Japan's first ceramic culture, the Jo_mon, produced strongly tactile pottery over 3,500 years ago. This lavishly decorated bowl was probably used during religious ceremonies. Its flamboyant rim, a typical feature of Middle Jo_mon pottery, is known as the "fire-flame" type (ka'en-shiki), because the coils of clay resemble leaping flames. The word jo_mon, after which the period is named, means "cord markings," and derives from the distinctive patterns produced by rolling a rope-wrapped stick across the surface of wet clay. The lower portion of this vessel bears these markings, together with incised whimsical designs.