The Oshoro Circle has puzzled academics and laymen alike for years.
via The Japan Times
In 1861 at Oshoro, southwestern Hokkaido, a party of herring fishermen, migrants from Honshu, were laying the foundation for a fishing port when they saw taking shape beneath their shovels a mysterious spectacle — a broad circular arrangement of large rocks, strikingly symmetrical, evidently man-made. What could it be? An Ainu fortress?
They would have been astonished to learn, as in fact they never did, that the Oshoro Stone Circle is a relic from a time before even war — let alone fortresses — likely existed in Japan.
Oshoro today is part of the city of Otaru, on its western fringe, 20 km from the city center and 60 km west of Sapporo.
The Late Jomon period (circa 2400-1000 B.C.) was an age of northward migration. The north was warming, and severe rainfall was ravaging the established Jomon sites, primarily in the vicinity of today’s Tokyo and Nagoya.
Perhaps resettlement stimulated thought, for it coincided with a novel Jomon institution — the cemetery.
“By devoting a special area to burials,” writes J. Edward Kidder in “The Cambridge History of Japan,” “Late Jomon people were isolating the dead, allowing the gap to be bridged by mediums who eventually drew the rational world of the living further away from the spirit world of the dead.”
The Oshoro Stone Circle was probably a cemetery.
It was other things as well, but primarily that, says Naoaki Ishikawa, chief curator of the Otaru Museum, where many of the finds from around this stone circle can be viewed.
It is one of about 30 Late Jomon stone circles scattered through northern Japan. In terms of size it ranks about midway between the smallest enclosures and the largest one at Oyu, Akita Prefecture, bounded by thousands of stones.
No bones have been found to make an airtight case of the cemetery theory, but relatively few Jomon bones have been found anywhere, the acid in the soil claiming them long before the archaeologist’s trowel can.