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History Japanese history: articles, news, and comments

thomas

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I would like to use this thread to post links to articles and news relating to Japanese history. Please feel free to post any interesting material. Any language,* any historical period and topic welcome!

* If your resource is not in English, please provide an English synopsis.

First article below (more to follow):

150 years since the Edo Castle surrender

What’s done is done. But what if a historic negotiation over the surrender of Edo Castle between Saigo Takamori, who led the Imperial forces during the fall of Edo, and Katsu Kaishu, the shogunate’s army minister, had fallen through 150 years ago? The surrender of the fort, or the collapse of the Tokugawa shogunate, which opened the door to Japan’s modernization, might not have happened, and what is now the nation’s capital could have gone up in flames. Edo, renamed Tokyo in September 1868, was controlled by the shogunate for 260 years, but it fell to the alliance of Satsuma and Choshu forces supportive of the formation of a new government under the restored Imperial rule of Emperor Meiji. One of the central conditions for the peaceful handover, which saved Edo and its population of more than 1 million from war, was to spare the life of Tokugawa Yoshinobu, the 15th and last shogun. Emperor Meiji moved from Kyoto to his new residence in the castle, which today is part of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

With the help of photographs taken by Yokoyama Matsusaburo about 150 years ago, offered by the Edo-Tokyo Museum, and current images of the capital captured around the palace and its environs, the history of Edo Castle is revealed. [...]


Source: 150 years since the Edo Castle surrender | The Japan Times

The juxtaposition of old photographies of Edo Castle taken 150 years ago and modern shots by Miura Yoshiaki is fascinating.
 

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Sensational finding in a private home in Hiroshima:

Siege of Osaka shown in great detail in late 17th century maps

FUKUYAMA, Hiroshima Prefecture--A cache of documents donated to the Hiroshima Prefectural Museum of History include some of the largest and most elaborate illustrations of battle formations for a conflict that consolidated the unification of Japan under the Tokugawa Shogunate. The depictions concern two military campaigns from 1614 to 1615 during the Siege of Osaka where forces led by Tokugawa Ieyasu wiped out the rival Toyotomi clan that had threatened to upset his reign. Experts said the operation map for the winter campaign is especially interesting as it provides valuable details of the battle not only around the Osaka Castle but also in peripheral areas.

“It is very rare to find details of the battle that took place some distance from the castle in the same set,” said Kenichi Osawa, chief of the curatorial section from the city-run Osaka Museum of History. Announcing the discovery of the early Edo Period (1603-1817) records April 4, the museum said the maps were from a private collection of historical papers held by an individual who was originally from Hiroshima Prefecture, adding that they are some of the largest known representations of the battles. The operation map for the winter campaign in 1614 comprises four separate sheets that measure roughly 2.5 meters square when joined together. The one for the summer campaign in 1615 is a single sheet measuring 1.9 meters by 1.2 meters.

Who drew them is not known, but the maps are believed to date from the latter half of the 17th century, which makes them among the earliest copies of formation records of the siege. The names of “daimyo” and “hatamoto” clans that took part in the conflict, whether for the Tokugawa or Toyotomi forces, are included in the map for the winter campaign. Among the names are Mori Buzen, Sanada Saemon (Nobushige, better known as Yukimura), Todo Izuminokami (Takatora) and Mori Ukon (Tadamasa).

Yuji Miyamoto, assistant director of research at the Osaka Castle Museum in Osaka, which is housed in the reconstructed keep of Osaka Castle, was impressed by the fine finish and color of the maps as well as the way geographic features were rendered. He said there was “a clear intention to make accurate records of the Siege of Osaka,” noting that they were probably commissioned by a daimyo. The maps are scheduled to go on public display in July at the Hiroshima Prefectural Museum of History.
Source: Siege of Osaka shown in great detail in late 17th century maps:The Asahi Shimbun

 

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An ink stone found in 2003 proves that writing was more common in the Yayoi period than previously believed:

2,000-year-old tool offers new proof of Japan’s earliest writing

Traces of ink have been detected on an ancient stone found in northern Kyushu, providing evidence that writing was practiced across a wider area than was previously known in the Yayoi Pottery Culture (300 B.C.-A.D. 300) period.

Experts believe the artifact, almost-perfectly shaped but broken in two pieces, is an approximately 2,000-year-old "suzuri" inkstone, making it the first discovery of an inkstone bearing ink and retaining its shape. Analysis revealed small amounts of carbide, thought to have been used as ink for writing at that time, on the stone that was discovered at the Yakushinoue ruins in Chikuzen, Fukuoka Prefecture.

“This is the first finding unearthed inland to be confirmed as an inkstone,” said Yasuo Yanagida, a visiting professor of historical study at Kokugakuin University. “The discovery suggests that letters were used across a wide area in this period.”

The sandy shale inkstone measures about 15 centimeters long, 5 to 6 cm wide, and less than 1 cm thick. It was excavated in 2003 in an area where many earthenware vessels from the mid-to-late Yayoi Pottery Culture period ruins were gathered, meaning they date from both before and after the beginning of Anno Domini. Another inkstone was unearthed in 2016 in the Mikumo Iwara ruins in Itoshima, Fukuoka Prefecture, which was the ancient domain of Ito Koku depicted in China’s "Gishiwajinden" (Record of Wa in the history of Wei). The coastal area is considered to be where Japanese people first came into contact with overseas culture.

The subject of the latest discovery is the third such item found in Japan dating to the Yayoi Pottery Culture period following one unearthed in the Tawayama ruins in Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, which was confirmed an inkstone in 2001, and the one found among the Mikumo Iwara ruins in 2016. When writing was introduced and how widely it was used in ancient Japan is a mystery and is a hotly debated subject among archaeologists. As tools of writing, inkstones are important pieces of the puzzle. Details of the latest discovery will be discussed at a Kyushu archaeological society meeting in Fukuoka later this month.
Source: 2,000-year-old tool offers new proof of Japan’s earliest writing:The Asahi Shimbun


Images: Asahi Shimbun
 

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A Jomon-era painted fragment (~4,300 B.C.E.) found in Hokkaido hints at spiritual practises:


Photo: Yoshinori Toyomane

Painted stone finding gives clues to ancient spiritual culture

The first piece of stone painted with a human face dating from the Jomon Pottery Culture (c. 8000 B.C.-300 B.C.) has been found here and hailed as a very important discovery. “The find is extremely precious in that it could help ascertain what the spiritual culture in the mid-Jomon period was like,” said Yasushi Kosugi, a Jomon culture professor at Hokkaido University. The Hokkaido Archaeological Operations Center said Nov. 29 that the stone fragment from the latter half of the mid-Jomon period (4,300 years ago) was unearthed on Oct. 19 from 50 centimeters beneath the ground where a pit house used to stand. The discovery location is part of the Koren five archaeological sites in Kikonai.

Measuring 12 to 13 cm per side and 1.4 cm thick, the stone, flattened with a whetstone or other tools, is shaped like an inverted triangle. While a horizontal line is drawn near the top side with a black pigment, an ellipse that apparently represents an eye and lines forming eyebrows and the nose are also painted on it.
Although how the stone piece was actually used remains unclear, experts said the object may have been used for religious services and other purposes in ancient times. A painting of a human body drawn with pigments at the lower part of the earthenware unearthed at the Todonomiya archaeological site in Nagano Prefecture is known to have been made during the Jomon Pottery Culture, but no face drawings have previously been found across Japan, according to center officials.

Painted stone finding gives clues to ancient spiritual culture:The Asahi Shimbun
 
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As someone interested in Japanese history i find this thread a nice addition to the forum. Keep them coming, Thomas!
 

thomas

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As someone interested in Japanese history i find this thread a nice addition to the forum. Keep them coming, Thomas!
Thank you, more to come!

That is clearly the underside of a slightly burnt slice of pizza. Nice try, archaeologists!
Now that's going to turn culinary history upside down! :emoji_astonished:

Next one: a well-preserved piece of armour was found in Kyushu.


Image: Asahi Shimbun

Ancient tomb containing splendid armor found in Kyushu

SHIBUSHI, Kagoshima Prefecture--Workers paving a farm road here stumbled on a 1,500-year-old underground tomb containing a large stone coffin, human remains and armor in remarkable condition. The remains are likely of a local chieftain while the cuirass, a type of breastplate known as “
tanko,” is believed to have been a gift from the Yamato imperial court in current Nara Prefecture in appreciation of the leader’s cooperation, the education board of Shibushi city said Jan. 24.

The tunnel-tomb was unearthed during farm road paving work in December.
“It was likely built for a powerful leader in the local region who was directly connected with the Yamato imperial court,” said Tatsuya Hashimoto, a professor of archaeology at the Kagoshima University Museum.

The grave, which is from the Kofun Period (late third to seventh centuries), is one of the largest tunnel-tombs in the Osumi region in eastern Kagoshima Prefecture. It boasts a vertical shaft that is 2.6 meters long, 1.8 meters wide and 1.6 meters deep. The burial chamber is 2.6 meters long, 1.9 meters wide and 90 centimeters high.

This type of construction is unique to the southern Kyushu region. The site has been named the No. 3 Harada Chikashiki Yokoanabo (Harada underground tunnel-tomb). The skeletal remains are those of a 170-centimeter-tall adult male.
A sword, its scabbard and other items were also found in the pumice stone coffin measuring 2.4 meters. It is 60 cm wide and 50 cm tall.

The tanko is in near-immaculate condition and was standing beside the coffin. The armor measures 35 cm by 40 cm. More than 20 burial accessories, such as an iron arrowhead, spear and iron ax were discovered.
The tomb features more grave accessories than any other tunnel-tombs in the Osumi region, according to the education board.

Source: Ancient tomb containing splendid armor found in Kyushu:The Asahi Shimbun

Related links:
 

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An ancient palace dating back to the Nara period beside Yoshinogawa river in Nara Prefecture has currently been unearthed, possibly the main building of the Yoshino no Miya detached palace frequented by Emperor Shomu.



Ruins of ancient palace likely found beside river in Nara

[...] a mysterious ancient palace was likely situated just beside the beautiful Yoshinogawa river during the Nara Period (710-784), possibly for the waterfront view afforded, according to new findings. Ruins of a large building dating to the first half of the eighth century have recently been unearthed only 20 meters from the Yoshinogawa, which winds its way between mountains in southern Nara Prefecture. The structure discovered at the
Miyataki archaeological site here boasts special designs unique to emperors’ palaces, increasing the possibility that the find was the main building of the Yoshino no Miya detached palace, which records say Shomu (701-756) and other emperors frequented. Archaeologists are currently making eager efforts to unlock the mystery of why the detached palace was built so close to the river.

Source: Ruins of ancient palace likely found beside river in Nara:The Asahi Shimbun

 

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Rivers move over time. Maybe it wasn't so close 1200 years ago.
Possibly. Or:

“Putting priority on viewing magnificent views up close, it the palace was likely constructed by the river,” said Watanabe, the deputy director-general of the Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties.

Another interesting one: the oldest blade in Japan has been found in an attic.

Rusty sword in attic found to be one of oldest blades in
Japan



Photo credit: Kenta Sujino

One of the oldest Japanese swords in existence has been recognized as a treasure at a shrine here after being found in an attic decades ago. When the rusty sword was cleaned and sharpened, it was discovered to be from the 12th century, making it one of Japan's most time-honored weapons, an official of Kasuga Taisha shrine announced Jan. 22.

The discovery means it is a museum piece that will be carefully studied to shed further light on the history of the Japanese sword. It appears that the “heirloom,” which was made in the Heian Period (794-1185) for a samurai and initially passed down through his family, was presented to the shrine sometime from the Nanboku-cho Period (1336-1392) to the 14th or 15th century, or the early Muromachi Period (1338-1573). The curved 82.4 centimeter-long sword, without the creator’s name inscribed, is a “kohoki.”

The kohoki sword is one of 12 blades that were housed in the attic repository of Kasuga Taisha shrine and was originally discovered in 1939. The shrine discovered its real value after whetting the blades from fiscal 2016 to mark its 60th Shikinen Zotai, a traditional ceremony of shrine building restoration held once every 20 years.

Before it was sharpened, the kohoki sword was covered in rust. Part of the name derives from the Hoki Domain (today's Tottori Prefecture) where a series of kohoki as well as other swords were crafted. [...]


Source: Rusty sword in attic found to be one of oldest blades in Japan:The Asahi Shimbun
 

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A little update on the Siege of Osaka maps:

Rare illustration of Siege of Osaka in 1614 to get digital treatment


Photo credit: Toppan

Historians and printing experts are to collaborate to digitally restore in full colour rare and faded illustrations of the Siege of Osaka during the winter military campaign of 1614 that helped change the course of Japanese history. The project, announced July 3 by Toppan Printing Co., will be undertaken in collaboration with historians from the Tokugawa Art Museum in Nagoya, Tokyo University of the Arts and Yoshihiro Senda, a professor of archaeology at Nara University. The artwork concerns a pair of folding screens in the collection of the Tokyo National Museum in the capital's Ueno district. They depict the first of two military campaigns that ended in 1615, where forces led by Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542-1616) wiped out the Toyotomi clan after it attempted to subvert the Tokugawa Shogunate that unified Japan in 1603.

The illustrations are thought to be copies produced later during the Edo Period (1603-1817) based on an original painting from an earlier period. They are the only known illustrations of the winter campaign that provide a historical reference on the battle formations and what Osaka Castle looked like before the outer moats were filled with debris after the siege. Many depictions of the summer campaign survived, but the original screens of the winter campaign are presumed lost.


Source: Rare illustration of Siege of Osaka in 1614 to get digital treatment:The Asahi Shimbun
 

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An official Tokugawa seal that was last used 150 years ago on signing the 1858 Japan-U.S. Treaty of Amity and Commerce was found when an old storehouse was demolished. It will be on display in Nagaoka in September.



First public showing for Tokugawa Shogunate seal

The Tokugawa Shogunate’s official seal that was found 150 years after it was last used on official documents, including the 1858 Japan-U.S. Treaty of Amity and Commerce, will go on public display for the first time. The silver “tenkoku” seal engraving will be on show at the Niigata Prefectural Museum of History in Nagaoka from Sept. 15 through Sept. 30.

The seal, which was stamped on documents alongside the signature of Tokugawa Iemochi (1846-1866), the 14th shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate, was found in a storehouse of the residence of the Tokugawa family in Tokyo. Known as the “Keibun Ibu,” the seal represents the shogunate’s aspiration to achieve an “ideal” form of politics with its motto, “Bun o Tateito ni Shi Bu o yokoito ni Su,” or “Let the pen be the warp and the sword be the weft.”

“The seal exudes Shogun Iemochi’s strong will to take on the responsibility of foreign diplomacy as head of state of Japan, because the shogun consciously ordered a special silver seal to be made for ratifying foreign diplomatic documents,” said Iehiro Tokugawa, an executive board member of the Tokugawa Memorial Foundation headed by director Tsunenari Tokugawa. The square seal, 9.2 centimeters in length and width and weighing 2.7 kilograms, had been kept in a “nagamochi” oblong chest that was used to store furnishings.

The historical gem that spent more than a century and a half out of view came to light about 18 months ago when the storehouse in the residence's garden was demolished. The nagamochi was placed in the innermost storehouse, according to the foundation that now keeps the seal. The seal was engraved by Masuda Koen, a tenkoku craftsman, at the request of the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1857.

The seal was affixed in 1859 on ratification documents of the Treaty of Amity and Commerce that Japan had concluded in succession in 1858 with the United States, Britain and France. It also made its mark in 1867 on a document ratifying the Japan-Denmark Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation, which was concluded in 1866. It has also been confirmed that the seal was also stamped by Tokugawa Yoshinobu (1837-1913), the 15th and last shogun of the Edo Period (1603-1867), as well as by Iemochi.


Source: First public showing for Tokugawa Shogunate seal:The Asahi Shimbun
 

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This is an interesting editorial on the Daisen kofun imperial tomb. I remember I stopped by in 2010 only to discover that the burial mound was closed to the public. Even archaeologists have very limited access. It is truly deplorable that the Imperial Household Agency has the authority over so many historic monuments and artefacts (read below).



Agency should allow full study of Daisen ‘kofun’ imperial tomb

The Imperial Household Agency and the Sakai municipal government in October launched a joint excavation project on a huge “kofun” ancient burial mound in the city. The Daisen kofun, identified by some ancient documents as the grave of Emperor Nintoku (first half of the fifth century), features one of the largest keyhole-shaped mounds in Japan.

The site, also known as “Nintoku Tenno Ryo” (the mausoleum of Emperor Nintoku), and believed to be a burial place for emperors, empresses and other members of the imperial family, has been protected and preserved by the Imperial Household Agency as an imperial property.

It was designated as the Nintoku Mausoleum in the late 19th century according to descriptions in such ancient documents as “Kojiki” (Records of Ancient Matters) and “Nihonshoki” (Chronicles of Japan) in the eighth century and “Engishiki,” a collection of governmental rules and formalities, compiled in the 10th century. Archaeological studies and findings from excavations in recent years have shown, however, that the years when many imperial mausoleums were built are not consistent with the eras of the emperors and other royalties who the agency says lie buried within them.

There are various theories about the actual tomb owner of the Daisen kofun. The agency remains reluctant to permit a full-scale academic investigation of the gigantic kofun, citing the need to maintain “tranquillity and dignity.” [...]

But there are doubts and concerns among archaeologists and historians about allowing the kofun to be formally described as an imperial mausoleum while the identities of the buried individuals have not been academically confirmed.

The agency should change its stance and allow large-scale academic research to uncover facts about the situation surrounding the construction of the kofun including the identities of the buried people so that reliable and confirmed information about this historical site can be provided internationally. In 2008, the agency allowed a small group of leading researchers to enter the burial mound for inspections. But it has adamantly refused to open the site to the public.

It says the joint excavation project is aimed only at gathering basic information for its plan to conduct revetment work on the mound and embankments as part of the conservation efforts for the entire site. The excavation work will be limited to certain parts of the embankment around the moat. There is no plan to allow citizens to inspect the site as part of the project. [...]


Source: EDITORIAL: Agency should allow full study of Daisen ‘kofun’ imperial tomb:The Asahi Shimbun
 
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