Update: We are pleased to announce that the Dr. Sasaki’s research on this topic has been published in the Japanese Journal of Archaeology, Volume 6, Number 1, 2018. You can view the full article, “Adoption of the Practice of Horse-Riding in Kofun Period Japan: With Special Reference to the Case of the Central Highlands of Japan.”
Horses were not native to Japan. Not only did horses have to be imported from the Korean peninsula, but equestrian specialists also had to be invited in order to raise and reproduce horses in Japan. In this paper, the author presents regionally distinctive cases of the introduction of horses to the central highlands of Japan in the fifth and sixth centuries A.D. While it is highly likely that the central polity took the initiative to adopt the practice of horse-riding in Japan, the author argues that it was entirely up to local polities to invite equestrian specialists and import horses from the Korean peninsula in the fifth century. Furthermore, the author suggests the possibility that the central polity in the fifth century did not monopolize diplomacy, and that local polities remained autonomous enough to maintain their own diplomatic relationships with local polities in the southern Korean peninsula.