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December 1998

The Fifty-Year Progress of the Japanese Archaeological Association

Special Committee
for the Japanese Archaeological Association's
50th Anniversary Commemorative Publications

On 15 August 1945, after accepting the terms of the Potsdam Declaration, Japan surrendered unconditionally to the Allied Powers. Those born in the first decade of the Sho^wa era (1926-1935) will surely recall being made in class to ink out portions of the school texts they had been using up to that time, in the new school term following summer vacation. In particular, the chapter on the nation's founding in the grade school history texts, which had been filled with the ancient myths in the manner of the long used Jinjo^ sho^gaku kokushi, was almost entirely blackened with ink.

In this fashion, with the war's end Japanese archaeology was suddenly thrust in front of the nation's view: in place of the deities from the nation's founding myths, a brutish Stone Age Man stepped forth onto page one of Japanese history, inspiring a sense of wonderment in the citizens, particularly those of the younger generation. And as if to spur on this movement, the newspapers were filled day after day with news of the Toro excavation.

While the discovery of the Toro Site dates back to the wartime period, once the confusion immediately after the defeat saw some relief and stability finally began to return to the daily life of the citizenry, a call was made for serious investigation of this site. Then in March 1947, researchers in Tokyo gathered to form the Committee for the Investigation of Toro (chaired by Tokyo University Professor Imai Toshiki). In addition to archaeologists, researchers in the fields of ancient history, geology, botany, architectural history, and the history of agricultural economy were appointed to the committee, with various universities and research institutes participating in a joint excavation under their leadership. It this manner, with the unprecedented organization of an interdisciplinary investigative team, excavations were conducted over a fifty day period from July 14 to September 3, 1947, leading, among other results, to the detection of rice paddies from the Yayoi period for the first time.

As the 1947 investigation uncovered only a fraction of the area at the Toro Site, a full-scaled excavation was planned, and while it is hardly conceivably today, a direct subsidy in national funds was approved by the Diet. The 1947 excavations were conducted by the Committee for the Investigation of Toro with a Ministry of Education Scientific Research Grant made individually to Meiji University Professor Goto^ Shuichi, but in order to receive a direct subsidy, an organization in which scholars participate on a nationwide basis was needed to serve as the investigating body. Accordingly, the First Archaeological Conference was held in December 1947, while the enthusiasm generated by Toro was still fresh, in order to establish a nationwide academic organization. A Second Archaeological Conference was held in January of the following year, and as early as February 1948, a Preparations Committee for Establishing the Japanese Archaeological Association was formed.

In this manner, a General Meeting establishing the Association was held in April 1948, and simultaneous with its start, a special committee was formed. It goes without saying that this was the Special Committee for the Investigation of Toro, which developed through a reorganization of the previous year's Committee for the Investigation of Toro, and subsequently conducted excavations at the site on a revised five-year plan. Then in May 1949, Special Committees were established for comprehensive research on kofun, for the typological study of Jomon culture, for investigating the current state of Japanese archaeology, for examining legal measures regarding excavations and artifacts; additional Special Committees were set up in April 1951 for comprehensive research on Yayoi culture, and at the end of the 1950s, for the comprehensive investigation of northwest Kyushu, making a total of eleven such committees (see the Table in this volume of the Special Committees established by the Association for details).

In this manner, from its establishment in April 1948 through the late 1950s, as witnessed in the case of the excavation of Toro which directly occasioned the Association's establishment, Special Committees were set up concerning important research issues facing Japanese archaeology, and joint research was promoted among Association members and outside researchers. Needless to say, these committees played a significant role in the development of postwar Japanese archaeology.

With the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, Japanese industry was revitalized by the wartime demand. Then, with the "high economic growth" policy from the latter half of the 1950s, Japan launched into a period of large-scale development. As a result, conditions surrounding the Association also changed greatly. There was pressing need for a firm response to the destruction of sites brought by this development, not only on the part of archaeological researchers, but for the Association itself as their nationwide organization.

At the 1958 General Meeting, a resolution was passed requesting emergency measures be taken for the protection of buried cultural properties in connection with the preservation of the Heijo^ Palace Site and the construction of the Meishin Highway, leading to the immediate establishment of a Special Committee on Policy Concerning Construction of the Meishin Highway, and also setting the Association's stance in response to large-scale development. But with the development policy from the time of the Ikeda Cabinet's "income-doubling" plan, the destruction of sites became an even more acute problem. In response, the Association established a Sub-committee on Cultural Properties Policy in 1962, but from around that time, even sites well-known among the nation's citizens, ranging from the Heijo^ Palace Site in the west to the Kasori Shell Midden in the east, faced the danger of destruction. In coordination with other organizations, such as the Cultural Properties Preservation Policy Council and the Kansai Cultural Properties Preservation Council, which formed during the campaign to preserve the Heijo^ Palace Site, the Association expanded the movement and succeeded in halting the destruction of Heijo^ and the Kasori Midden, and in preserving these sites.

In 1963, the year in which the movement to preserve the Heijo^ Palace Site and Kasori Shell Midden was unfolding, the ratio of salvage versus research investigations among the number of registered excavations reversed for the first time, and from then on, salvage work expanded with ever increasing speed. In face of this destruction of archaeological sites, the Association reorganized its Sub-committee on Cultural Properties Policy, and established the Special Committee on Policy for the Preservation of Buried Cultural Properties, from a need to strengthen the organized activities of the Association in this area. In 1971 this changed from a special to a standing committee (known in abbreviated fashion as the Cultural Properties Committee), and has continued to the present.

A detailed account of the activities of the Cultural Properties Committee, and the special committee that served as its precursor, will be left to the section in this volume dealing with the those bodies' records, but it can be said in general that the Association's assertive pronouncements, as a nationwide organization of archaeologists, on problems of site preservation, and its assumption thereby a meaningful role in society as an academic society, are important landmarks in the Associations' fifty year history.

In 1968, as the Association completed its twentieth year, its membership had grown to 540, nearly sevenfold the 81 at the time of its establishment. But the outlines of the organization itself had not been revised in the interim, leading to problems of dissatisfaction or distrust regarding the Association's management, as often happens with organizations over time. Moreover, with renewal of the United States-Japan Security Treaty just several years away, vigorous student protests were held nationwide, and as these began to resort to more violent means, the so-called campus riots intensified. At a time when conditions both within and outside of the Association were thus extremely difficult, and with interruptions from students shouting "Dismantle the Association!", the 1970 General and Academic Meetings had to be completely canceled.

In the midst of these difficult times, the Association formed a provisional committee in October 1970, and established a Sub-committee on the Problem of the Association's Reform. Then, from February through March of 1971, by measures such as holding regional discussions on the reform of the Association, the entire organization was given over to the purpose of democratic self-reform. Finally, at the 37th General Meeting held in May 1971, a position based on the five basic principles of "autonomy, democracy, equality, reciprocity, openness," and a revision of the Association's regulations which expressly stipulated the duty as researchers to "carry out social responsibility," were adopted in a unanimous vote, and the Association began a new start.

The plan for "remodeling the Japanese archipelago" adopted by the Tanaka Cabinet in 1969, in contrast to the previous development policies which aimed primarily at developing Japan's core areas, was an unprecedented plan for development on a grand scale, extending over the entire nation. While there had been frequent cases until then in which the interests of development and preservation clashed, such friction was greatly exacerbated by the Tanaka Plan.

In order to alleviate this opposition, the view that fundamental revision to the Cultural Properties Law was necessary began to gain widespread support. This came not only among the researchers and residents who had supported the preservation movement up to that time, but included sincere demands from government officials as well. For example, a conference of the Cultural Properties Preservation Section Chiefs of the six prefectural governments of the Kinki region, held in August 1970, compiled a report "On the Need for, and Direction of, Revision to the Cultural Properties Law," and in June 1972, national councils of prefectural Superintendents of Education, and of Directors of Boards of Education, collectively submitted to the Minister of Education a petition calling for revisions to the law, and specifying particular aspects for revision. Included were a number of important issues, such as the "permit system for excavations," the "stipulation that the burden is to be borne by the developer," and the "strengthening of penalties," whose resolution is still a pressing concern today.

The Association itself, as summarized in the section on "Prospects and Future Policy" of the 1971 publication White Paper on Buried Cultural Properties, took up the problem of revision to the Cultural Properties Law in earnest fashion from the very start, and agreeing at the 39th General Meeting, held in 1973, to submit a petition calling for fundamental revision to the law on eight counts, it has promoted this movement in coordination with other academic societies. Unfortunately, however, no action has been taken on the issue of fundamental revision to the law, with only legal measures being taken for a system to cope with development.

In parallel with these legal measures, the Agency for Cultural Affairs adopted a policy of promoting the establishment of Buried Cultural Properties Centers as major facilities of national and regional public organizations, in order to build a system for dealing with the expansion of excavations that accompanied development. As a result, from 1975 on, the numbers of cultural properties management specialists have increased, particularly at the level of city, town, and village governments.

The rapid expansion of the Association's membership from the latter half of the 1970s is a product of this increase in these specialists, and the Association's more open stance after the reforms mentioned above. At present, the greater portion of the members are cultural properties management specialists, so that researchers working in government agencies now dominate the organization.

When the Association opened the fiftieth year since its founding with the May 1998 General Meeting, its members numbered 3,387 persons. The number of research papers now presented at the General and Academic Meetings is so great that sessions must be held simultaneously in a number of meeting rooms, with the contents covering not only prehistory and ancient history, but following the trends of recent research, papers on medieval and early modern periods and on research in foreign countries have also increased, giving the rich variety of research seen today (see the Table in this volume of papers presented at the Association's General and Academic Meetings). The publisher's display section at the Meetings also assumes the bustle of a crowded bargain sale. But in sharp contrast to this surface level of vitality, as noted in the explanation accompanying the "Brief Chronological Table of the Japanese Archaeological Association," lies a very demanding test for the organization.

Article 2 of the Association's Regulations, following the five basic principles (autonomy, democracy, equality, reciprocity, openness), proclaims that in addition to "promoting the advance of archaeology, "the Association will" as a nationwide organization of archaeologists, enhance exchange and cooperation among its members and with related organizations, make earnest improvements in research conditions, and strive to execute its social responsibility for the preservation of cultural properties." Further, as a draft for articles of incorporation as a public-service corporation, in the spirit of Clause 2 of the current Regulations, Clause 4 provides that "this corporation will, in accordance with the principles of autonomy, democracy, equality, reciprocity, and openness, conduct archaeological research, promote exchange and cooperation among archaeologists and with related organizations, improve research conditions for archaeologists, strive to execute its social responsibility for the preservation of cultural properties, and in this manner, take its purpose as contributing to the advance of scholarship and culture."

The Special Committee for the 50th Anniversary Memorial Publications would like to conclude this account with an assertion: that at no point in the fifty year history of the Japanese Archaeological Association has the need for each individual member to reaffirm the purpose of the Association's existence as given in the Regulations been as great as it is now.