38 , 2017-03-17 , International Research Center for Japanese Studies
It was once thought that the prominence of Izumo gods in imperial myth was merely a function of literary structure, the creation of an antagonist to enhance the power and prestige of the Yamato polity. The idea that Izumo was, in archeological terms, insignificant in the context of discoveries in other regions contributed to theories that Izumo’s importance in imperial myth was due entirely to narrative logic. With the archeological discoveries at Kanba Kōjindani in present-day Izumo City in July of 1984 and those in August 1996 at the Kamo Iwakura site in present-day Unnan City, it was no longer tenable that Izumo myth did not reflect a political and material reality during the mid to late Yayoi period. This article is an overview of the archeological evidence as a prologue to an examination of Izumo myth. It argues that the transition from Jōmon to Yayoi required about three to four centuries. It then takes up a series of archeological discoveries that establish that Izumo was the center of an Izumo cultural zone, not technologically inferior to the Kinai region. The article argues further, based in part on the evidence of tumuli and other forms of burial, that Izumo remained relatively independent through the sixth or early-seventh century, but it questions the meaning of Izumo’s “surrender” to Yamato in the context of sixth or seventh century Japan.