Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Decorated Tombs Museum Kumamoto

 

The Kumamoto Decorated Tombs Museum is located a few miles from Yamaga, north of Kumamoto City. It is sometimes referred to as the Forest of Tombs Museum.


The museum is situated in the middle of an area that has a high concentration of burial mounds of different sizes including the largest, a so-called keyhole tomb.


Burial mounds, tumulus in Latin, are found all over the world, called barrows in England, cairns in Scotland, and kofun in Japan where the name is applied to a historical period, the Kofun Period,  which runs from about 300 to 538 AD.


Burial chambers within the mounds that were decorated, either with carving or painted were in a minority, with a few being found in the Nara/Kinki area, but most being found in northern Kyushu. Of course there may well be more in the Nara region but the tombs there are not excavated. The official reason given is  to protect the dignity of the imperial ancestors, but many believe it is to avoid questions about the origins of the imperial clans.


The kofun, like so much technology, was imported into Japan from the Korean Peninsula. Decorated tombs, in particular, seem to have the strongest link with the kingdom of Paekche. On display inside the museum are many replicas of these decorated tombs. I believe they were originally created for a major national exhibition on decorated tombs in 1993.


While approaching the museum I also passed by another unusual type of burial, tunnel burials, where small tunnels were excavated into the rock face, kind of like pigeonholes or left luggage lockers


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