When people think about Japanese history, they tend to only think about the medieval period and all the Samurai, Ronin and castles that entails. A much lesser known and less romanticized era of Japanese history is the Yayoi period. Predating written records, this period (300 BCE to 300 CE) was nevertheless an important time in the evolution of Japanese society from a prehistoric hunter/gather society to an agrarian one.
There are various Yayoi archaelogical sites around Japan and one of the most important of these is the Yoshinogari Historical Park located in Yoshinogari, Saga prefecture in Kyushu. First discovered in 1986, this is the site of one of the largest known Yayoi villages and has since been opened up as a historical park complete with a full reconstruction of a Yayoi settlement. Numerous structures are spread throughout the areas of the park, organised in such a way as experts think a real Yayoi village might have looked.
The Park is extremely large and spread out, so you should be prepared for a lot of walking if you come here. Wandering through the reconstructions is a definite highlight, in particular the homes and watchtowers. I was there on a pretty hot day so being able to escape the heat momentarily into the cool confines of Yayoi huts dug partially into the earth was definitely convenient. The park is full of information on Yayoi culture and displays of relics unearthed at the site. Once you’re inside the park, it all seems so far from modern civilisation that it’s easy to imagine that you have traveled back to some distant time.
One of the peculiarities of Yayoi culture was the custom of burying their deceased in large earthenware jars. Given that this is one of the most well known things about the Yayoi, there is a substantial display about this custom including actual burial jars and a simulated dig site showing exactly what an Archaeologist would uncover whilst working here. Within the park, there are also many hands on activities available to participate in such as jewelry making and fire starting.
If you’re interested in Japanese history and would like to learn more about the Yayoi period, the park is an excellent and educational day out. It might not be for everyone – given that it is one very large outdoor museum – but I really enjoyed it.
More information can be found at the Park’s English website by clicking here.