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On Jômon Ceramics*

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Abstract:

Okamoto Tarô is one the most prominent intellectuals and artists of postwar Japan. His “On Jômon Ceramics” marks the beginning of his engagement with prehistoric Japanese culture. Published in 1952 in the Japanese journal Mizue, the article was highly controversial as it challenged the common view that traced Japanese culture to the achievements and the refined ceramic tradition of the prehistoric Yayoi people and ascribed elegance and understatement to Japanese aesthetics. Okamoto, however, argued that the earlier Jômon culture, a hunting-gathering economy with a dynamically different ceramic tradition, was an equally important influence. Okamoto’s vision of Japanese culture as rough, explosive and even “surreal” anticipates an alternative understanding of what modernist artists, architects and the general public would subsequently consider as authentically “Japanese.”

Keywords: Japan; Jômon culture; ceramics; decoration; ethnography; hunting; magic; tradition

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2752/175613109787307645

Publication date: March 1, 2009

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