Fertile periods of artistic endeavor are not hard to come by in Japanese history. Many would cite, for example, the Edo (1603-1868), Muromachi (1392-1573), or Heian (794-1185) periods. Few, however, would mention the ancient Jomon Period (10,000-200 B.C. )in the same breath.

The Tokyo National Museum aims to change that with its "Jomon: 10,000 Years of Prehistoric Art in Japan" exhibition, which has rounded up more than 200 items — everything from ancient jars to masks.

Jomon artifacts have been discovered across the country, from as far north as Hokkaido down to Kyushu. The Jomon Period — which is actually divided into a series of smaller periods — lasted from roughly 10,000 to 200 B.C., although this exhibition also includes items from the Yayoi Period (200 B.C.-A.D. 250) that followed it.