The set of islands that forms an archipelago to make Japan, is flanked by the Sea of Japan, North and South Korea, People's Republic of China, Russia, the Sea of Okhotsk, the East China Sea and Taiwan. The origin of the inhabitants of this beautiful island dates back to the upper Paleolithic period.
The traditional characters that make up the name 'Japan' actually mean 'sun-origin'. Thus, the sobriquet, 'Land of the Rising Sun'. The nation comprises of 3,000 islands of which Honshū, Kyūshū, Shikoku and Hokkaidō are the four largest islands accounting for over 95% of Japan's total land area.
Origin of the Nipponese
The archipelago of Japan is mentioned in Chinese historical texts, dating back to the first century A.D. Archaeologists have unearthed proof that the islands were inhabited as early as the Upper Paleolithic period. The island nation was consistently influenced by external forces who meandered their way to Asia, via the Pacific.
The Japanese people, traditionally referred to as 'Nipponjin' are members of a predominant ethnic group which includes the Yamato, Ainu, and Ryukyuans. Recent research on the ethnicity, displayed by the Nipponese, reveals that there is a strong genetic similarity among many populations in Asia.
The fraction of extant male lineages in Japan mainly arises out of the Y-chromosome patrilines that crossed over from the Asian mainland. The resultant genetic admixture was a characteristic of the Jōmon period.
The 'dual structure model' of Japanese genetics proposed in 1991 determines that most modern Japanese lineages are rooted in the Jōmon civilization and the early migrants of the Yayoi period.
The Jōmon people are believed to have migrated to the Japanese Archipelago during the Paleolithic period. Thus, the genetic similarity between Japanese people and those of the Yi, Hani, and Dai cultures of Asia is well established.
The population of migrants increased during the Neolithic period. Various Asian civilizations, including the Ryukyuan and Ainu people are believed to have extensively inhabited Kyūshū, Shikoku, Honshū, Okinawa and Hokkaido.
This theory is supported by the mitochondrial DNA comparisons made with fossilized remains of the Jōmon and medieval Ainu people found in the region. A parallel theory states that the origin of the Japanese lies in northeast Asia, as a result of a mass migration to Japan more than 30,000 years ago.
Archaeological evidence reveals that the archipelago was inhabited throughout the Stone Age. The Paleolithic period was characterized by a land bridge to Asia and groups of nomadic hunter-gatherers who meandered borders towards Japan from Siberia, Kamchatka and East Asia. Much of this history is gathered from the tools and pottery excavated.
Evidence of inhabitation by the Jōmon people during the Upper Paleolithic period (14th millennium BCE) also offers an insight into the culture of the subsequent Mesolithic hunter-gatherers, who initiated the primitive rice-growing agricultural practices still observed in rural China.
The origins are as intriguing and interesting as the culture synonymous with the region today. Migrations from North and Central Asia and resultant Ainu and Nivkhs populations that thrive to this day continue to flaunt a unique genetic make-up and affinities with diverse regional populations.
Distinct genetic links on chromosome patterns and archaeological data offer enough evidence of the commonalities between linked cultures and people. The Japanese continue to influence world culture and heritage with refined calligraphy, Haiku, sculpture, performing arts and in distinct set of achievements the world has today.