Yoshinogari Archaeological Site
Yoshinogari is an important archaeological site located on the plain of Saga Prefecture. By visiting this site you can get a rough image of a Japanese village of about 2,000 years ago. The Yoshinogari Site is managed by the national government and now open to the public as the Yoshinogari History Park.
Archaeological Site of the Yayoi Period
There used to be a village on this spot that existed between the 3rd century BC and the 3rd century AD. This period is called the Yayoi period in Japan because some potteries from this period were excavated in Yayoi Town in Tokyo. But according to the recent study to use absolute dating methods such as AMS radiocarbon dating, the earliest artifacts found at the Yoshinogari Site even date back to before 400 BC.
This Yoshinogari Site has become a very important archaeological site because of its huge size and artifacts found there. The total size of the site is about 40 hectares. Something that especially stands out about the site is its defense system. The site is surrounded by V-shaped double moats, and the total length of the moat is about 2.5 km.
The excavation of the site started in 1986, and this is when they found that the whole area used to be a village. They excavated artifacts like bronze mirrors from China, Japanese-style bronze mirrors, bronze daggers, coins, bells, and halberds, iron tools, wooden tools, prehistoric human hair, etc. The site was designated as Special National Historic Site in 1991, and it has become a National Park in 1992. They started to reconstruct the ancient structures on the site and the park has become a major tourist attraction.
How to Enjoy the Site
At the East Entrance, there is an information center, we recommend that you watch the 12-minutes video first. The video will give you a rough idea about the area’s history and the park. Then you cross the bridge which leads you to the site. The theme of the site is “You can hear the voices of the Yayoi people!”
Minaminaikaku (Southern Inner Enclosure) is the center of the park. This area is regarded as the area of the rulers. There are 20 reconstructed houses here, and this is believed to be where the successive rulers of Yoshinogari and the surrounding village rulers resided during the peak of the Yayoi civilization. Judging from the formidable defenses of this area, including the circular moats, fences, and watchtowers, this place is considered to be where the rulers of Yoshinogari could be found. In contrast to the other living areas of Yoshinogari, the high-floored houses, as well as various iron products found in the area, show the elevated status of its former residents.
Kitanaikaku (Northern Inner Enclosure) is believed to have been the most important area, not only in the Yoshinogari village but also in the whole nation-state around Yoshinogari. It is here that the dates for rice planting and harvesting, seasonal festivals and ceremonies, and the largest market are thought to have been established. This is where important meetings for matters of state are believed to have been held for the entire nation-state, and where prayers were offered unto ancestors. During the Yayoi period, it is believed that when people could not come to an agreement on important issues, a high priest, with the special skill to communicate with the ancestors and god, was asked to intervene, and the decision was made in accordance with the received message.
The Kura (storehouse) and Ichi (market) areas are believed to have been Yoshinogari’s commercial center, featuring a large market and storehouses for trading goods. The reasons are that the structure is very similar to ancient clay drawings of Chinese markets; there used to be a big river nearby which boats, an important means for transportation, could travel; and this whole area was completely surrounded with moats.
Burial Jar Rows is also an interesting area which was the former cemetery of the village.
Access: 15 minutes walk from Yoshinogari-Koen (吉野ヶ里公園) station
Entrance: Adult (over 15) 460 yen (free for junior high school student and under)
Hours: From June to August 9:00 – 18:00, From September to May 9:00 – 17:00