japanese archipelago from the beginning to the end of the Jomon period, shedding light on the techniques with which these works were created and the spirit imbued in them.
|Vessel with flame-like ornamentation, 3000-2000BC, from Sasayama site.|
|Dogum (clay figurine) know as 'Joman Venus', 3000-2000BC|
Fertile periods of artistic endeavor are not hard to come by in Japanese history. Many would cite, for example, the Edo (1603-1868), Muromachi (1392-1573), or Heian (794-1185) periods. Few, however, would mention the ancient Jomon Period (10,000-200 B.C. )in the same breath.
Jomon artifacts have been discovered across the country, from as far north as Hokkaido down to Kyushu. The Jomon Period — which is actually divided into a series of smaller periods — lasted from roughly 10,000 to 200 B.C., although this exhibition also includes items from the Yayoi Period (200 B.C.-A.D. 250) that followed it.
The exhibition’s largest section is left to near last and looks at the religious or spiritual dimension of Jomon culture. Here, figures of animals can be seen, perhaps used to pray for a good hunt, or perhaps made out of a sense of awe at the animals’ strength. Other objects are described as connected to fertility, or represent women giving birth, and some show people in unusual poses that we don’t recognize today. With an understated sound design playing as a backdrop, this is perhaps the show’s most atmospheric room.