Dotaku (Bell-Shaped Bronze) Design of Crossed Bands
Reportedly found in Kagawa Prefecture
Tokyo National Museum
Yayoi period, 2nd–1st century BC
Collection Ref. No.
Dotaku are bell-shaped bronzes made during the Yayoi period. Clappers were originally suspended inside to produce a chiming sound when shaken. Bronze is an alloy consisting mainly of copper and tin. This dotaku has rusted and turned black, but it would have shone a brilliant gold when first made. The sound and shimmer of this new metal must have entranced the Yayoi folk. Though there is still considerable uncertainty about where and how dotaku were used, it is thought they were used during religious ceremonies. Approximately 600 dotaku have been discovered across an area centered on the Kinki region. Around 60 of these are decorated with pictorial representations. This dotaku is particularly renowned for its decorativeness and it was the first dotaku to be designated a national treasure. Motifs include men hunting deer and wild boar, for instance, or women pounding a mortar with a pestle. These offer unique insights into life at the time. It also features depictions of various fauna found in or around water, such as a newt, a turtle, and herons eating fish. This paints a picture of life based around wet paddy rice cultivation. Note also how the heads of the human figures are depicted in shapes of circles and triangles. The former shape represents men and the latter women.