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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Did Japanese Originated From Koreans ?

During the Ice Ages, land bridges connected Japan's main islands to one another and to the mainland, allowing mammals ― including humans ― to arrive on foot. Archeologists have proposed four conflicting theories. Most popular in Japan is the view that the Japanese gradually evolved from ancient Ice Age people who occupied Japan long before 20,000 B.C. Also widespread in Japan is a theory that the Japanese descended from horse-riding Asian nomads who passed through Korea to conquer Japan in the fourth century, but who were themselves ― emphatically ― not Koreans. A theory favored by many Western archeologists and Koreans, and unpopular in some circles in Japan, is that the Japanese are descendants of immigrants from Korea who arrived with rice-paddy agriculture around 400 B.C. Finally, the fourth theory holds that the peoples named in the other three theories could have mixed to form the modern Japanese.

Why do they care so much? Unlike most other non-European countries, Japan preserved its independence and culture while emerging from isolation to create an industrialized society in the late nineteenth century. It was a remarkable achievement. Now the Japanese people are understandably concerned about maintaining their traditions in the face of massive Western cultural influences. They want to believe that their distinctive language and culture required uniquely complex developmental processes. To acknowledge a relationship of the Japanese language to any other language seems to constitute a surrender of cultural identity.

What makes it especially difficult to discuss Japanese archeology dispassionately is that Japanese interpretations of the past affect present behavior. Who among East Asian peoples brought culture to whom? Who has historical claims to whose land? These are not just academic questions. For instance, there is much archeological evidence that people and material objects passed between Japan and Korea in the period A.D. 300 to 700. Japanese interpret this to mean that Japan conquered Korea and brought Korean slaves and artisans to Japan; Koreans believe instead that Korea conquered Japan and that the founders of the Japanese imperial family were Korean.

Thus, when Japan sent troops to Korea and annexed it in 1910, Japanese military leaders celebrated the annexation as “the restoration of the legitimate arrangement of antiquity.” For the next 35 years, Japanese occupation forces tried to eradicate Korean culture and to replace the Korean language with Japanese in schools. The effort was a consequence of a centuries-old attitude of disdain. “Nose tombs” in Japan still contain 20,000 noses severed from Koreans and brought home as trophies of a sixteenth-century Japanese invasion. Not surprisingly, many Koreans loathe the Japanese, and their loathing is returned with contempt.

What really was “the legitimate arrangement of antiquity”? Today, Japan and Korea are both economic powerhouses, facing each other across the Korea Strait and viewing each other through colored lenses of false myths and past atrocities. It bodes ill for the future of East Asia if these two great peoples cannot find common ground. To do so, they will need a correct understanding of who the Japanese people really are.

Since languages change over time, the more similar two languages are, the more recently they must have diverged. By counting common words and features, linguists can estimate how long ago languages diverged, and such estimates suggest that Japanese and Korean parted company at least 4,000 years ago. As for the Ainu language, its origins are thoroughly in doubt; it may not have any special relationship to Japanese. After genes and language, a third type of evidence about Japanese origins comes from ancient portraits. The earliest preserved likenesses of Japan's inhabitants are statues called haniwa, erected outside tombs around 1,500 years ago. Those statues unmistakably depict East Asians. They do not resemble the heavily bearded Ainu. If the Japanese did replace the Ainu in Japan south of Hokkaido, that replacement must have occurred before A.D. 500.

Our earliest written information about Japan comes from Chinese chronicles, because China developed literacy long before Korea or Japan. In early Chinese accounts of various peoples referred to as “Eastern Barbarians", Japan is described under the name Wa, whose inhabitants were said to be divided into more than a hundred quarreling states. Only a few Korean or Japanese inscriptions before A.D. 700 have been preserved, but extensive chronicles were written in 712 and 720 in Japan and later in Korea. Those reveal massive transmission of culture to Japan from Korea itself, and from China via Korea. The chronicles are also full of accounts of Koreans in Japan and of Japanese in Korea 。X interpreted by Japanese or Korean historians, respectively, as evidence of Japanese conquest of Korea or the reverse.

To understand the answer to this paradox, we have to remember that until 400 B.C., the Korea Strait separated not rich farmers from poor hunter-gatherers, but poor farmers from rich hunter-gatherers. China itself and Jomon Japan were probably not in direct contact. Instead Japan's trade contacts, such as they were, involved Korea. But rice had been domesticated in warm southern China and spread only slowly northward to much cooler Korea, because it took a long time to develop cold-resistant strains of rice. Early rice agriculture in Korea used dry-field methods rather than irrigated paddies and was not particularly productive. Hence early Korean agriculture could not compete with Jomon hunting and gathering. Jomon people themselves would have seen no advantage in adopting Korean agriculture, insofar as they were aware of its existence, and poor Korean farmers had no advantages that would let them force their way into Japan. As we shall see, the advantages finally reversed suddenly and dramatically.

More than 10,000 years after the invention of pottery and the subsequent Jomon population explosion, a second decisive event in Japanese history triggered a second population explosion. Around 400 B.C., a new lifestyle arrived from South Korea. This second transition poses in acute form our question about who the Japanese are. Does the transition mark the replacement of Jomon people with immigrants from Korea, ancestral to the modern Japanese? Or did Japan's original Jomon inhabitants continue to occupy Japan while learning valuable new tricks?

Which of the three theories is correct for Japan? The only direct way to answer this question is to compare Jomon and Yayoi skeletons and genes with those of modern Japanese and Ainu. Measurements have now been made of many skeletons. In addition, within the last three years molecular geneticists have begun to extract DNA from ancient human skeletons and compare the genes of Japan's ancient and modern populations. Jomon and Yayoi skeletons, researchers find, are on the average readily distinguishable. Jomon people tended to be shorter, with relatively longer forearms and lower legs, more wide-set eyes, shorter and wider faces, and much more pronounced facial topography, with strikingly raised browridges, noses, and nose bridges. Yayoi people averaged an inch or two taller, with close-set eyes, high and narrow faces, and flat browridges and noses. Some skeletons of the Yayoi period were still Jomon-like in appearance, but that is to be expected by almost any theory of the Jomon-Yayoi transition. By the time of the kofun period, all Japanese skeletons except those of the Ainu form a homogeneous group, resembling modern Japanese and Koreans.

In all these respects, Jomon skulls differ from those of modern Japanese and are most similar to those of modern Ainu, while Yayoi skulls most resemble those of modern Japanese. Similarly, geneticists attempting to calculate the relative contributions of Korean-like Yayoi genes and Ainu-like Jomon genes to the modern Japanese gene pool have concluded that the Yayoi contribution was generally dominant. Thus, immigrants from Korea really did make a big contribution to the modern Japanese, though we cannot yet say whether that was because of massive immigration or else modest immigration amplified by a high rate of population increase. Genetic studies of the past three years have also at last resolved the controversy about the origins of the Ainu: they are the descendants of Japan's ancient Jomon inhabitants, mixed with Korean genes of Yayoi colonists and of the modern Japanese.

Given the overwhelming advantage that rice agriculture gave Korean farmers, one has to wonder why the farmers achieved victory over Jomon hunters so suddenly, after making little headway in Japan for thousands of years. What finally tipped the balance and triggered the Yayoi transition was probably a combination of four developments: the farmers began raising rice in irrigated fields instead of in less productive dry fields; they developed rice strains that would grow well in a cool climate; their population expanded in Korea, putting pressure on Koreans to emigrate; and they invented iron tools that allowed them to mass-produce the wooden shovels, hoes, and other tools needed for rice-paddy agriculture. That iron and intensive farming reached Japan simultaneously is unlikely to have been a coincidence.

History gives the Japanese and the Koreans ample grounds for mutual distrust and contempt, so any conclusion confirming their close relationship is likely to be unpopular among both peoples. Like Arabs and Jews, Koreans and Japanese are joined by blood yet locked in traditional enmity. But enmity is mutually destructive, in East Asia as in the Middle East. As reluctant as Japanese and Koreans are to admit it, they are like twin brothers who shared their formative years. The political future of East Asia depends in large part on their success in rediscovering those ancient bonds between them.

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