News: Online Jomon Matsuri

Online Jomon Matsuri: An invitation to participate

We hope that this finds you, your families and colleagues safe and well at this time of great disruption and uncertainty around the world as a result of the Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic.

The lock-downs, changes in working practices, social distancing and other measures have had a major impact on all of our plans for 2020.

 We were planning a number of activities relating to Jomon archaeology starting in the summer of 2020, in particular two exhibitions: ‘Arts of Jomon’ at the Wiltshire Museum in Devizes, home to some of the finest materials from British prehistory, showcasing contemporary artistic responses to Jomon archaeology in Japan; and ‘Stonehenge and Jomon Japan’ at the Stonehenge World Heritage Visitor Centre, introducing Jomon archaeology, in particular Jomon stone circles, to the huge number of visitors who go to Stonehenge each year.

These exhibitions were intended to form part of the UK-Japan Season of Culture, marking the period between Japan hosting the Rugby World Cup in autumn 2019 and the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, now postponed to summer 2021. As a result of the current situation, plans for these exhibitions and many other projects are now sadly on hold.

As we wait for better times to return, and while it is not possible for people to get to experience the Jomon on sites or in museums, we invite you to join us in a new project to bring a little Jomon into people’s homes through an Online Jomon Matsuri, or Festival of Jomon.

The Jomon Matsuri aims to link up ongoing initiatives, specialists and organisations involved in Jomon, as well as revisiting some earlier projects, and provide a new way for audiences to engage with and participate in the pleasure, fun and excitement of Jomon archaeology. At the same time the Matsuri will build up a new resource about the Jomon which we hope will be of use to future generations of Jomon fans.

The Online Jomon Matsuri is a partnership between the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures, the Centre for Heritage Studies at the University of Cambridge and currently includes English Heritage, Wiltshire Museum, the International Jomon Culture Conference, Jomonism art collective, the Niigata Prefectural Museum of History, the Nagaoka Municipal Museum of Science and many more.

Each week, using social media, the Jomon Matsuri will highlight a particular Jomon pot, representing one of the hundreds of known pottery styles from around the Japanese archipelago, a dogu figurine or mask, and a contemporary artist interested in or inspired by Jomon, with some brief observations encouraging the audience to explore more through links to online resources, including new English language webpages. Each weekly post will also contain instructions about how to create your own Jomon-inspired masterpieces. A monthly competition will invite submissions of these new Jomon artworks, to be judged by an international panel of specialists. Jomon-themed prizes will be awarded and the best entries will feature in an online gallery.

Over the past few years we have also been working on Jomon Flame pots, and supporting the bid to have the Olympic cauldron for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics designed after a Flame pot.  And we have been taking a close interest in the promotion of the nomination of 17 Jomon sites in northern Japan for inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage list. We have been following the Japan Heritage initiative developed by the Japanese Government Agency for Cultural Affairs, and the Japan Insights project pioneered by the Toshiba International Foundation,  each of which include a number of Jomon sites.

We would be delighted if you would consider joining us in this venture. We hope to build on some recent an ongoing research projects in which we are involved and will be able to share details of our partners shortly. The project will draw on expertise developed through our Online Resource in Japanese Archaeology and Heritage and Global Perspectives in British Archaeology and Heritage.

We welcome all ideas, and in the first instance we are planning the following:

 Jomon Pottery Style of the Week: each week we will introduce a distinctive Jomon pottery style, its characteristics, distribution and chronology, the representative sites, a little about the research history, and any particularly interesting aspects of research. We intend that this will grow into a new online resource for people around the world who are unable to use Japanese-language resources, but who have an interest in Jomon archaeology.

Jomon dogu of the week: revisiting the success of the exhibitions The Power of Dogu at the British Museum in 2009 and the 10th anniversary of the comparative exhibition of prehistoric figurines from the Jomon and European Neolithic, unearthed, at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK in 2010, we will present a different dogu each week, with observations on how our understanding of these objects has changed over the past decade.

Jomon Contemporary: drawing on the inspiration behind the now-postponed exhibition of contemporary art inspired by Jomon at the Wiltshire Museum in Devizes, we plan to engage with contemporary artists to create an online gallery of their works, with observations and interventions from Jomon specialists and others.

More of research project: Online Jomon Matsuri