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Things Japanese Message Board › Meetup venue changed: Guide to Japan (1) History: 1 Ancient Japan - Creation

Meetup venue changed: Guide to Japan (1) History: 1 Ancient Japan - Creation Myth

user 4742768
Group Organizer
Los Angeles, CA
I've updated this Meetup. For more details, see the full listing:­

When: Saturday, June 30, 2012 2:00 PM

Where: Marie Callender's
5773 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90036

If the changes affect your plans to attend, please take a moment to update your RSVP. (You can RSVP "No" or "Yes".)

You can always get in touch with me through my group profile on Meetup.




I"M CHANGING THE VENUE FROM LA BREA TAR PIT TO MARIE CALLENDER'S ACROSS THE STREET TO AVOID HEAT. IT'S ON 5773 WILSHIRE BLVD, LOS ANGELES, CA 90036 and Parking is in the back. I'll email my cell phone number to the attendees later.

Marie Callender's Grill

5773 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 937-7952 ­http://www.mariecalle...­

See you tomorrow!




Dear members,


Do you know the difference between Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples?

With the summer traveling season started, I think this new series would be beneficial to the members who are planning to visit Japan soon.

Your trip will be greatly enhanced if you have basic knowledge about the culture, language, history, customs of the places you're going to visit.  This is especially true for places like Kyoto and Nara, the ancient capitals of Japan and the most popular destinations. Proper knowledge will surelygive you much dimension to your next trip..

I've searched for good textbooks on Japanese history in English, but couldn't find one that can be obtained easily, so I decided to use Lonely Planet site as our navigator as it costs nothing, and relatively accurate.

Please read by the meetup the following first section of Japanese history:­

(I'll be adding more corresponding Japanese words to the original text below.)

It will be very interesting to learn about Japanese myths that explain how the country was made and that knowledge is actually indispensable to understand Japanese philosophy or Japanese imperial system.


I'll try to cover the section 2 in July.


Tentatively I chose to do it at La Brea Tar Pit as it won't cost anything either, but if you know any good place, please let me know.




"Ancient Japan: from hunter-gatherers to divine rule

Once upon a time, two deities, the male Izanagi イザナギ 伊邪那岐 and the female Izanami イザナミ 伊邪那美, came down from Takamagahara 高天原 (The Plains of High Heaven) to a watery world in order to create land.

{日本書紀より 天地開闢神話 Japanese myth about Creation (like in Genesis)...from "Nihon-Shoki") :註 note by Sally}

Droplets from Izanagi’s ‘spear’ solidified into the land now known as Japan. Izanami and Izanagi then populated the new land with gods. One of these was Japan’s supreme deity, the Sun Goddess Amaterasu (天照 Light of Heaven), whose great-great grandson Jimmu(神武) was to become the first emperor of Japan, reputedly in 660 BC.

Such is the seminal creation myth of Japan. More certainly, humans were present in Japan at least 200, 000 years ago, though the earliest human remains go back only 30, 000 years or so. Till around the end of the last Ice Age some 15, 000 years ago, Japan was linked to the continent by a number of landbridges – Siberia­ to the north, Korea to the west and probably China­ through Taiwan­ to the south – so access was not difficult.

Amid undoubted diversity, the first recognisable culture to emerge was the Neolithic Jōmon (縄文 named after a ‘rope mark’ pottery style), from around 13, 000 BC. The Jōmon were mostly hunter-gatherers, with a preference for coastal regions, though agriculture started to develop from around 4000 BC and this brought about greater stability in settlement and the emergence of larger tribal communities. The present-day indigenous Ainu people of northern Japan are of Jōmon descent.

From around 400 BC Japan was effectively invaded by waves of immigrants later known as Yayoi (弥生from the site where their distinctive reddish wheel-thrown pottery was first found). They first arrived in the southwest, probably through the Korean peninsula. Their exact origins are unknown, and may well be diverse, but they brought with them iron and bronze technology, and highly productive wet rice-farming techniques. In general they were taller and less stocky than the Jōmon – though a Chinese document from the 1st century AD nonetheless refers to Japan (by this stage quite heavily peopled by the Yayoi) as ‘The Land of the Dwarfs’!

Opinion is divided as to the nature of Yayoi relations with the Jōmon, but the latter were gradually displaced and forced ever further north. The Yayoi had spread to the middle of Honshū (本州)by the 1st century AD, but Northern Honshū could still be considered ‘Jōmon’ till at least the 8th century. With the exception of the Ainu, present-day Japanese are overwhelmingly of Yayoi descent.

Other consequences of the Yayoi Advent included greater intertribal/regional trade based on greater and more diverse production through new technologies. At the same time there was increased rivalry between tribal/regional groups, often over resources, and greater social stratification.

Agriculture-based fixed settlement led to the consolidation of territory and the establishment of boundaries. According to Chinese sources, by the end of the 1st century AD there were more than a hundred kingdoms in Japan, and by the mid-3rd century these were largely subject to an ‘over-queen’ named Himiko(卑弥呼), whose own territory was known as Yamatai 邪馬台 (later Yamato 大和). The location of Yamatai is disputed, with some scholars favouring northwest Kyūshū­(九州), but most preferring the Nara­ (奈良)region. The Chinese treated Himiko as sovereign of all Japan – the name Yamato eventually being applied to Japan as a whole – and she acknowledged her allegiance to the Chinese emperor through tribute.

On her death in 248 she is said to have been buried – along with a hundred sacrificed slaves – in a massive barrow-like tomb known as a kofun(古墳), indicative of the growing importance of status. Other dignitaries chose burial in similar tombs, and so from this point until the establishment of Nara­ as a capital in 710, this time is referred to as the Kofun or Yamato period.

The period saw the confirmation of the Yamato as the dominant – indeed imperial – clan in Japan. Their consolidation of power often appears to have been by negotiation and alliance with (or incorporation of) powerful potential foes. This was a practice Japan was to continue through the ages where possible, though it was less accommodating in the case of perceived weaker foes.

The first verifiable emperor was Suijin (died around 318), very likely of the Yamato clan, though some scholars think he may have been leader of a group of ‘horse-riders’ who appear to have come into Japan around the start of the 4th century from the Korean peninsula. The period also saw the adoption of writing, based on Chinese but first introduced by scholars from the Korean kingdom of Paekche in the mid-5th century. Scholars from Paekche also introduced Buddhism a century later.

Buddhism was promoted by the Yamato rulers as a means of unification and control of the land. Though Buddhism originated in India­ it was seen by the Japanese as a Chinese religion, and was one of a number of ‘things Chinese’ that they adopted to achieve recognition – especially by China­ – as a civilised country. By emulating China­, Japan hoped it could become as powerful. The desire to learn from the strongest/best is another enduring Japanese characteristic.

In 604 the regent Prince Shōtoku (573–620) enacted a constitution of 17 articles, with a very Chinese and indeed Confucianist flavour, esteeming harmony and hard work. Major Chinese-style reforms followed some decades later in 645, such as centralisation of government, nationalisation and allocation of land, and law codes. To strengthen its regime, under Emperor Temmu (r 673–686) the imperial family initiated the compilation of historical works such as the Kojiki(Record of Old Things, 712) and Nihon Shoki (Record of Japan, 720), with the aim of legitimising their power through claimed divine descent. It had the desired effect, and despite a number of perilous moments, Japan continues to have the longest unbroken monarchic line in the world.

Emulation of things Chinese was not indiscriminate. For example, in China­ Confucianism condoned the removal of an unvirtuous ruler felt to have lost the ‘mandate of heaven’, but this idea was not promoted in Japan. Nor was the Chinese practice of allowing achievement of high rank through examination, for the Japanese ruling class preferred birth over merit.

Northern Japan aside, in terms of factors such as effective unification, centralised government, social stratification, systematic administration, external recognition, legitimisation of power, a written constitution and a legal code, Japan, with its estimated five million people, could be said to have formed a nation-state by the early 8th century."

Read more:­




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