Japanese Hisory: Hemp in the Yayoi Period

Photo from Japanese Woodcuttings from Nômin Seikatsushi Jiten (Historic Encyclopedia of Farmer's Lives)

[The] Yayoi period produced major changes in Japan as "foreigners" imported more advanced practices and quickly made the indigenous Japanese adapt their ways. Most signifant was the spread of agriculture and clan-like social arrangement.

The people of these times lived in patriarchal groups and wore clothes made of hemp and bark, a technique which continued on for hundreds of years. At this time also the complex Shinto system of multiple patriarchal diety developed, as numerous clans each adopted a patron saint. (Hooker)

By that time, hemp had successfully adapted to the Japanese climate and spread throughout the latitudes. Even on the northern island of Hokkaido, the indigenous Ainu made their colorful costumes from the fiber during the Yayoi period around the 3rd century AD. (Constantine)

Thus, hemp was already a well-established crop in many parts of Japan by the time written language was commonly used, and the first "official" recorded history appears as the Nihon Shoki (Chronicle of Japan), published by Crown Prince Shotoku in 710 AD (soon after the introduction of paper making, Chinese writing and Buddhism).

Trade and communication between China, Korea and Japan faded over the next few centuries as each country led it's own secluded path. Japan did continue for a while to send scholars and students to learn medicine, agriculture and science from the Chinese and bring the best of it back home, including the Kampo (Chinese medicine) ancient pharmacopoeia developped by Lao Tzu. This system of health and treatment utilized many forms of the hemp plant to treat a variety of illnesses.

A translated account reads "Hemp preparations are especially used as a laxative, to treat asthma & poisonous bites, worm animals, counteract skin ailments and as a general tonic to promote vigor. "(Drake) "

- retrieved from Hempen Culture in Japan on August 3, 2012

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Japanese Hemp: Nômin Seikatsushi Jiten (Historic Encyclopedia of Farmer's Lives)