Awaji Island … The birth place of Japan

Awaji Island, the birth place of Japan

In the Kojiki, (Records of Ancient Matter) Japan’s oldest existing written record of its history, the opening chapter begins with Japan’s creation myth, Kuniumi.
It recounts the story of the birth of Japan’s first island.
This special island is known today as Awaji.
The tale includes mention of sea people called Ama who brought metal tools, salt-making techniques, and highly advanced navigational skills to the capital in support of the government and provincial kings of Japan’s Kansai region.
Awaji, the largest island visible from kingdoms across the water, represents the historical narrative of the Ama central to the development of these ancient kingdoms.

The opening of ironware era
People of the sea who introduced the cutting-edge technology

Yayoi Era, in which rice cultivation has become major farm work and a big change of infra-structure of the society begins, is the opening of the era of ironware.
In Awaji island, 21 “Dohtaku” or bell-shaped bronze vessel and 14 bronze swords were discovered, which were made in BC.
Nakagawara Dohtaku, which is the oldest one in Japan, 7 Matsuho Dohtaku with “Zetsu”, 14 Kozuro bronze swords, many of which were discovered in the coast.
Burying in a grave at the seashore of Harima sea reminds adding people of the sea to a festival in the new era.
The shape of this island changes dramatically around the B.C.
A village in the mountain appears as taking the place of village in the plain where the culture of bronze ware prospered.
The culture of ironware which brought dynamic changes in the Yayoi society were accepted before the center of Kinki region.
At the “Gossakaito site” where people started production of ironware in the 1st century, a blacksmith which lasts 100 years, an iron axe brought from Korean peninsula tells establishment of cutting-edge technology brought by people of the sea. At the “Futasuishiebisunomae site” a factory of cinnabar using “Tatsusa” sand produced in Tokushima and transported through Naruto Strait was discovered. The golden age of these culture was the age before “Himiko” who was the queen of “Yamataikoku” appeared. Iron and cinnabar discovered in the village in the north mountain area were the important materials Himiko demanded and it keeps the possibility to solve a mystery of “Great Wars of Japan”.

Era of great king
A seaman in Awaji Island who supported sovereign power with salt and voyage technique

 Awaji Island, the age of great king buried in the keyhole-shaped Japanese burial mound appears. There was energetic activity of seaman called “Umindo”, people of the sea appeared in the Chronicles of Japan. “Umindo in Mihara” called for an oar of the ship which carries the queen of the Emperor Ohjin, “Umindo in Awaji” who was dispatched to Korean peninsula before the accession of the Emperor Nintoku, there were Umindo who supported the sovereign power with superior voyage technique.

“Umindo in Nojima” who took military action under the command of “Azuminomuraji-Hamako” before the accession of the Emperor Richu. They were also the navy lead by Azumi family. They were described many times in the Chronicled of Japan. And they are considered as Umindo based in the Awaji Island. The name “Mihara” or “Nojima” which remains today and the figure of Awaji Island strongly connected with the sovereign power were evidence of it. A trace of an activity of Umindo can be seen at several sites in the island. Villages in the mountains appeared around B.C. disappear rapidly, then the production of salt begun at the seashore. Production of salt using earthenware proceeded at full swing at 3rd century. After that, “Hikino site” where round-bottom earthenware which has good thermal efficiency was born at 5th century, in “Kifunejinja site” people tried to use stone kiln with stones spread at the bottom which had better thermal efficiency in the 6th century. We can see traces of development of salt production aimed at mass production at many saltern sites in the island. Mass production of salt using renovative technique was consumed not in the island but also supplied to royal authority in the Kinki region.

It was the age that great tumulus with large stone room buried with many pieces of mirrors and ironware. There is “Yuyadaki site” where “Sabkakubuchi-Shinju-Kyo” mirror was buried. In “Okinoshima sites” Umindo lived among the strait with strong current. All of small islands which faces Naruto Strait were set as tumulus, many small stone rooms were built, pieces of fishing equipment were buried.
Umindo in Awaji Island became important people for royal sovereignty because of its skill of salt production and supreme voyage technique.

Food country which supports a capital
Umindo described in “Manyoshu” collection of ten thousand leaves

 From poems in Manyoshu we can see the salt production which had been handed down by Umindo in Nara period. Salt used in monthly festivals in government was the one produced in Awaji Island recorded in Engishiki, which means the salt of Awaji island was specially used. Apart from salt many kinds of seafood were transported to the government, poet Ymabeno-Akahito composed as the food country which presides the meals of the emperor. “Kojiki” or Records of Ancient Matters compiled in Nara period describes history of Japan. Awaji Island was described as the first special island in the Japanese myth which appeared in the first section.

Living island which makes Japan
Footsteps of Umindo today

History of Umindo evaluated in Kojiki was looked back many times, became authority for people and created new culture. Footsteps of Umindo remain as good condition today as valuable ruins or cultural heritage, beautiful landscape handed down to current island, Awaji Island has been the island with plentiful foodstuffs. It is the island which tells the history of Umindo who supported the core of making ancient nation.

By Masa Tamura

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