The ebb and flow of human migration across the planet can nowadays be probed with advanced archaeology, linguistics, anthropology and genomics. Together, these can provide a convincing picture of the various divergences and convergences of different human populations across vast areas. It is now possible to better understand how, why and where a particular group or society arose. Professor Naruya Saitou of the Population Genetics Laboratory at the National Institute of Genetics in Mishima has dedicated his career to the synthesis of these disciplines. The current focus of his research is on understanding the origins and formation of the Yaponesian people. This broad term was coined by writer Toshio Shimao in 1960s to encompass the diverse peoples of the Japanese Archipelago over its many thousands of years of inhabitation. Saitou’s research is helping to uncover Japan’s ancient past.