Sasaki Ken'ichi: Political Organization in Kofun-age Japan

Thursday 12/5/2013,  12:45-1:20 PM, Doheny Library 233

Political Organization in Kofun-age Japan
Prof. SASAKI Ken’ichi, Meiji University

I will talk about various archeological perspectives on political organization across the Japanese archipelago during the Kofun Period. I was raised in Kyoto, to the north of Nara and Osaka, considered the center of the Kofun culture. And I once believed that studying the Kofun culture represented by the giant keyhole-shaped tumuli in the Nara-Osaka-Kyoto region would be enough to understand the history of the Kofun Period.  I also thought that the central polity of Yamato was so strong that it controlled many different regions of Japan from Iwate in the east to Kagoshima in the distant west, across which great expanse keyhole-shaped tumuli were constructed.  Professor TSUDE Hiroshi under whom I prepared my dissertation at Osaka University also argued that there was a strong central polity during the Kofun Period.  But in 1999 I was hired by the Department of Archaeology at Meiji University, and I was given charge of fieldwork in southern Ibaraki Prefecture (oldHitachi and Shimôsa provinces) and laboratory work for publication concerning excavations at the Ômuro Burial Mound and the Carin Cluster in Nagano Prefecture (old Shinano province).  These opportunities gave me a good opportunity to reconsider my view of Kofun Period political organization. The fact is, Kofun-period cultures in eastern Japan were so regionally distinctive that it seems to me we should recognize that local polities were relatively autonomous.  That is why I now argue that the central polity of Yamato was relatively weak, and that the nature of the Kofun Period political organization was a loose confederacy of regionally autonomous polities.

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