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Shakado Museum of Jomon Culture


Over thirty years ago when the Yamanashi portion of the Chuo Expressway was being built, small earthenware objects were found just a meter underground. Some were just small fragments of perhaps an arm or a leg while others were beautiful crafted heads, vases, and others. Thus began the excavation of the Shakado Iseki Archeological Site. Since then, just a few miles out from the Chuo Expressway, the Shakado Museum of Jomon Culture was developed to display these magnificent objects and help spread awareness for this important period of Japanese history. 


The second floor of the museum holds the main display room where you are immediately greeted with hundreds of beautifully crafted clay pieces that all glimmer slightly under the museum lights. Most Jomon artifacts are usually found in pieces like this no matter where you go and from analyzing the pieces archeologists have found that most of them were broken pre-burial. One interesting possible explanation for this is that the Jomon people may have purposely broken every piece before burying them with some sort of meaning behind (perhaps like the Greek custom of plate smashing).

Past the fragments you’ll get to meet the beauties of Shakado Miss Shakka-chan and Miss Shakko-chan, two Dogū heads that are adorably called the Venus’ of the museum.

Crossing towards the back of the museum you can see a life-size diorama of what a day in the life of a Jomonian may have looked like, as well as a whole section dedicated to Jomon Doki. To your left is an array of upside-down vases. It is said the Jomon people were a matriarchal society that valued women and childbirth greatly. And with it being a period before hospitals, doctors, and even anti-biotics many children died during or before childbirth or even in their first few years of life. It is theorized that a lot of the Dogū were of pregnant women so that they could pray for the safety of the child. And when a child died, they would bury place in one of the large earthenware pots and bury that at the entrance of the house. That way the mother and child would stay connected every day, and perhaps some sort of regeneration would take place and the child’s soul would return to the mother through a hole at the top of the pot. 



Of course, not all Jomon era Doki pots were for burial and many of them were made to store and also cook the fruits, nuts, and berries that made up most of the Jomon diet. With regeneration a big belief for the Jomon people it is also thought that the unique snake designs on their food vessels were their own prayers for rebirth and regeneration (perhaps connected to the image of a snake shedding its skin and seeming reborn).



Snakes weren’t the only things that made Jomon designs so special and as you walk through the section of earthenware vessels make sure to pay attention to the changing patterns, designs, and even shapes across the years. Each and every piece is truly a testament to the pottery skills and attention to detail the Jomon people had.

On your visit to Shakado don’t forget to check out these pieces and much more, and if you manage to meet the very passionate Museum Curator Mr. Ichinose, he’ll definitely turn you into a fanatic just like himself! (And maybe you’ll even get to see some pieces hidden in the back, who knows~?)

Getting there: 764, Senbeiji, Ichinomiya-cho, Fuefuki City, Yamanashi

                      15 minutes on foot from the "Shakado Iriguchi (entrance)" bus stop




Published on

  • February 15, 2021


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