Chuukuu Dogu

Thu, 09/17/2015 - 15:35 -- atkins22

中空土偶 Chuukuu Dogu

By: Emma Yasui

Image of Chuukuu Dogu statue

In 1975, a woman was harvesting potatoes in a small northern town in Japan when she came across a Jomon Period ceramic object.  She had hit the potato-like head of a human figurine with her hoe, but stopped when she realized what had been uncovered. 

Image of Kakku sign

Local archaeologists began excavating what is now designated the Chobonaino site, discovering a Late Jomon graveyard dating to about 3500 years ago.  They also found six more pieces of the chuukuu dogu (hollow figurine), everything except its arms.  It appears that the dogu was made to be broken at specific points on its body, and would have been painted with red and black lacquer before burial.  Japanese archaeologists are interested in what the figure could mean, and they have been investing their time in interpreting the ornate designs that were applied and incised on the dogu.

Besides being highly decorated, the chuukuu dogu is also the largest hollow Jomon figurine found to date, standing about 41.5 cm tall.  It was officially deemed a National Treasure in 2007, which marks it as an important cultural property for Japan, as well as a valuable object for world culture history. Within the region where it was found, the dogu has become a symbol for local pride and uniqueness. 

Image of Kakku artifacts

It is affectionately referred to as Kakkū, and can be found on t-shirts, town banners, restaurant signs, advertisements, gift boxes, textiles, magazines, postcards, fans, and stickers.  I was given a Kakkū toy for my car, a crocheted one to support world culture history, and a box of dogu shaped cookies for late night snacking. 

Image of crocheted kakku dolls and bird whistles

Image of Dogu cookie

This type of excitement about an artifact or site is common in Japan, which makes it fun and fascinating to visit as a Canadian archaeologist.


Image of Jomon-chan stickers on hotel nightstand

The chuukuu dogu is currently on display at the Hakodate Jomon Culture Centre.



Abe, Chiharu. 2011 “Hollow Dogu Kakkū)” unearthed at the Chobonaino site, Hakodate City.  In Jomon: National Treasure of Jomon, vol. 1, edited by Y. Ochiai, J. Nemoto, and R. Yashima, pp. 18-23, 50-51. International Jomon Culture Conference, Tokyo.


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