Category Archives: Jomon

Sendai Tanabata Matsuri, August 6-8, 2018


Sendai Tanabata

Sendai Tanabata festivals have been popular events since the time of the first lord of Sendai and hero Date Masamune (1567 – 1636). Two million visitors have been attending in recent years. The civic center and business areas are festooned with colorful streamers representing light coming from stars. To adjust for our modern solar calendar, Sendai observes Tanabata in August. This year, the dates were August 6, 7, and 8, 2018. Tanabata has become a romantic story of two Milky-Way-crossed lovers who meet once a year on this night. This adjunct to the original weaving theme probably came from China in the 8th century, and was further enlarged upon by Sendai merchants in the 17th cenury. So it is now a far cry from the simple nature-based Jomon festival.

Tanahata Maturi of Jomon Period

The Tanabata Hoshi Matsuri goes far back to Jomon times, when it was called Tanahata Hosi Maturi, the weaving loom star festival of the seventh night of the seventh lunar month. This is the night of the first quarter moon of our eighth month. On that night, Jomon people would look up at the Milky Way and thank ancestors for providing food and shelter and clothing. As part of the ceremony, they would perform ritual weaving on the tanahata loom. And in their gratitude and joy for all their blessings, they would dance all night. Weaving is a metaphor for the orderliness of Universe, where warp and woof threads are properly aligned and balanced. And where warp and woof represent male and female, without their meeting there would be no children.

This is one of the many seasonal maturi described in the the Hotuma Tutaye and Misakahumi ancient documents written in Wosite characters.

Modern Tanabata Decorations

These photos were taken on August 8, 2018 in Sendai. Note the kusudama balls below which streamers of washi paper float in the breeze. The traditional tanzaku strips of paper have wishes written on them and are hung on bamboo branches. There were many modern designs as well. And, as usual, there are decorations of thousands of origami cranes for peace.

Enjoy these cheerful works of art as you send your prayers of gratitude to your ancestors.





Photos by (c) C.N.




Power Places and the Kanayama Megaliths

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Megaliths as Power Places

Earth and Celestial Energies.  Humans have long held a deep relationship with Earth and its energies. Even as hunter-gatherers, early man knew places of power as sacred places. They gathered at these sites to honor and venerate life-giving energies of Earth and Sky.

People became aware of fluctuations of these terrestrial energies, and they realized that these earth cycles were related to celestial cycles, the movements of Sun, Moon, and stars in our sky. They knew how to live in harmony with these energies.

Megaliths.  Soon, humans learned that these energies could benefit the health and welfare of people and society, that these energies were associated with naturally occuring megaliths. They learned, as they settled down and began cultivating crops, how to improve their lives. At first, they utilized megaliths to mark significant places. Then they assembled them into megalithic structures, often moving huge boulders from far away, to these special sites — how we do not know. Thus, energies were enhanced. Energies could be redirected to areas where needed, for example, to their crop fields. Megalithic structures could be erected to tamp excessive earth energies such as those due to earthquakes.

As modern research technologies have advanced, and our minds have been opened to new ways of viewing early societies, we have come to better understand early man. These megalithic places served multiple purposes, the least and the last of which was to serve as cemeteries. Through more accurate dating of materials, we know that the structures were built in the 4,000 BCE time-frame, that they were later and only occasionally re-purposed as burial sites.

Purposes of megaliths.  As mentioned, megalithic sites served to mark sacred places; they were developed to manage earth and celestial energies to benefit society. And, finally, megalithic structures were designed and built and operated to serve as observatories. They could then provide accurate data for calendars and for predicting future celestial phenomena, to know when there would be significant changes in energy.

Each of these megalithic observatories investigated the celestial body pertinent to that particular site. Although these observatories were a late development, there are not so many that are known to us today. 

In summary, let’s list the purposes of megaliths and megalithic structures, in roughly chronological order.

+ Identify locations of sacred sites,

+ Hold sacred ceremonies to venerate life-giving force of Universe,

+ Control and manage energies for beneficial purposes,

+ Learn periodic fluctuations of celestial energies affecting earth energies,

+ Observe celestial phenomena in specially-built observatories to determine more exactly the timing of special energies,

+ Determine an accurate calendar of the year/years.

Kanayama Megalithic Observatory

Deep in a mountain forest on the main island of the Japanese archipelago lies a megalithic solar observatory. This site has recently come to the attention of those outside of Japan as the source of a super-accurate solar calendar. This calendar of the tropical year is based on sunlight observation and is 15 times more accurate than our modern calendar. The megaliths were shaped and assembled more than 5,000 years ago. We know, because later humans deposited ashes that have so been dated.

Japanese news media have termed this solar observatory a “power spot”. People have been coming from near and far to experience this remarkable achievement from long ago. They are amazed at the ancient people’s knowledge of astronomy, of their skill in shaping 100-ton and 200-ton blocks of stone, of moving them with precision into desired — and well-planned — configurations. These configurations enable a human observer to accurately track sunbeams and their patterns over the course of the year. at special times, special phenomena are observed. These times of observation determine the solar calendar.

This sun-tracking station is situated amidst tall trees in the mountains near a rushing river. To track the sun would have been simpler if the site were on a flat plain as in most other calendrical observatories. However, the site was cleverly chosen so that it could operate in winter as well as in summer, throughout the entire tropical year.

What’s also remarkable is that two non-specialist researchers have, in less than 20 years, decoded the purpose of this megalithic site. Actually, it is a system of three sites which cooperate to produce all the needed observations, and more. These modern researchers in fact have accomplished their own feat of reverse engineering. They have deduced, from what they themselves have observed, what the original purpose of each megalithic solar event was, and the functions of each megalithic structure.

And to top it off, they are able to explain to the large tour groups how it all works, in language that is simple and direct, uncluttered by scientific jargon. They have already published a fully-illustrated guidebook to the site and have a more technical bi-lingual book in preparation.

The Kanayama Megaliths are a living example of an ancient scientific system. To young children and adults alike it teaches basic astronomy ‘in the field’ so that everyone can experience being a sun tracker in megalithic times.

Concluding Remarks

Megaliths are found all over the globe. They are well-known in Europe, less evident in the Far East. This post was inspired by the article of Martin Gray  about megaliths of Europe. We then related it to our own research at Kanayama Megaliths.  Photo of a tour group at Kanayama Megaliths by Okunomichi.



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


Genetic Origins of Jomon and Japanese



Journal Publications on Genetic Origins of Jomon and Japanese

We have been very interested in the Jomon culture of Japan. There seem to be pockets here and there with significant Jomon components in current society, for example in Hida and in Tohoku. Anecdotally people have mentioned “Jomon DNA” and we wondered what is it? We have surveyed the literature on the genetics of the Jomon indigenous people of the Japanese archipelago and we present a brief summary of our findings.

1.  Hammer et al, 1995, Y chromosomal DNA variation and the Peopling of Japan, Note paternal ancestry.

Discussion.  YAP element is present in 42% of Japanese and absent in Taiwanese. YAP is absent in non-Japanese Asians inc. Taiwanese, Chinese, and Koreans. YAP is a marker of Jomon male lineages. Y-chromosome of modern Japanese is 39% Yayoi, 61% Jomon. YAP+ entered Japan with (only) Jomon, YAP- with both Jomon and Yayoi.

A broad picture of gene flow to Japan:

30K YA — Jomon enter on land bridges

20K YA — YAP+ and YAP- occur in Jomon

10K YA — Isolation of Jomon due to end of ice age

2.3 K YA — Yayoi enter and bring more YAP-

2.  Tanaka et al, 2004, Mitochondrial genome variation in eastern Asia and the peopling of Japan, A long and important paper on the peopling of Japan based on maternal ancestry.

Abstract of Abstract:  New clades and subclades emerged. Confirmed present-day Japanese have closest genetic affiity to northern Asian populations, esp. Koreans. Revealed a high degee of differentiation in Paleolithic Japanese. Detected ancient southern and northern migrations (Ryukyu, Ainu). Found direct connections with Tibet, like that of Y-chromosomes. Suggests that “Japan could be included in an area of migratory expansion to Continental Asia. All the theories that have been proposed up to now to explain the peopling of Japan seem insufficient to accommodate fully this complex picture.”

Archaeological record:  attests that humans reached Japan 30,000 YA when still connected to Continent by two land bridges, north and south. Neolithic period in Japan is known as the Jomon period. Later, Continental people arrived, initiating the Yayoi period.

Results for Macrohaplogroup M  (D, …) :

M12 is a rare haplogroup, only in mainland Japanese, Koreans, and Tibetans (Tibetans having highest frequency 8% and diversity 50%). p. 1847 says that it is the mitochondrial counterpart of the Y-chromosome marker YAP+, a marker from C. Asia to mainland Japan.

Results for Macrohaplogroup N:  (A, Y, N9a, N9b, F, B) :

F is a subgroup of R9. Six mutations define F1. Only subhaplogroup F1b is well represented in the Japanese inc. Ainu and Ryukyuan. Highest diversities are in eastern China including Taiwan (100%).

Lineage Sorting and Population Pooling

Japanese, inc Ainu and Ryukyuans, part of a big group of Korean, Buryat, Tibetans, and N. Chinese. Ainu was the first differentiated, and Ryukyuans separated later. Japanese and Koreans still comprised a single group

The Peopling of Japan

Table 4 Frequency results.  Japanese relate by far to Koreans, less so to northern Chinese. Ryukyuans present smallest distance to Buryats, then S Chinese. Ainu cloest to mainland Japanese, Koreans, and N. Chinese. 

Table 4 Sequence matches.  Japanese relate first to Koreans and second to Buryats. Ryukyuans to Buryats then to Koreans. Ainu greatest affinities toward Kamchatka. Ryukyuans had a dual northern and southern Asian background previous to  admixture with mainland Japanese. Great distance and low identity values for Ainu-Ryukyuan pairs, indicating notable maternal isolation.

Some conclusions:  Ancient Japanese inhabitants came from northern Asia, later immigration came from southern Asia. Ainu have a rather recent Siberian influence. Ryukyuans show an older radiation from southern China. Macrohaplogroup N is larger in Ainu (50%) than in Ryukyuans (15%). Both of these populations are considered largely isolated but “they most probably had different maternal origins.”


“… the actual Japanese population is the result of a complex demographic history…” The Ryukyuans and Ainu are well differentiated from the mainland Japanese, yet that have common pecularities shared with the mainland Japanese (highest frequences in Asia for M7a, M7b2, and N9b. For both, their closest relatives are northern populations. “…our results are strikingly coincident with the previously proposed northern origin and influences received by the Japanese.” Horai’s (1997) mt studies demonstrated closest relation with Koreans. Some of these are substantially recent roots. Although it is well-documented that there was substantial immigration from Korea during the Yayoi period, mainland Japanese do share some of their haplotypes exclusively with Southern China (2.5%), N. China (1.5%), C Asia (1.5%), and Indonesia.

“In summary, Japan could have received several northern and southern Asian maternal inputs since Paleolithic times, with notable northern Asian immigrations through Korea in the late Neolithic and more specific gene flows from western Asia, Siberia, and southern Islands.”

3.  Hammer, 2006, Dual origins of the Japanese: common ground for hunter-gatherer and farmer Y chromosomes,

Haplogroup D as a Jomon marker. Haplogroups D and C began expansions in Japan ~20,000 and ~12,000 years ago, respectively. These are the Jomon hunter-gatherers with Central Asian origin. The Yayoi farmers with haplogroup O and SE Asian origin began to expand only 4,000 years ago. These are the dual origins. D presence in Japanese males was 35%, ranging from 75% in Ainu to 26% in Tokushima. Outside Japan, D is extremely rare. Presence of haplogroup O was 52% overall of six populations (Ainu, Aomori, Shizuoka, Tokushima, Kyushu, Okinawa). O is not found in Ainu. Kyushu 62%, Honshu 51%, Okinawa 38%.

4.  Stoneking and Delfin, 2010, The human genetic history of East Asia: Weaving a complex Tapestry,  A review paper.

East Asia encompasses the region bordered by Ural Mountains in west, by Himalayan Plateau in SW, by Bering Strait in NE, and SE Asia. Presents two figures: mtDNA haplogroups and Y-chromosome haplogroups. Note in the latter, the yellow D-M174 in Tibet and Japan, very dissimilar to Korea.

5.  Adachi, Noboru, et al, Mitochondrial DNA analysis of Hokkaido Jomon skeletons: Remnants of archaic maternal lineages at the southwestern edge of former Beringia, 2011.  Abstract only. 

~22,000 YA is coalescence time of haplogroups N9b, D4h2, G1b, and M7a which were observed in the Jomon skeletons. All of these haplogroups except M7a were observed with high frequencies in SE Siberians but were absent in SE Asians. This implies that the Hokkaido Jomon were direct descendants of Paleolithic Siberians.  

Illustration above is from Wa-pedia.



Hida Koku and Birth of Hida Kuni Jomon Dynasty


Iwaya-Iwakage,our sister site, has just posted a series of articles that begins:

Birth of Hida Kuni Jomon Dynasty

The land of Hida, where the Kanayama Megaliths are located, may not be so well known historically as other parts of the country such as Kyoto and Nara. And yet its history stems from the Jomon Period, 12,000 BCE to 300 BCE. In the article presented below, the unnamed author declares that there are many folkloric sources that reveal the possibility that Hida was the  place where civilization began, ultimately leading to the modern nation of Japan.


Hi no Michi, Path of Sun

A fuller report on Hi no Michi is presented by Iwaya Rockbat at:

Hi no michi ya

aoi katamuku

satsuki ame

— Basho

Hi no michi, the path of the sun in the sky.


Photo credit:

Hi no Michi alignment map.  We have recently encountered the map of important shrines throughout Japan connected by the Hi no Michi. Hi-no-michi mapSee:

Hi no Michi at Kanayama Megaliths.   The solar calendar of Kanayama Megaliths is based on the path of the sun during the year. The sun travels in a certain zone in the sky. Its northern limit is during the summer solstice day, while its southernmost is at winter solstice. At equinox, the sun travels the central path in the sky.