◆Surviving earthquake disasters―A message from Jomon People

The settlement ecological system at Aoyakamijichi Site


Tsuji Diagram 4 shows the restored ecological system at Aoyakamijichi Site (Tottori Prefecture) in Yayoi Age. As a narrow waterway connects the open sea and inland sea, even Tsunami doesn’t almost enter the inland. The settlement is connected with the sea by the waterway where ships come and go to the port formed deep in the waterway.
 The important role was played by the lowland reclaimed by a river which forked into two northern and southern valleys. The settlement was built in the junction and located on the high ground formed with the materials carried by the river. The two valleys descend from right and left and protect the most important area.Haranotsuji Site in Iki Island (Nagasaki Prefecture) in Yayoi Age also has the similar structure. It is considered that Jomon People well understood such geographical features to construct a city on the high ground.

Akasaka   It sounds so exciting, isn’t it? My imagination has been awakened by the diagram.
 I visited Minami-Soma City (fukushima Prefecture) after the earthquake to find a veritable sea of mud the shape of which was just like a starfish. I asked the name of the district and the answer was “Yazawa-Ura.” “Ura” meant that the area was originally an inlet but people around 1900 in Meiji Period reclaimed it to a paddy field. But the area was soaked in the seawater by the Tsunami this time. In other words the artificially transformed area was all washed away by the Tsunami and returned to the original landscape of inlet before Meiji 30’s years. A Shinto shrine created in the inlet was destroyed but another one, which enshrined something like “Mountain God” and was constructed on the high ground in the back of a settlement, safely survived.

Tsuji   Now, you talked about a holy place. Japan cedars forest of about 1,500 years old existed on the both sides of the valley at Aoyakamijichi Site. I consider that people probably thought that place was sacred in Yayoi Age. It’s supposed that Japan cedars are resources blessed by god and that the surrounding area can be developed. A numerous number of Japan cedars wood works has been unearthed at the site. They are so elaborate and splendid as if they had been made in modern times and even living national treasures couldn’t have imitated. I consider that so many craftsmen with such excellent skill lived there and wood works were carried to Korean Peninsula and China as trade goods.



Business unfitting to Japanese natural features


Akasaka   The huge earthquake caused big disasters to fishing villages in Sanriku coastal area (Iwate Prefecture). In the conversation with fishermen living there they said a lot of people in the village operated forestry until about 1964 in Showa 30’s years. People specializing fishing was rather a minority. Mr. Shigeatsu Hatakeyama known for oyster culture said that forest was a lover of the sea, and fishing leaders bought forests on mountains with their wealth. This way the connection between fishing and forestry is very strong.


Tsuji   In my opinion I consider people ran agriculture and fisheries in Jomon Times. For example, people grew chestnut forests at Sannai-Maruyama Site. People raised fuel-wood forests in Kitakami mountainous district (Iwate Prefecture) and beech trees cut down there were used for woods for fuel, charcoal, and building materials. I wonder if the base for running agriculture, forestry, and fisheries was already formed in Jomon Times and it has steadily continued.
 Forests and fishing ground were already managed by people as sustainable ecological system where resources weren’t exhausted in very ancient times. So I think it isn’t proper to discuss Jomon apart from agriculture, forestry, and fisheries.


Yamashita I have carried on an investigation into Sunakose and Kawaradai villages for about ten years which are located at the foot of Shirakami Mountains (Aomori Prefecture). They are mountainous communities making a living half by forestry such as clearing mountains and woods, getting charcoal and woods for fuel, providing them to nearby Hirosaki City. The other half is almost self-sufficiency. In Kawaradai rice couldn’t be grown until about 1974 (Showa 30’s years) and so people engaged in shifting cultivation at cleared fields, fishing, hunting, and gathering edible wild plants and mushrooms for livelihood.
 I think it’s rather a newly built settlement formed maybe in Edo Period, judging from the name of Kawaradai. To tell you the truth, a lot of potteries made in Jomon Times have been unearthed there. Though the settlements in Jomon Times aren’t directly connected with today’s settlements, I felt Jomon Times very near to me in hearing the talk of Professor Tsuji now.
 The settlement I mentioned so far already went down to the bottom of a newly constructed dam. People faced depopulation and aging society with fewer children, and a dam was scheduled to be constructed. That’s why inhabitants gradually felt it was the time to go down from the community. I think it’s true in both mountainous area and coastal districts that in many cases Jomon sites are located in so-called “Genkai-Shuraku (Rural aging settlements).” The area where people could lead a life with no paddy fields has become the most unfitting to live without my notice. But it was realized at most several tens of years ago, wasn’t  it?


Tsuji   When we discuss the living culture in Japan, we have so far been on the assumption that paddy field rice cropping has been the base of agriculture and nation since “Ritsuryo” legal codes nation was formed in Nara Period. But Japan’s natural features are in a disadvantageous position to grow rice. I don’t think ordinary Japanese were really willing to expand paddy fields as a national project. I rather think possibly statesmen politically selected the policy. When Yayoi Culture came over to Japan, it was made a national base without considering whether it was fitting to the natural features in Japan.
 The medieval and modern ages were so-called a little glacial period when the climate was very cold. Nevertheless, the nation compulsorily let people engage in rice cropping even in Tohoku District. We must have such knowledge in the history.


Akasaka   I have really thought since pretty before that the thinking way called “rice cropping central view of history,” in which people talked about culture and history with paddy cropping as the central living business, was never possible in Tohoku District. When I actually walked around Tohoku District, I always found that people grew not rice but barnyard grasses, and engaged in agriculture including shifting cultivation and a mixture of fisheries, hunting, and forestry. Nevertheless, scholars are preoccupied with the idea “rice cropping central view.”
  You can see a paddy field in the back of the settlement in diagram 4. But inhabitants of the settlement can’t live on with such a small quantity of rice. I really think people made a livelihood by a mixture of shifting cultivation, forestry, hunting, picking shells in a bay, catching fishes in the open sea.
 In Minai-Soma City I mentioned some time ago, the nation reclaimed all inland sea to paddy fields as a counter measure to increasing population. But all paddy fields were washed away by Tsunami this time.
(Summary/Continue to next issue)
(Trnslated by Junzo Miyamoto)