Jomon, Yayoi, Kofun Period of Meguro (QR Code #1)

Ancient Meguro


Ancient footprints remain deep in the earth of Meguro.

From the Paleolithic period through the Jomon, Yayoi, and Kofun periods, no written evidence remains of these ancient times, and evidence of life can only be gleaned from the various archeological sites and relics. By examining these ruins and relics, the details of how people lived in those days becomes apparent. We can see evidence that people lived in Meguro-ku in the Paleolithic, Jomon, Yayoi, and the Kofun periods.

In Meguro-ku, people lived their lives surrounded by rich nature of forests, rivers, and the sea in Jomon period.

The Jomon Period of Meguro

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About 13,000 years ago, pottery was made for the first time in the Japanese archipelago. In the Jomon period, about 9,000 years in duration (11,000 BC – 300 BC), people used earthenware with cord-marked impression hunted animals, and gathered food. The Jomon period, based on the changes in the shapes and patterns of pottery, is divided into 6 phases: inspicient, initial, early, middle, late, and final.

In the Jomon period, people transitioned from migrants following animals into settlers living in permanent dwellings. Hunting tools also changed from spears to bows and arrows. They dwelled in the forest near the water, and made pottery to eat a variety of boiled foods. In Meguro-ku, ruins of the Jomon period have been found in the vicinity of springs and rivers. It was warmer in the early stage of the Jomon period, the sea level was higher (marine transgression), and the coastline was in the immediate vicinity of what is now the Higashiyama site (around Ikejiriohashi Station).

Around 400 BC, rice-farming from northern Kyushu spread to the East.

Rice cultivation began in Meguro along the Meguro River.

Yayoi Period of Meguro

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The 600 years which span between 300 BC and 300 AD is called the Yayoi period. The Yayoi period is divided into 4 phases: early, middle, late, and final.

In the Yayoi period, people’s lives are changed significantly from the Jomon period. Rice cultivation spreads primarily in the wetlands along the rivers. Rice cultivation prompts people to gather in one place. Such population will eventually settle as a kuni, meaning a country or polity.

This kuni caused the emergence of people to provide social rule and protection. Thus, the concept of class differences began to appear among the people, and with this change also began conflicts with other regions. The formation of the kuni continued on little-by-little with the villages surrounding themselves with the use of defensive moats and raised floor warehouses to store rice.

Within Meguro-ku, the ruins of the Yayoi period are excavated along the Meguro River. In the Kawarakezuka site, parts of the moats have also been discovered. Perhaps there was a kuni in the Yayoi period also in Meguro-ku.

The Kofun Era of Meguro
Beginning at the latter half of the 3rd century, keyhole-shaped tomb mounds and other such large kofun began to be built. However, in the Meguro area keyhole-shaped tomb mounds have not been found. This raises the question of whether people were dwelling in Meguro during the Kofun period.
The period of burying powerful families—who governed territories and lands—in large tomb mounds called kofun was thereby called the Kofun period.
The territories of Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu, which emerged in the Yayoi period, became strongly tied together by the influence and power centered in the Kinki region. Keyhole-shaped mounded tombs built throughout Japan suggest a presence of a league with local leaders.
Apart from Keyhole-shaped mounded tombs, local leaders built kofun of various forms such as keyhole-shaped tombs with a quadrangular rear portion, scallop shell-shaped burial mounds, round mounds and square-shaped mounds.

The class of the person to be buried is believed to have determined the form of the kofun.

Within the Meguro area, although the Kitsunezuka kofun and the Otsukayama kofun are known, the original embankments have disappeared, and detailed information is not known about them. However, at the Ohashi site, settlements of the early Kofun period have been excavated. Although the ruins are few, there are suggestions of the activities of peoples in the early Kofun period.

Distribution of Kofun in the Meguro Area

By turning our focus to the Meguro area, we notice a cluster of kofun on the left bank of the Tama River. What does this concentration of kofun mean?

It can be seen that kofun are clustered in the Setagaya and Ota Cities neighboring Meguro—particularly on the left bank of the Tama River. These kofun were built throughout the Kofun period.

In addition, at the terminal stage of the Kofun period, tombs were made on hillsides facing Tokyo bay and were dug horizontally into the ground as tomb chambers that came to be called yokoanabo (tunnel tombs). In the same manner, many kofun and yokoanabo have been found in present-day Saitama prefecture.

From this kind of kofun distribution, it can be understood that there were two powers in the Kofun period whose activities spanned the present-day Saitama prefecture and Tokyo city areas. These two powers soon grew into an even larger coalition that came to be known as the Musashi Province.