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Girls, Don't Fight! We Can All be Japanese!!


Below is the alternative poster for the Jomon vs. Yayoi exhibit. I recently found an article by Mr. Guns, Germs, and Steel Jared Diamond on the origins of the Japanese, and after examining linguistic, archeological and DNA evidence, he concludes — brace yourself, young ones — that the Japanese are primarily descendants from Korean immigrants of the Yayoi period (D’oh!).

I’ve always considered this highly political debate from a boring historical-linguistic angle, and what’s fascinated me recently is the idea that the languages of Paekche and Koguryo — which were different than the proto-Korean language of Shilla — could be the missing link between Japanese and Korean. Unfortunately, these languages are long extinct, and any musings on this matter are little more than speculation. But don’t fight girls, maybe we can find some new theory of Jomon-Yayoi interaction that makes the Japanese into some adequately “unique” ethnicity.

W. David MARX (Marxy)
August 9, 2005

Marxy wrote a lot of essays back on his old site Néomarxisme. This is one of them.

7 Responses

  1. Carl Says:

    I want that poster almost as much as I want an “Anne Suzuki.” Oh to live (and steal posters) in Tokyo, instead of merely visiting it and looking at posters.

  2. Chris_B Says:

    saw that poster in Otemachi station and was wondering if there would be a third with the Yayoi girl in the dominant pose to balance things out.

  3. guest Says:

    Fascinating article. Diamond doesn’t put much stock in the theory “that the Japanese gradually evolved from ancient Ice Age people who occupied Japan long before 20,000 B.C.” and it sounds like more cold water has been poured on that version of Japanese prehistory in the wake of archaeologist Shinichi “God’s Hands” Fujimura having been caught red-handed falsifying artifacts by the Mainichi Shimbun:

    The above BBC story has some great pictures, while the Harvard Asia Quarterly article below has more in-depth information on the scandal and the history and politics of Japanese archaeology in general, some of which might come as a surprise, as this did to me:

    “A grass-roots tradition in Japanese archaeology first developed after World War II as a reaction against the imperial history propounded by the prewar government. It was strengthened by the student movement of the 1960s and 1970s, which sought to release academic disciplines from their ivory towers.”

    Also, geneticist Spencer Wells’ Genographic Project should provide great evidence for debates about human migration:

    Check out Y-Chromosomes M130 (Haplogroup C) and M174 (Haplogroup D), both found in Japan. I must admit I’m not exactly sure how to interpret this information: I understand that it shows the path these genetic markers took (by migration and through generations), but I’m unclear about the timescale. Am I missing something, or is it ambiguous as written?

  4. guest Says:

    And judging from these posters, it would seem that both the ancient Jomon and Yayoi peoples can be found at psychedelic trance parties throughout the Japanese archipeligo…

  5. Sameer Says:

    The alternative poster is freaking awesome. They should settle it in the 女子プロレス ring.

    I’ve always thought that the prosody of the Korean and Japanese languages sounds similar. Then again, I know nothing about Korean, so correct me if I sound ignorant…

  6. marxy Says:

    I’m not a linguistic expert, but from what I’ve heard, Japanese and Korean have very similar grammars, but these are generally “typographical” similiarities that cannot be used to prove a genetic connection. The Old versions of languages share very few lexical items; maybe less than 150 have been attested. If there is any connection between the languages, they split a very long time ago from the same source.

  7. marxy Says:

    Guest: thanks for the great links. I had no idea about the tradition of amateur archeology in Japan. That National Geographic gene project is really interesting, but I, too, could not really figure out what to make of those two gene migrations. My guess is that they’re such broad groupings that it doesn’t answer much other than, yes, the Japanese are related to other Asians.

    From looking over the Yayoi vs. Jomon information, I would say that no one seems to dispute that the Jomon were either Ainu-related or Austronesian and the Yayoi were Korean. The question is whether the Yayoi totally replaced the Jomon – making the Japanese essentially Korean – or whether there was mixing. There must have been some degree of mixing, but the DNA evidence and bone comparisons seem to say that the Japanese are essentially Korean immigrants.