A center for learning about Jomon culture
The Jomon culture is a distinctive Japanese culture, and it is rare in the world in that it lasted for more than 10,000 years while adapting to harsh environmental changes. The Hakodate Jomon Culture Center is a unique museum that provides valuable information about the Jomon culture from a broad perspective. The Hollow Clay Figure (Chuku-Dogu), Hokkaido’s only national treasure, is on display there, as well as pottery, stone implements and many other artifacts that had been unearthed from Jomon sites in Hakodate City.
The facility houses a hands-on lab where visitors can try seven kinds of programs, including miniature pottery making, Jomon pendant making and Jomon knitting. Many original products featuring clay figurines and other artifacts as part of their design, such as magnets and tote bags, can only be bought at this facility, which also has a roadside station that provides local tourist information and specialty products.
Meet the Hollow Clay Figure (Chuku-Dogu), Hokkaido’s only national treasure
There are four exhibition rooms where visitors can learn about the natural environment of the Jomon era, the lifestyle of the Jomon people and their world view. The Hollow Clay Figure, a national treasure nicknamed Kakku, is on display in Exhibition Room 4. This clay figure, which measures 41.5 cm in length, and was unearthed from the Chobonaino Site in Hakodate, is the largest of its kind in Japan. The entire body from head to toe is elaborately made of thin clay with a beautiful pattern, representing Jomon people’s spirituality and artistic sense.
Hollow Clay Figure (Chuku-Dogu)
This clay artifact discovered in Hakodate’s Chobonaino Site in 1975 is known as the Hollow Clay Figure because of the void inside it. A local housewife happened to find it while harvesting potatoes in a field. Although part of the head and both arms were missing, the figure was otherwise in near-perfect condition. It is the largest of its kind in Japan, and is characterized by its full face, large square shoulders, slender waist and long legs, as well as the aesthetic appeal of its symmetry. Its extremely elaborate and graphic structure has a clear pattern that represents the costumes of those days.
The figure’s intended purpose remains unclear, but it is thought to be related to faith and rituals as well as being a valuable artifact symbolizing the spiritual culture of the Jomon era. The fact that it is a hollow clay figure, which is very difficult to make, is a testament to the high artistic skills of the Jomon people.
Today the figure is referred to as Kakku. This name consists of two Chinese characters – one from the Japanese place name Minamikayabe, where the sites are located, and the other from the Japanese word for hollow clay figure. The artifact was designated as Hokkaido’s only national treasure in 2007, and was exhibited in the Smithsonian Museum in 1992 and in the British Museum in 2001 and 2009, enchanting people with its beauty.
Clay tablets with impression of feet
Seventeen clay tablets bearing children’s footprints were unearthed at the Kakinoshima Site in the Hakodate area of southern Hokkaido. Some show an impression of a single foot, some show both feet, and some also have a handprint on the back. The tablets have one or two holes for string suspension.
Most of the footprints appear to be from children aged between 1 and 10. They are considered to be from dead children or to have been used to decorate the tablets as charms or spells for sick children. As few clay tablets with impression of feet have been found in Japan, their intended purpose remains unclear. However, they may represent parents’ feelings for their children, which undoubtedly have much in common with those of present-day parents.