Friday, October 15, 2010

Visiting Kofun

Probably the most famous of all large-scale burial sites in the world are the Egyptian pyramids. The pyramids are giant and are quite amazing to see in person. I am lucky to have gotten the opportunity to visit them earlier this year:

Similar in shape but different in purpose are the Mayan pyramids. Here's a photo of my visit to Chichen Itza in the Yucatan in November of 2009:

Actually, the last two photos have nothing to do with this story but I wanted to share them anyway... :-)

Relatively unknown outside of Japan are burial sites known as Kofun. Japanese Kofun are a type of Tumulus, or raised mound of earth and stones over a tomb, which were built from approximately 300 A.D. to about 700 A.D. This Kofun, which I visited near Nagasaki, is one such Tumulus:

The largest Kofun in Japan is the Daisen Kofun and is located in Sakai City, south of Osaka. It is the burial place of the 16th Emperor of Japan, Emperor Nintoku. Since it is about a ten minute walk from the shrine that I visited to see the Futon-Daiko festival recently, and because it's supposedly "the largest tomb by area in the world", I just had to go. This is an aerial photo of Daisen that I found on the internet:

The Kofun have been constructed in a variety of shapes over the years but the keyhole design shown above is the most common. There are two water-filled moats surrounding this Kofun, the smaller of which (the outer one) is difficult to see in the photo above. It looks like a thin line cut in the surrounding trees. The photo below is of that smaller moat, which is actually pretty large. It helps to give you an idea of the scale of the whole site.

Unfortunately, you only get to cross the first moat. There is no bridge across the larger moat and you can't actually get on the mound. It turns out that the mound is considered sacred ground and they don't let the public on it. Also, very little excavation has taken place over the years so there's no museum or other things to visit. Fortunately, I didn't make a special trip to see it but I did get this photo with the Kofun in the distance past the Torii gate:

While researching information for this story, I learned that there are burial mounds all over the world including some in the U.S., mostly in the south, which are the work of native-American tribes. I also found out about some that are located near a city that I will be visiting in the next month or so. Stay tuned... :-)

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