Jomon Cultivated Plants



Jomon Plants

As students of the Jomon period, we are curious as to the state of agriculture, the vegetables cultivated and consumed, and especially the start of rice cultivation.

Names of Plants

First we provide this list of Jomon plants and their common names in English. This information is from Table 5.1, page 110, in Mark Hudson’s book, Ruins of Identity.

awa,  foxtail millet

higanbana, cluster amaryllis

hie, barnyard millet

ine, rice

inubie, barnyard grass

katakuri, adder’s tongue lily

kibi, broomcorn millet

komugi, wheat

kuzu, arrowroot

morokoshi, sorghum

oomugi, barley

sato-imo, taro

soba, buckwheat

yama-imo, yam

Yes, there indeed was rice grown in Jomon times. In Hudson’s Table 5.2, he cites ample evidence found in published literature. The two oldest entries are pollen in Fukuoka, reported by Nakamura to be “before 3400 BP.” Two other published finds are ~ 1000 BCE, also on the island of Kyushu. There is also listed rice grain remains at the Kazahari site in Aomori (in the northeast Tohoku region) directly dated to 925 and 787 Cal BC.

Hudson concludes, “The next few years, therefore, may see significant changes in our understanding of the introduction of rice into the islands. On present [1999] evidence, however, a date of about 1000 BC is probably a reasonable estimate for the first arrival of rice in Japan.”

Cultivated Plants

Researchers have suggested that the rapid spread of wet rice agriculture was due in part to the local culture having prior experience with the technology of agriculture. They have also pointed that the sedentary nature of Jomon sites and the large populations require a knowledge and practice of agricultural techniques. The practice of wet rice farming is established during the Final Jomon period. This means that wet rice agriculture was practiced prior to the advent of the Yayoi period. From cultivated plant remains, the first plants being cultivated were cucurbits (gourds), red beans, and peas, followed by barley and dryland rice. This information comes from Yoshinobu Kotani, National Museum of Ethnology, “Evidence of Plant Cultivation in Jomon Japan: Some Implications,” Senri Ethnological Studies 9, 1981.


Photo credit: Satoyama Library