Showing posts with label kofun. Show all posts
Showing posts with label kofun. Show all posts

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Kumamoto Decorative Tumulus Museum


These are just some architecture shots of the museum I posted on last. This time I use the name that is listed in the official Kumamoto Artpolis listings, in which the museum is included.

It opened in 1993 and was designed by Tadao Ando, one of the best known modern Japanese arhitects, though many dislike his obsessive use of plain concrete.

From a purely photographic viewpoint I really like his work as it allows me to take strong, abstract photos with lots of curves and shadows.

A typical feature of many Ando designs is a great, sunken, circular space that brings the sky into the design, something he also often does with great expanses of water reflecting the sky.

More of my visits to Tadao Ando works can be found here. Some of the older posts have lost their photos. If you have any particular desire to see them or if you would like to see more posts on Ando Tadao, please leave me a message in the comments.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Decorated Tombs Museum Kumamoto

Tombs Museum

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

Monday, December 30, 2013

Kanbara Shrine & Tomb

Kanbara Shrine is a little further down the river from Unochi Shrine, but was until recently about a hundred meters from its current location. It was moved when they discovered it had been built on top of a kofun, a mounded tomb....

The three main kami enshrined here are Okuninushi, Iwatsutsuwo, & Iwatsutsune, the latter two being the parents of Futsunushi, the kami from the Kuniyuzuri Myth who arranged the transfer of Japan to Amaterasu's descendants from Okuninushi.

Among the grave goods found in the excavated tomb was a bronze mirror dated 239, which was the year the legendary "queen of Wa" Himiko sent an envoy to China and received one hundred bronze mirrors.

The design of the mirror found here was the one that has been called Himiko Mirrors, but more than 100 have been found. Doing a bit of research for this post I read a convincing argument by one historian that these mirrors were manufactured in Japan by immigrant Chinese craftsmen.

I have often read that "shinto" has an aversion to death, but in western Japan at least I have found quite a few shrines that have been constructed on top of tombs.

Kyushu Yuzu

Friday, April 23, 2010



The Yamanobenomichi (the road along the base of the mountains) has the distinction of being the oldest road mentioned in Japanese historical records, the Kojiki and Nihonshoki, as well as being mentioned in many poems in the Manyoshu. What is left of it runs from approximately Tenri to Sakurai in Nara Prefecture.

Sections of the route are footpaths, and sections are on quiet village roads. There is no real up and downs and so it can be walked pleasantly in a day.


There are masses of historical sites along the way. Many of the shrines I've already posted about here, including the major shrines of Isonokami and Omiwa, as well as lots of interesting smaller shrines including the Sumo Shrine where legend has it the first human sumo match took place.

A lot of the temples in the area were razed in the early Meiji Period, but there are several along the way including Chogaku-Ji.


There are also many burial mounds including some large ones like the Hashihaka Kofun. In the Meiji period the government went around and ascribed Imperial ancestors to all these tombs and built torii on them as part of the new State Shinto, but historians generally have differing histories to them. Many now believe that Hashihaka is Himikos Tomb.


You would probably want to bring your own lunch/picnic as there are not a lot of facilities along the way,... some vending machines and maybe farmers stalls selling fruit. The small settlements are very quiet and rustic, in fact the whole route is a very pleasant, quiet, relaxing break from the buzz and hubbub of nearby Nara and Kyoto.


Not actually on the route, but at one of the places you would leave the route to head back to the station in sakurai is the biggest torii in Japan. Built in 1986 to commemorate a visit by the Emperor, the black steel torii rises 32.2 metres, eclipsing the previous biggest torii at Yasakuni.