by Yumi Ryujin
Kawagoe Goodwill Ambassador for Tourism

§ No. 4

Edward Sylvester Morse, an American who discovered the "cord marked pottery" produced in the Jomon Period, and his trips to Kawagoe

Welcome to Kawagoe! Kawagoe is an old town whose history can be traced back to the Old Stone Age. I would like to tell you a story about the Kawagoe of olden times. This story is about Edward Sylvester Morse, an American who discovered the "cord marked pottery" produced in the Jomon Period, and his trips to Kawagoe. This is number four in the series of stories about Kawagoe.
The American Zoologist, Edward Morse
In history textbooks for high schools in Japan, you will find the name Edward Morse. He is introduced as the person who discovered the Shell Mounds of Omori in Tokyo. He arrived in Yokohama on June 17, 1877, to conduct research in Japan. Two days later, he got on a train in Yokohama bound for Shimbashi. As soon as he left Omori Station, he saw exposed white shells in a road cutting along the railroad and recognized them as belonging to a shell mound. Through an excavation that started in September, he was able to gather many magnificent potsherds from ancient pottery.
Edward Sylvester Morse
Edward Sylvester Morse
Collection of Maine Historical Society
Who Produced the Term "Jomon"?
In 1879, he published a report entitled "Shell Mounds of Omori." The last sentence includes the expression "cord marked pottery." SHIRAI Mitsutaro, later a botanist, translated it as "Jomon" and the term became popular among us for referring to the period before the rice farming culture was brought to Japan (the time in Prehistoric Japan from about 12,000 BC and in some cases cited as early as 14,500 BC to about 300 BC). Afterward, Morse became an archaeologist, folklorist and an anthropologist in addition to being a zoologist.
Morse and Kuroiwa-Yokoana
In August 1879, Morse decided to investigate the caves called "Kuroiwa-Yokoana" near "Yoshimi-no-hyakuana" in Higashi-matsuyama, Saitama Prefecture. They were excavated for the first time by NEGISHI Takeka in 1877. MIYAOKA Tsunejiro, a boy of only 13, and TAKENAKA Seiken, his elder brother, attended Morse and interpreted for him. They were real brothers but Seiken was adopted into the Takenaka family. Later they both traveled all over Japan with Earnest Fenollosa as interpreters.
They departed Tokyo on August 10, 1879 and arrived in Kawagoe via the Nakasendo Road. That night, they stayed at the house of MIYAOKA Tomojiro, their uncle. The next morning, they left Kawagoe for Kuroiwa-Yokoana, investigated the caves and stayed at Negishi's house. A document kept by the Miyaoka family tells us that Morse ate cooked locust. Was it tasty, Edward? The Miyaoka family have kept a knife shop called "Machikan" along the "Kura no machi Ichibangai Street" (Map C-3) since the Edo Period.
Morse Visits Kawagoe Again
In 1882, Morse decided to visit Kuroiwa-Yokoana again. On October 6, he left Tokyo with TAKENAKA and William Begelow, who later became famous as a Japanese art historian. In the morning of October 8, they investigated the caves and returned to Kawagoe. Morse lectured to an audience in Kawagoe on the ancient race of Japan at TAKENAKA's request. That night, they stayed with the Miyaoka family again and the next morning, they visited the Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine (Map E-1).
The Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine and Morse
YAMADA Morii, the chief Shinto priest of the Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine, wrote in his diary about the visit of Morse on October 9, 1882. When he showed Morse a jar discovered in Mt. Kirishima, Kagoshima Prefecture, Morse told him that it could be more than 2,000 years old. Morse envied the priest and asked if he could have the jar. Since Yamada loved the jar, he declined. When Yamada showed him some old roofing tiles, Morse said that he had not studied sufficiently to be able to give an expert opinion about the tiles. Yamada described him as having "no false pride, so charming." He also admired Morse as a true knowledgeable professional.
by courtesy of Kawagoe City Education Board
The construction of the main building at the Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine started in 1842 and finished in 1849. At the beginning of the Meiji Period, it was not at all regarded as being important from the point of view of cultural heritage. It is said the people realized its importance because of the visit of Morse. If you trace the history of Japanese national treasures, you will discover that OKAKURA Tenshin was instrumental in moving the government to repeatedly designate items as national treasures on the advice of Fenollosa, Morse and Begelow.
The main building of the Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine
Tha main building of the Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine
Why don't you visit the Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine and check the back of the main building? You will see the beautiful carvings that Morse looked at.
Carvings of the main building
Carvings of the main building
Please visit Kawagoe again! We welcome you!
©Yumi Ryujin   All rights reserved.

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