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Image of "Heiseikan"

The Heiseikan, built to commemorate the crown prince's wedding in 1993, serves primarily as the space for special exhibitions. For this purpose there are four special exhibition galleries on the second floor, as well as the Japanese Archaeological Gallery.

Floor Map

1st floor: Japanese Archaeology (Woman in full dress Haniwa)

 Image of "Important Cultural Property: Tomb Sculpture ("Haniwa"): Woman in Formal Attire" 
Japanese Archaeology Gallery  June 14, 2022 (Tue) - December 18, 2022 (Sun)

Terracotta statues known as haniwa were placed on large burial mounds that were created in great numbers during the Kofun period (ca. 3rd century–ca. 7th century). Most haniwa of women show them from the waist up, making this full-length depiction unusual. This woman appears to be wearing a sleeveless garment with wave-like patterns over a plain, long-sleeved one. Her legs are hidden by a skirt decorated with vertical lines. Women of the preceding Yayoi period (ca. 5th century BC–ca. 3rd century AD) wore clothes similar to one-piece dresses. In the Kofun period, however, garments separated into top and bottom sections as seen here were introduced from China and Korea.


Her outfit is also more elaborate than it first appears: Her hair is made up in a topknot unique to women of the time and is held in place with a comb. She also wears a headband and two large earrings with a cluster of beads above each one, as well as a beaded necklace and bracelets. A knife or something similar is at her hip. Judging from the lavish attire, this haniwa probably depicts a woman of a high social standing who is participating in some kind of elaborate ceremony such as a funerary procession or rite.

1st floor: Japanese Archaeology (Chronological Exhibition)

 Image of "The Beginning of Tool Making in the Paleolithic Era" 
Japanese Archaeology Gallery  March 1, 2022 (Tue) - September 4, 2022 (Sun)

People first settled in Japan about 40,000 years ago, marking the beginning of the Paleolithic era, which continued until pottery was first created approximately 13,000 years ago. This era coincided with an ice age during which Japan was still connected to the Asian continent via land bridges and inhabited by large mammals such as mammoths. People led nomadic lives and made tools from stone and animal bone, using them to hunt and forage.

This section explores how Paleolithic tools changed over time through common examples: trapezoids with cutting edges, knives, spearheads, and miniature blades for making composite tools such as harpoons. Generally, Paleolithic tools were made by chipping stone into the desired shapes, while polished stone tools first appeared in the following Neolithic era. Japan’s Paleolithic era, however, is characterized by the use of stone axe heads with partially-polished blades.

The most common material for tools was obsidian, a type of volcanic glass found in abundance across most of Japan. The sedimentary rock siliceous shale was used in northeastern Japan, where obsidian was scarce, while the volcanic rock sanukite was used in the Kinki region and around the Seto Inland Sea. All of these materials were suitable for making tools because they were relatively hard and fine-grained, allowing sharp edges to be formed by chipping.

 Image of "Permanent Settlements and the Creation of Pottery" 
Japanese Archaeology Gallery  March 1, 2022 (Tue) - September 4, 2022 (Sun)

Rising sea levels formed the Japanese islands when the ice age ended about 13,000 years ago. In response to their changing environment, people began using the bow and arrow for hunting, invented pottery, and began living in permanent settlements. This was the beginning of Japan’s Neolithic era, which lasted for approximately 10,000 years. Although farming and the rearing of livestock usually began during this era in other societies, life in Japan continued to be centered on foraging, fishing, and hunting.

Pottery from this era was decorated with patterns made by impressing cords into the clay before firing, and is named Jomon (cord-marked) pottery. Japan’s Neolithic era is called the Jomon period in reference to this distinctive pottery. The invention of pottery for cooking extended the range of edible foods, made certain foods more digestible, and helped to eliminate harmful bacteria. Jomon pottery was also used for ceremonies and burial rites, playing an important role in culture and society.

This section shows how pottery changed and increased in variety during the Jomon period. Deep bowls for cooking were the earliest vessels, with shallow bowls for serving food appearing later, followed by pots and spouted vessel for storage.

 Image of "Interaction with the Asian Continent and the Pottery of an Agricultural Society" 
Japanese Archaeology Gallery  March 1, 2022 (Tue) - September 4, 2022 (Sun)

About 2,400 years ago, bronze and iron tools as well as rice cultivation were introduced from China and Korea, later spreading throughout most of Japan. People began living in villages with irrigated rice fields, marking the beginning of the agricultural Yayoi period. Two unique cultures developed in parallel with Yayoi society: the Post-Jomon culture on the island of Hokkaido to the northeast, where rice cultivation did not take root, and the Late Shell Mound culture on the Nansei Islands to the southwest.

Yayoi pottery was used during this period. Although it was unglazed like the Jomon pottery of the previous period, it was thinner and fired at a higher temperature, making it more durable and lighter in color. Vessels with specific functions such as urns for boiling, jars for storage, and stemmed bowls for serving food were created to meet the needs of this new agricultural society.

In the first half of the Yayoi period (ca. 4th–3rd century BC), pottery with shared characteristics known as Ongagawa-type pottery was created throughout western Japan. Vessels showing influence from this pottery have been excavated in eastern and northern Japan, suggesting the diffusion of a shared culture. Moreover, during the mid-Yayoi period (ca. 2nd–1st century BC) use of the potter’s wheel and other new techniques were adopted.

 Image of "Political Maturation and the Creation of Symbols of Authority" 
Japanese Archaeology Gallery  June 7, 2022 (Tue) - December 4, 2022 (Sun)

Around the end of the Yayoi period in the first half of the 3rd century, large burial mounds with regionally-distinct shapes began to appear in various areas from Kanto to Kyushu. Villages in Japan were changing to states, with some gaining the power to unify others. A Chinese historical document even noted that in 239 and 240, Queen Himiko, the ruler of Japan’s Yamatai Kingdom, sent envoys to the Wei dynasty.

During the latter half of the 3rd century, keyhole-shaped burial mounds of unprecedented size and construction began to appear in the Kinai region, with the largest concentration in the Nara basin. Objects symbolizing political authority, such as bronze mirrors and ornaments, accompanied those buried inside. These developments show that politics in Japan had matured under the new Yamato Kingdom, which was even more powerful than Yamatai. These burial mounds were constructed on a wide scale until the 7th century, giving this era the name Kofun (ancient burial mound) period.

The pottery of the Kofun period was haji earthenware. Unlike earlier Yayoi pottery, it was uniform in design and did not feature regionally-distinct decorative patterns. This section explores the beginning of the Kofun period through haji pottery and bronze mirrors that were brought from China and placed in burial mounds.

 Image of "The Yamato Kingdom and the Production of Symbols of Authority" 
Japanese Archaeology Gallery  June 7, 2022 (Tue) - December 4, 2022 (Sun)

From the 4th century, Chinese-style bronze mirrors were created in Japan and placed in burial mounds. These large mirrors were finely-crafted with unique designs, and, as this burial practice suggests, held special meaning in the Yamato Kingdom. Jasper, bronze, and stone copies of various ornaments were also buried in these mounds. They included distinctive hoe-shaped stone objects modeled after shell bracelets that were valued in the preceding Yayoi period. The Yamato government began creating such objects to show its political and religious authority. Moreover, certain objects, such as those made of jasper, were created with the aid of provincial clans.


Use of these objects and the construction of burial mounds for high-ranking rulers (these mounds featured stone chambers that were sealed from the top) spread from the Yamato Kingdom to the west. It is believed that provincial clans used these objects as evidence of their alliance with Yamato and as symbols of their own prestige.


The establishment and expansion of the Yamato Kingdom was also related to political developments in other East Asian countries. In China, the fall of the Western Jin dynasty ushered in the Sixteen Kingdoms period (316–420), while the three kingdoms of Korea – Goguryeo, Baekje, and Silla– began to annex neighboring regions.

 Image of "Large Burial Mounds and the Increase in Metal Production" 
Japanese Archaeology Gallery  June 7, 2022 (Tue) - December 4, 2022 (Sun)

Around the end of the 4th century, large keyhole-shaped burial mounds began to appear around the Osaka plain and Nara basin. Royal authority was expressed through burial practices, with grand arrangements of haniwa tomb figurines displayed on these mounds. Central to these arrangements were house-shaped haniwa as well as those representing tools, weapons, and other objects. Moreover, the number of small- and medium-sized burial mounds containing metal weapons and armor began to increase, suggesting that connections between the Yamato Kingdom and provincial clans became more militaristic, and that these connections began to extend to lesser clans as well. Metal production also increased significantly as shown by the large amount of ingots placed in burial mounds.


Chinese records state that from 421, the Five Kings of Wa (Japan) regularly offered tribute to the Southern Dynasties and requested that their military titles in Japan and Korea be recognized in China. The mass-production of metal weapons and armor further suggests the inclusion of Yamato in an international order centered on China.

 Image of "The Rise of Provincial Clans and the Development of a Unique Culture" 
Japanese Archaeology Gallery  June 7, 2022 (Tue) - December 4, 2022 (Sun)

Local production of weapons, armor, and horse tack, which had originally been brought from Korea, began around the end of the 5th century. While gold and silver were often used in Korea, production in Japan was characterized by the extensive use of gilded bronze plates. From around the mid-6th century, unique metal objects such as large ornamental swords were also created. It is believed that these objects were distributed to provincial clans as proof of the Yamato Kingdom’s authority and as signs of an alliance.

The construction of burial mounds with entrances, which allowed family members who passed away at different times to be buried together, spread rapidly across much of Japan. Moreover, groups of smaller burial mounds increased in number, reflecting an expansion of the class with the means to construct such mounds. New burial rites were developed in which sue stoneware was used and haniwa tomb figurines portraying humans and animals were placed atop burial mounds.

Meanwhile, the Yamato Kingdom began to establish a closer relationship with the Baekje Kingdom of Korea, from which it received new culture and Buddhism. However, Japan lost its foothold in Korea when another ally, the Gaya Confederacy, was defeated by Silla in 562. These events may have influenced the development of metalwork objects into unique Japanese forms.

 Image of "Late Burial Mounds and Influence from the Asian Continent" 
Japanese Archaeology Gallery  June 7, 2022 (Tue) - December 4, 2022 (Sun)

At the end of the 6th century, significant changes accompanied the shift from the Kofun to the Asuka (593–710) period. Rulers constructed round or rectangular burial mounds, which replaced the older keyhole-shaped variety. In the mid-7th century, octagonal burial mounds were created for the Kings of Yamato, the most powerful rulers in Japan. Moreover, small burial mounds for individuals, which consisted of a stone chamber with an entrance, were built in the Kinai region. These developments reflect significant changes in burial practices.

These “late burial mounds” featured the latest technology imported from the Asian continent. Earth was tightly packed to strengthen construction, cut stones were stacked to create walls, and lacquered coffins were used. Some of these mounds, foremost of which are Takamatsu and Kitora, had burial chambers with painted murals that reflected imported beliefs.

Buddhism, which was introduced to Japan in the mid-6th century, spread among powerful clans while temples such as Asukadera and Horyuji were constructed in Nara. Meanwhile, China was unified under the Sui in 581 and the Tang in 618. Japanese envoys dispatched to China brought the latest culture to Japan. In Korea, the kingdom of Baekje fell in 660 to the combined armies of Tang and Silla despite Japanese aid. The creation of a unified state continued in Japan during this time of international tension.

 Image of "The Beginnings of a State under the Ritsuryo System" 
Japanese Archaeology Gallery  March 23, 2022 (Wed) - September 19, 2022 (Mon)

In 701, a system of law and administration (ritsuryo) modeled after Tang China was established in Japan under the emperor. A new imperial capital was founded at Nara in 710, with the following 74 years known as the Nara period. During this period, large-scale projects such as the construction of national roads and government-administered Buddhist temples were undertaken. Such events were preceded by the dispatch of envoys to China from the 7th century. These envoys brought the latest institutions, religions, technology, and cultural objects to Japan, contributing greatly to the political and cultural reforms that followed.

Buddhism in particular affected Japan. One Buddhist tradition that spread through society, beginning with the emperor and powerful aristocrats, was cremation. This section displays vessels for cremated remains, items buried with the deceased, and epitaphs noting individuals’ achievements.

Roof tiles, which were introduced to Japan at the end of the 6th century, were initially used for Buddhist temples. After an earlier imperial capital was established in 694, their use was extended to the imperial palace and government buildings. When Emperor Shomu ordered the construction of government-administered temples across Japan in 741, the production of roof tiles gained momentum in the provinces. This section also exhibits distinctive tiles from various regions, ranging from Tohoku in the north to Kyushu in the south.

 Image of "Mountain Worship and the Belief in the Decline of Buddhism" 
Japanese Archaeology Gallery  March 23, 2022 (Wed) - September 19, 2022 (Mon)

From the late Nara (710–794) to the Heian (794–1192) period, priests who worshipped in the mountains began to appear throughout Japan. Believing that Shinto and Buddhism are essentially the same faith, and that Shinto gods are in fact Buddhist deities, they climbed mountains in search of sacred sites where they could worship the mountain gods. Sites on the peaks of Mt. Omine in Nara prefecture and Mt. Nantai in Tochigi prefecture are well-known examples, with excavations revealing various objects that these priests had left as offerings. This form of mountain worship eventually developed into Shugendo, a folk religion unique to Japan.

In the mid-Heian period, the belief in Buddhism’s decline also permeated society. The age of decline was thought to begin in the year 1052, leading people to associate reoccurring natural disasters and disturbances in society with this new age. In response, aristocrats and others living in the capital began creating sutra mounds throughout Japan. Aristocrats also believed in a prophecy that the Buddhist deity Maitreya would reappear 5,670,000,000 years in the future to save all beings. Transcribing sutra scrolls and preserving them in sutra mounds was most likely a way of praying for peace in this world and the next during these troubled times. This section features excavated objects connected with mountain worship and the belief in Buddhism’s decline.

 Image of "Life and Death in the Kamakura Period" 
Japanese Archaeology Gallery  March 23, 2022 (Wed) - September 19, 2022 (Mon)

From the Kamakura period (1192–1333), political power shifted from the aristocracy to the warrior class. Society and culture began to reflect the tastes and lifestyles of these new rulers, while towns were built around their castle compounds throughout Japan.

New sects of Buddhism also gained popularity in the Kamakura period. One of these was the Zen sect, which was accepted into warrior society. Tea drinking, which spread through Zen, was valued by the warrior class for providing a means for social interaction. Meanwhile, tea utensils became highly valued as symbols of prestige among the warriors. Chinese ceramics became especially prized, and local kilns such as the ones in Seto (present-day Aichi prefecture) began producing ceramics in imitation of them. These ceramics were also created for storing the remains of deceased individuals.

Itabi were stone tablets resembling gravestones, which were created to pray for the repose of deceased individuals. Beginning in the mid-Kamakura period, they were created throughout Japan, from Hokkaido in the north to Kagoshima in the south, although most of them were concentrated in the Kanto region around present-day Tokyo. Many of these tablets are similar in form and are thought to have deep connections with warriors of the Kanto region.

 Image of "Objects Excavated from Edo" 
Japanese Archaeology Gallery  March 23, 2022 (Wed) - September 19, 2022 (Mon)

Tokugawa Ieyasu became the shogun of Japan in 1603, establishing his government in Edo (present-day Tokyo). Edo then became the political and cultural center of Japan, with 70% of its land occupied by residences for feudal lords and members of the Tokugawa clan. In addition to these residences, temples, shrines, commoners’ homes, and post towns with accommodations for travelers were sectioned into different areas around Edo Castle, while the castle itself served as the shogun’s residence and place of business. Large fires occurred frequently in Edo because of the dense concentration of wooden buildings. After each fire, land was divided and reassigned, sometimes to create open spaces to prevent future fires from spreading. Land reclamation and other projects for coping with a rising population were also undertaken, with Edo developing into one of Asia’s largest cities.

The appearance of Edo has come to light in recent years through excavations. In particular, large-scale excavations have shown where the residences of feudal lords were located and how they were laid out. Moreover, unearthed objects have revealed the luxurious lifestyles these lords enjoyed, made possible in part by a monetary system based on gold, silver, and copper coinage, which led to the increased distribution of goods. In fact, goods from across Japan were brought to Edo for consumption. This section features excavated objects that vividly illustrate the lifestyles of Edo people.


1st floor: Japanese Archaeology (Thematic Exhibitions)

 Image of "Dogū: Objects of Prayer in the Jomon Period" 
Japanese Archaeology Gallery  March 1, 2022 (Tue) - September 4, 2022 (Sun)

The most prominent objects of prayer from the Jomon period (ca. 11,000 BC–ca. 5th century BC) are dogu clay figurines. Even the earliest examples of these figurines have breasts, which suggests that they represent women, and their protruding bellies probably symbolize pregnancy. Therefore, it is believed that dogu figurines were created to pray for easy delivery of children, the birth of many children, and fertility.

 Image of "Daily Tools of the Jomon Period" 
Japanese Archaeology Gallery  March 1, 2022 (Tue) - September 4, 2022 (Sun)

From the Jomon period (ca. 11,000 BC–ca. 5th century BC) onward, means of obtaining food changed in accordance with changes in the natural environment resulting from a milder climate. The bow and arrow was invented, while tools such as fishhooks, fishing spears, and harpoon heads were created in quantity. Grinding slabs and grindstones as well as stone mortars and hammerstones were used to process nuts and other foods.

 Image of "Objects of Prayer and Accessories in the Jomon Period" 
Japanese Archaeology Gallery  March 1, 2022 (Tue) - September 4, 2022 (Sun)

Accessories in the Jomon period (ca. 11,000 BC–ca. 5th century BC) included hair ornaments, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and waist ornaments. They had the additional function of indicating the age and sex of the wearer, as well as protecting him or her from evil spirits. Stone rods, which were male symbols, were made in prayer for fertility and the birth of many children.

 Image of "Daily Tools of the Yayoi Period" 
Japanese Archaeology Gallery  March 1, 2022 (Tue) - September 4, 2022 (Sun)

In the Yayoi period (ca. 5th century BC–3rd century AD), polished stone and metal tools were introduced from China and the Korean Peninsula along with wet rice cultivation. Stone tools included rice reapers for harvesting, a range of polished axes and adzes for making wooden agricultural tools, and polished arrowheads that could have been used as weapons. These tools were subsequently made with iron.

 Image of "Accessories and Tools of the Yayoi Period Used in Rituals" 
Japanese Archaeology Gallery  March 1, 2022 (Tue) - September 4, 2022 (Sun)

In the Yayoi period (ca. 5th century BC–3rd century AD), bronze bracelets and glass necklaces began to appear. Production techniques for glass objects were developed based on metal casting techniques. Stone tools that were modeled on metal weapons were also created. These objects were buried with the deceased and used in rituals.

 Image of "Bronze Ritual Implements of the Yayoi Period" 
Japanese Archaeology Gallery  March 1, 2022 (Tue) - September 4, 2022 (Sun)

This section features ritual objects from the Yayoi period (ca. 5th century BC–ca. 3rd century AD), with a focus on bronze spears, swords, halberds, and bell-shaped dotaku. Early in this period, the first bronze and iron implements were brought to Kyushu in southwestern Japan from Korea. Among these were bronze weapons such as swords, spears, and halberds. Soon these objects were being created locally and they became larger and flatter, showing a shift to ritual use.
Most bell-shaped dotaku have been excavated from the Kinki region. Although they may have originated from similar bells made in China and Korea, they were created in larger sizes and with unique surface decorations. Initially, they were approximately 20 cm in height but their size increased over time as they changed into ornamental objects no longer used to produce sound. Experts believe that these ritual bells were used to pray for bountiful harvests and the prosperity of settlements.

 Image of "The Post-Jomon Culture in Hokkaido" 
Japanese Archaeology Gallery  March 1, 2022 (Tue) - September 4, 2022 (Sun)

A variety of stone tools were used during this period, including single- and double-edged polished stone axes, as well as stone knives and harpoon heads for hunting and butchering sea mammals and other animals. There are also unique fish-shaped stones that were probably used as bait for fishing. Pottery continued to feature rich decorations. Additionally, cylindrical jewelry made out of jasper from Sado island, objects made out of seashells from Japan’s southern seas, and iron tools have also been excavated. These objects suggest interaction with the Yayoi culture on the mainland as well as cultures on the Asian continent via the island of Sakhalin to the north.

 Image of "The Development of Sue Pottery" 
Japanese Archaeology Gallery  June 14, 2022 (Tue) - December 11, 2022 (Sun)

This technique originated in China’s gray pottery and was later introduced from Korea to Japan, where local production began in the 5th century.


At the Suemura site in present-day Osaka in particular, many kilns were in operation until the Heian period (794–1192). From the late 5th century, sue ware kilns were built in various regions of Japan, and the pottery they produced was also placed in burial mounds with the deceased. Even after the Nara and Heian periods, sue ware was used at temples and government offices. The techniques for making it were later used to create new types of pottery.

 Image of "Ancient Chinese Mirrors from Japanese Kofun Burial Mounds" 
Japanese Archaeology Gallery  June 14, 2022 (Tue) - December 11, 2022 (Sun)

The mirrors displayed here comprise two types: ones inscribed with their respective years of production, and ones that were passed down through multiple generations before burial in tumuli. The former type are inscribed with Chinese era names from dynasties such as the Wei (220–265) and the Wu (222–280), and have been excavated in limited number from Japanese tumuli. The latter were buried in tumuli years after being produced, and are invaluable for shedding light on the establishment of Kofun-period culture.

 Image of "Development of the Production of Beads and Jade Objects" 
Japanese Archaeology Gallery  June 14, 2022 (Tue) - December 11, 2022 (Sun)

Beads produced in the Kofun period (ca. 3rd–7th century), which changed in complicated ways over time, show great variety both in terms of type and material. They were combined in various ways depending on who wore them and what rituals they were used for. In the first half of the Kofun period, the Hokuriku and San’in regions – located along the Sea of Japan – were the main centers of the bead production, while the latter half of the period saw mass production even in the Kinki region, where Kyoto and Osaka are located today.

 Image of "Miniature Stone Models Unearthed from Burial Mounds" 
Japanese Archaeology Gallery  June 14, 2022 (Tue) - December 11, 2022 (Sun)

From around the 4th century, miniature stone models were interred with the dead in burial mounds. Not intended for practical use, they were made of relatively soft stone such as steatite and imitated a wide range of items. This exhibit attempts to unveil details about people’s lives and the tools they used in the Kofun period (ca. 3rd–7th century) through these miniature stone models.

 Image of "Changes in Weaponry: Warabite Swords" 
Japanese Archaeology Gallery  June 14, 2022 (Tue) - December 11, 2022 (Sun)

In the 7th to 8th centuries, iron swords with hilts shaped like fern fronds (called "warabite swords" in Japanese) were disseminated throughout the Japanese archipelago. In eastern Japan, and the northeastern Tōhoku region in particular, these swords have been excavated in great quantities from tumuli and ancient graves. Their use as grave goods shows that burial practices were different from those practiced in the capital in modern-day Nara Prefecture.

 Image of "Recognizing the Mid-Kofun Period" 
Japanese Archaeology Gallery  June 14, 2022 (Tue) - December 11, 2022 (Sun)

"Kofun period" means "burial-mound period." Our perceptions of culture during the Kofun period (ca. 3rd–7th century) are based on grave goods unearthed from burial mounds. Initially, this period was divided into two phases. Later, scholars began to argue for the recognition of a middle phase in the 5th century. This new hypothesis was based on findings obtained from archaeological artifacts in the Museum's collection.

 Image of "The Sound of Ancient Bells" 
Japanese Archaeology Gallery  June 14, 2022 (Tue) - December 11, 2022 (Sun)

In the 5th and 6th centuries, during the mid- to the late Kofun period, bells became widely used. A range of bronze objects, such as bracelets, mirrors, and horse tack, were also fitted with bells. With their metallic sheen and resonant sound, these bells probably had the roles of enhancing the solemnity of rituals and the dignity of rulers.

 Image of "Rituals for the Gods in Eastern Japan" 
Japanese Archaeology Gallery  June 14, 2022 (Tue) - December 11, 2022 (Sun)

Mt. Miwayama is an eminent sacred mountain in Japan’s ancient history. From the Yamanokami Site at the foot of the mountain, a number of relics used for rituals, including small mirrors, steatite beads and daggers, as well as earthenware models of tools for brewing alcohol were excavated. Rituals associated with the kingdom of the time were carried out in this region.

 Image of "The Niizawa Senzuka Tombs and Exchange with the Asian Continent" 
Japanese Archaeology Gallery  June 14, 2022 (Tue) - December 11, 2022 (Sun)

Created in the 5th century, burial mound no. 126 is one of approximately 600 that make up the Niizawa Senzuka tumulus cluster located in the Nara Basin. Rectangular in shape and 24 meters in length, excavations revealed that it contained a rich variety of objects from other cultures. These include gold, silver, and gilt-bronze accessories, glass bowls and plates, bronze clothing irons and small mirrors, carved semi-precious stones, and weapons. Among these, the gold and silver crown decorations, jewelry, glass bowls, decorative glass beads, and other objects are equivalent in quality to items excavated from tombs of the Silla Kings in Korea.


Moreover, these objects reflect exchange with the Asian continent: The gilt-bronze belt fittings featuring intricate dragon designs were made in great numbers in China and Korea; the glass objects from western Asia were distributed across a wide region stretching from central Asia to China; and the clothing irons suggest the existence of imported silk products. Judging from their forms and materials, the mirrors, precious stones, and weapons, however, are thought to be Japanese. These objects not only demonstrate that the latest culture had been brought to Japan, but also reflect the admiration people in Japan had for the Asian continent.

 Image of "Ancient Swords with Inscriptions and the Society of the Kofun Period" 
Japanese Archaeology Gallery  June 14, 2022 (Tue) - December 11, 2022 (Sun)

The sword on exhibit features a long, 75-character inscription, which is invaluable in shining light on politics in the 5th century. Swords with inscriptions, such as this one, were made in China, Korea, and Japan. Inscriptions on Chinese bronze mirrors or iron swords made from the time of the Eastern Han dynasty (25–220) consisted mainly of dates, auspicious words, or sayings. In the 3rd–5th centuries, these inscriptions expressed prayers to the deities of the four cardinal directions in the hope of repelling evil and preventing natural disasters. In contrast, inscriptions on Japanese swords made in the 5th–7th centuries include content such as the names of individuals and the places where the swords were created. These inscriptions also express the influence of Chinese world views.


On the Asian continent, inscriptions were made primarily on large monuments such as stone steles. In Japan, however, they were featured on items that could be carried such as iron swords. Iron swords were prized in Japan from the Yayoi period and developed to an unusual extent, which experts believe is connected to the popularity of swords with inscriptions in the Kofun period.

 Image of "The Eta Funayama Burial Mound and the Advanced Culture of Provincial Clans" 
Japanese Archaeology Gallery  June 14, 2022 (Tue) - December 11, 2022 (Sun)

Eta Funayama, which is located in Kumamoto prefecture in southwestern Japan, is a keyhole-shaped burial mound with a length of 77 meters. The numerous objects excavated from this mound include a now-famous sword with inscriptions in silver inlay, jewelry and other ornaments made of gold, silver, and gilt bronze, imported bronze mirrors, horse tack, and weapons. As prime examples of objects excavated from a burial mound in Japan, they were designated National Treasures in 1965. The jewelry and accessories, in particular, which are made from precious metals, are equivalent in quality to Korean accessories related to prestigious governmental ranks. Moreover, the gilt bronze crowns and ornamental shoes served as models for objects created later in Japan, and led to the custom of wearing metal accessories in the 6th century. Horse tack was also excavated from this mound and shows that the Japanese had acquired the technique of horseback riding. Furthermore, unique Japanese armor, which was made in the Kinai region, suggests that the entombed individuals were advanced and had strong connections with the central Yamato Kingdom. These excavated objects shine light on the activities of provincial clans in Japan, which interacted with Korean kingdoms such as Baekje.

 Image of "Development of Figural Haniwa Tomb Figurines" 
Japanese Archaeology Gallery  June 21, 2022 (Tue) - December 18, 2022 (Sun)

Haniwa are terracotta figurines that were stood up on ancient burial mounds called kofun. Around the 3rd century at the end of the Yayoi period, pedestal-shaped terracotta objects that were placed on burial mounds began to change form. By the time keyhole-shaped burial mounds were first created in the latter half of the 3rd century, these objects had developed into cylindrical and pot-shaped haniwa.


The earliest representational haniwa, which depicted houses, were created in the mid-4th century, followed by those portraying armor, shields, quivers, and parasols, as well as ships and fowl. Despite increasing variety and changes in the way haniwa were positioned on burial mounds, house-shaped ones were always placed in the center, therefore playing a unique and important role. From the mid-5th century, new haniwa in the shapes of various people and animals were also created. These included shrine maidens, horses, warriors, boars, water fowl, and dogs. They were positioned around the perimeters of burial mounds as though depicting stories. These various representational haniwa, which evolved from simple cylindrical ones, are believed to have played important roles in funerary rituals.

 Image of "Tomb Sculptures (Haniwa) and Funerary Rites" 
Japanese Archaeology Gallery  June 21, 2022 (Tue) - December 18, 2022 (Sun)

The advent of burial mounds coincided with the emergence of a specific kind of tomb sculpture, called haniwa. These sculptures are assumed to have played an important role in ancient funerary rites, and were a common feature of burial mounds until the practice declined after early societies abandoned the construction of colossal, keyhole-shaped burial mounds. This section of the gallery features house-shaped tomb sculptures, which were the dominant type during the 5th century. The lineup also includes illustrative examples of three other types of tomb sculptures: those in the shapes of weapons and household items, cylindrical sculptures, and wooden sculptures.

 Image of "Ancient Coins" 
Japanese Archaeology Gallery  March 23, 2022 (Wed) - September 19, 2022 (Mon)

Coins known as wado kaichin, which were minted in 708 (Wado 1), represent the first serious effort in Japan to mint coins for circulation. Subsequently, twelve kinds of coins were minted in the Nara (710–794) and Heian (794–1192) periods. However, the minting of coins ceased by the latter half of the 10th century as the use of bronze coins imported from China became prevalent.

 Image of "Ancient Japanese Tomb Epitaphs" 
Japanese Archaeology Gallery  March 23, 2022 (Wed) - September 19, 2022 (Mon)

Epitaphs buried in graves contain information such as the names, dates of death, ages, social standings, governmental positions, and accomplishments of the deceased. In Japan, the custom of making epitaphs spread in conjunction with cremation from the second half of the 7th to the first half of the 8th century. It was practiced mainly among the nobility in the Kinai region, where Kyoto and Nara are located today.

 Image of "Tiles with Images of Buddhist Deities" 
Japanese Archaeology Gallery  March 23, 2022 (Wed) - September 19, 2022 (Mon)

Some ancient clay tiles feature images of Buddhist deities such as buddhas and bodhisattvas rendered in relief. To make these kind of tiles, a piece of clay was pressed against a wooden mold, dried, fired, and coated with paint or lacquer, or decorated with gold leaf or pigment. These tiles are believed to have decorated temple walls.

 Image of "Golden Roof Tiles for a Powerful Warlord" 
Japanese Archaeology Gallery  March 23, 2022 (Wed) - September 19, 2022 (Mon)

Roof tiles were used mainly on structures such as temples and shrines since ancient times. By the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1573–1603), however, many castles were being roofed with tiles bearing the family crests of local samurai lords. This section of the gallery showcases gilt roof tiles from two structures in Kyoto built for the renowned warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537–1598): Fushimi Castle and Jurakudai, a castle-like magnificent residence.

 Image of "Unearthed Ancient Temple" 
Japanese Archaeology Gallery  March 23, 2022 (Wed) - September 19, 2022 (Mon)

In 1947 and 1949, a team led by Tokyo National Museum staff excavated the site of a nonextant temple in Kyoto, called Shuzan Temple. Structures found on the site include a pagoda; the Central Hall; the Northern, Eastern, and Western Halls; and the Southern Gate, indicating it was a large temple complex. Analyses of excavated objects suggest that Shuzan Temple was built during the Asuka period (593–710) and that it had some connection with the Hata, a clan that settled in Japan after arriving from the Korean Peninsula.

 Image of "Sutra Mounds: Time Capsules for 5,670,000,000 Years" 
Japanese Archaeology Gallery  March 23, 2022 (Wed) - September 19, 2022 (Mon)

Sutra mounds were created from the Heian (794–1192) to the Edo (1603–1868) period for the purpose of preserving Buddhist sutra scrolls. The oldest example is a mound from which a cylinder containing sutras was excavated on Mt. Kinpu in Nara prefecture. It is believed that the Heian-period aristocrat Fujiwara no Michinaga dedicated this cylinder in 1007. The shape of a mound as well as the sutras and other objects it contains vary with its location and the time it was created. Sutras for these mounds were inscribed not only on paper but also on ceramic tiles, bronze plates, stones, shells, and other materials.

The creation of sutra mounds was motivated by the idea, which became widespread in the mid-Heian period, that Buddhist Law will decline 2,000 years after the Buddha’s death. A series of natural disasters and disturbances in society occurred around 1052, the year that this decline was thought to begin, leading people to draw connections. It was also believed that the Buddhist deity Maitreya would reappear in this world 5,670,000,000 years in the future and that Buddhism would prosper again. Sutra mounds were essentially time capsules meant to preserve sutra scrolls until the arrival of this age.

 Image of "Ancient Sutra Mounds: Objects Found at An’yōji Sutra Mounds in Okayama Prefecture" 
Japanese Archaeology Gallery  March 23, 2022 (Wed) - September 19, 2022 (Mon)

The An'yōji Sutra Mounds consist of three confirmed mounds, including the unintentional discovery of the first mound in 1937. A variety of objects have been unearthed from the first sutra mound: 208 tablets with sutra text, tablets with engraved images, stupa-shaped square rods with inscriptions, a ceramic stupa, small glass beads, and a cypress fan.

 Image of "Sutras Buried in Sutra Mounds: Sutra Inscribed onto Clay, Stone, or Bronze" 
Japanese Archaeology Gallery  March 23, 2022 (Wed) - September 19, 2022 (Mon)

Sutra mounds contain not only paper sutras, but also those inscribed onto clay, stone, or bronze tablets. These sutras have advantages over paper ones: they are less likely to decompose in the ground, and can be inscribed with text on all sides.

 Image of "Excavated Gold Coins from the Edo Period (1603–1868)" 
Japanese Archaeology Gallery  March 23, 2022 (Wed) - September 19, 2022 (Mon)

In 1956, a stash of gold coins from the Edo period including 208 koban and 60 ichibukin were excavated from the grounds of the Komatsu Store (now Ginza Komatsu) in the Ginza area of Tokyo. The grounds had been used by townspeople in the Edo period, but the reason why this stash of gold coins had been buried remains a mystery.

1st floor

 Image of "Timely Connections: Hidden Western-Style Paintings in Tokyo National Museum" 
Thematic Exhibition Room  June 7, 2022 (Tue) - July 18, 2022 (Mon)

In its early years, Tokyo National Museum collected paintings and prints in Western styles by living artists, though these works are rarely displayed due to current exhibition policies. The paintings and prints exhibited here show how the museum grew and evolved while maintaining close relationships with contemporary art and society.
This exhibition considers these works from three perspectives: I. Connections with the World, II. Connections with Contemporary Art, and III. Connections with Social Conditions.