In July 2015, I was the guest of the Japanese Society of Dowsing for a little over two weeks. After some intensive workshops, their President Nobuo Kato arranged visits to some of Japan’s ancient sites.
The northern part of Japan contains some fascinating and little-known remains of the Jomon culture, a Neolithic people whose society lasted for more than 10,000 years from 13,000BC to around 300BC. Unlike other Neolithic cultures, the Jomon never settled into a standard agrarian society, yet they produced some highly developed artistic artefacts, notably decorated pots and elaborate humanoid figurines called “Dogu”. Some pottery fragments have been dated at 16,000 years old, making them the oldest ceramic work known, predating even Mesopotamian culture by at least 2,000 years. In the later Jomon period, roughly 4,000 years before present, they built many stone circles; these are roughly contemporary with the European phase of megalithic construction.
In a Jomon circle there are very few large stones, and even fewer upright ones. The largest are a mere 200kg or so, often chosen for their colour or other qualities and frequently transported from farther afield. The Jomon seemed to favour green-coloured river-rounded oval stones, particularly those with a high quartz content. The general form of the circles is a double ring, with a central stone feature surrounded by a ring of stones, which in turn is enclosed by a much larger ring leaving a substantial clear area between the two. In this clear area it seems to be general practice to have at least one single standing stone surrounded by a radial ‘sunburst’ pattern of recumbent stones, rather like a small medicine wheel – in fact the overall ‘feel’ of these circles is more akin to a North American medicine wheel. There may be other smaller stone arrangements with upright stones in the inner or outer rings, but in general the rings are a jumbled mess of stones with only a few small areas displaying any cohesive structure.
Komakino is the site closest to the airport at Aomori, and that’s the one we visited first. The construction effort involved in creating this site is impressive. Situated on the side of a large hill, the Jomon people carved a substantial slice from the side of the hill and used the material to build outwards, creating a large level platform on which to construct the circle. To the east there would have been a spectacular view over the valley towards the sacred Mount Hakkoda, but today the view is blocked by trees.
With an inner ring of 29m diameter and the outer ring 35m diameter this is a large site to explore. A finger of unexcavated ground has been left to enable visitor access to the centre of the circle (generally access to inside the circles is prohibited). Both rings appear as low berms; long oval stones are laid vertically on both sides with horizontal stones stacked between them, almost like a stone fence. Around the perimeter there is evidence of three or four adjacent circular formations and some linear stone remains whose purpose was unclear. Other small features dot both the inner and outer rings, creating a jumbled appearance in jarring contrast to the ordered geometry of Western circles. The two main features in the circle, containing the largest erect stones, mark an alignment to the midsummer sunrise.
On the eastern, or valley, side are a number of small cist burials covered by low grassy mounds. Other evidence of habitation has been found nearby, such as storage pits and water sources, so it appears that these sites played a prominent everyday role in the community. This is one of the main differences with Western circles that I noticed; the circles here are closely associated with the everyday activity of the community.
The next day we visited the Oyu stone circles, a very large site with two circles divided by a road. The structure of both is broadly similar to the Komakino circle and both contain the same characteristic ‘sundial’ feature. Here the alignment runs through both circles providing a very long sightline, marking the midwinter sunrise and midsummer sunset. The eastern circle, called Nonakado, appears more isolated and may have had a more ceremonial purpose as it has a gentler and more peaceful feel to it. Although unrecorded, I identified what is almost certainly an equinoctial sunrise alignment at this circle.
The western ‘Manza’ circle is much busier, with a more masculine feel and the remains of many huts right around the edge of the circle, with the outlines of other structures close by. Clearly this was the central focus of a substantial settlement and was in regular use by the populace. To the north-west, a ring of posts defines the core of one of the buildings, its entrance aligned, like the major alignment of the site, to midwinter sunrise. I dowsed a very strong energy ley extending through the centre of the site in a NE-SW direction that to my mind probably marks a midsummer sunrise/ midwinter sunset alignment, although due to surrounding tree cover I was unable to accurately determine this.
In general terms, I dowsed similar energetic configurations at all the sites as I would expect to find in Europe, with the one notable difference that each circle seemed to have two energy centres, one in the middle of the circle and the other at the ‘sundial’ stone. One of these appeared to be a rising source (blind spring), the other a downshaft, which suggested that the water picture might represent a complex siphon system. As is so often the case, time constraints necessitated only a fairly superficial dowsing survey of the sites. But there is certainly enough of interest to keep any dowser engaged for several days, and it was encouraging to discover that the Jomon seemed as interested as their European counterparts in observing and recording the movements of the sun and moon.
Subsequent outings to sacred mountain shrines afforded the opportunity to dowse some ‘dragon’ lines. We first visited the Kulomanta pyramid; this hill had purportedly been modified to enhance its pyramid profile, with the addition of several enormous stones at the summit said to have significant astronomical alignment. I wasn’t entirely convinced about this theory, but the stones were clearly held in some regard, and I was able to dowse male and female energy currents flowing through the delightful shrine on the hilltop.
At the summit of Mt. Awagatake in Kakegawa, I was able to dowse what seemed to be the source of two paired dragon lines. The female current clearly rose from a sacred spring, while the male current, as far as I could determine, arose somewhere behind the temple building. The two then wound their way across the hilltop before entwining through a group of very sacred large rocks that I affectionately called the ‘bones’ of the dragon, before heading off towards the main Kotonomama Temple some distance to the south, where we had previously managed to dowse both currents. I found this whole exercise challenging, and not just because of the difficult terrain, as the summit space is shared by two very large communications masts, making for an interesting mix of energies. However, I was elated at finding the origin of a dragon line, a personal first for me. In celebration, we repaired to the mountaintop café for some green tea. This area is the centre of green tea production, a fact advertised by a large Kanji character on the side of the mountain that is visible for miles around. Very fine tea it is too.
© 2016 Grahame Gardner/ The British Society of Dowsers
You can watch some videos about the Jomon sites described in this article over on my YouTube channel.