Japan: Back To The Very Roots

  • Back To The Very Roots

    Things like Shinkansen or Nintendo wouldn’t be here if some adventurers did not decide to settle in Japan. Let’s make a huge jump back in time to see when and how that happened.

    The first inhabitation of Japan is dated back to around 35,000 BC, in the Paleolithic Period which lasted from 40,000 to 14,000 BC. It is presently discussed if there were human activities earlier than that but it’s commonly accepted that the Paleolithic Period marks the beginning of humans in Japan. The oldest human bones were found in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka and they are about 14.000 to 18.000 years old.

    Japan about 20.000 years ago. Orange is the land above sea level, white are unvegetated regions, the black outlines show present Japan


    Here the oldest handmade tools were found also. Chipped stones that worked for example as ground stone or axes. This is a unique point because these tools precede the development around the earth by nearly 20,000 years. Thus the Paleolithic age was, in Japan at least, closer to the Mesolithic or Neolithic ages. Yet it is unknown why that is.


    The humans that reached the islands of Japan and settled there were probably relatives to a former Paleo-Asian group which inhabited large areas of the Asian surface. Later they split up, migrated and gradually formed the known people of Japan, Korea and China.
    The ancient people in Japan are called Ainu and are located almost completely on the island of Hokkaidō. They seem to be the first settlers. Throughout history they have probably be mixing with later arriving people. Today Ainu people still exist but their exact numbers are unknown.

    A group of Ainu predecessors from the early 19th century


    The research of the Paleolithic Period is a fresh field in Japan. Until the WW2 it was commonly believed that there were no humans in Japan before the Jōmon Period which lasted from around 14,500 to 300 BC. Right after the war an excavation discovered a site from the Paleolithic age. Until today, more than 5,000 Paleolithic sites have been discovered and the knowledge about the inhabitation of Japan could be corrected.