Tombs of the Kofun Period

c. 250 A. D. - 552 A. D., Japan

The Kofun (tr: 'tomb') period is marked by the massive burial mounds (or tumuli) in which lords, chieftans, emporers, or other VIPs were buried. During this 'proto-historic' period, approximately 20,000 tumuli were constructed. These tombs are important historical and cultural treasures. Typically, the burial chamber contains symbolic artifacts of the period, and the surface of the tomb is ringed with haniwa . One presumes, based on the haniwa figures, that the actual placing of the body in the chamber was an event of great ceremonial proportions, involving music and dancing. Following the custom of the the time, the body was first left to decompose, before placing the bones in the burial chamber.

The mounds are typically key-hole shaped, or 'zempo-koan' (== 'square-front, round-back'). Some later tombs, such as the Ueshiba , are scallop-shaped. The larger ones usually are surrounded by a moat.

The following list is a list of some of those tumuli. They are arranged by period (early, middle, late kofun) and marked by geographical area. Here I have used the classifcation of Miki ;
== Kinai area (Nara, Osaka, and Kyoto Prefectures );
== Kanto area (Tokyo and surrounding area ).

Early (late 4th. Century)
Sakurai Chausuyama
Sakurai City, Nara Prefecture0
Hiwasuhime no Mikota Mausoleum
Osaka Prefecture
Assumed to be the burial place of Empress Hibasu-hime no Mikoto;
Referenced in the Nihon Shoki .
Goshikizuka Tomb
Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture
Known as the the "thousand-jar tomb"
Middle (early 5th. Century)
Nintoku Mausoleum
Osaka Prefecture
This is the largest of all the tumuli; it is 2695 feet in length, and covers 80 acres. Emporer Nintoku started building it when he was 66, and it was finished 20 years later.
"The burial mounds (or tumuli) are properly called 'misasagi' in Japanese, but are more commonly called 'kofun' (ko-FOON = 'old-grave'; KO-fun means sexual excitement). If you get excited about burial mounds, the huge key-shaped and moated tumulus of Emperor Nintoku (4th century) is in Sakai city, southeast of Osaka (Mozu station on the JR Haniwa line from Tennoji); but don't expect to get in. "

Randy's Japan page.

The tomb.
Model of the tomb.
Ojin Mausoleum
Osaka Prefecture
Clay sculptures of sea creatures ( whales, squid octopus, porpoises, river fish) found in the moat. They are solid clay figurines, not hollow haniwa.
Late (late 5th C., early 6th C.)
Burial chambers change from pit-style to corridor type; haniwa shift from summit to slopes.
Niigawa Senzuka Kofun.
Akabori Chausuyama Tomb
Gumma Prefecture
Ueshiba Tomb
Gumma Prefecture.
Takamatsuzuka, Kyushu [Fukuoka Prefecture]

Other sites (time/place unknown (by me) )

Asuka Kofun