Monday, February 18, 2008

Origins of Japan

I'm still trying to work through the mountain of pictures from Hokkaido, winnowing it down to something resembling manageable size. Meanwhile, a friend sent me a link to an article by Jared Diamond (of the "Guns, Germs and Steel" fame) from 1998 on the origins of the Japanese people. He doesn't have a particular historical or cultural axe to grind, so it's arguably more evenhanded and perhaps more reliable than you would find from a lot of Japanese or Korean sources. He's an engaging writer so it's a good read.


  1. Thank you for the interesting article.

    Boiling in pottery (Nabe) is especially good for winter. Probably the eating preference of Japanese go back to Jomon period, even if most of us are not the descendants of native islanders.

    In ancient times there are many kingdoms both in Korea and Japan. The relationship between Korea and Japan today may reflects the rivalry of Baekje and Silla.

  2. That is something that's too easy to forget in this context: the nation states or cultural groups we think of ourselves as belonging to by and large really didn't exist in antiquity. Whatever the events at the time described in the article, none of the people involved thought of themselves as "japanese", and neither would they recognize contemporary Japan and its culture as their own if they could get a glimpse of it. The same goes naturally for most other places in the world too.

  3. That's true. Only 200 years ago, each castles on Japanese islands were capitals and
    people there regarded their nation as the towns and villages around the castle.
    I don't think Japanese people today connect Kublai Khan who invaded the islands
    to People's Republic of China or Mongolia now.
    But as for Korea, we jump to antiquities. It is strange.


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