Moody's post had given a few clues as to its where abouts - a picture of the intersection along a main road, and the fact that it was somewhere along Moody's route to work. I don't know what his route is exactly, but the possibilities are limited (unless he likes taking meandering hillside roads with lots of S turns to wring out his BLUE Rav 4 (and any Moodiness) going to and from work. We had one false start two weeks ago based on a guess and a wrong turn, which took us past the grave of Tsukahara Bokuden (a famous swordsman who lived from 1490 to 1571). A direct inquiry to Moody went unanswered, so I assumed he was either too busy (most likely) or perhaps wished the "mounds of mystery" to remain just that. Some further research by K found the site on a website map and we went to have a look.
A large new sign at the site describes the mounds and has this relief map of them. The main mound is about 75 meters (246 feet) long and 7.5 meters high. There are three mounds at this site (two small round ones are near the head of the large one), but the entire neighborhood is apparently dotted with many more which are not marked. We drove around and saw a few "possibles".
This one is called Meotozuka Kofun - husband and wife burial mound - and dates to the early 6th century CE. The leader of a local clan and his wife are interred there.
Kofun come in many shapes but most are "keyhole" shapes like this one. Of course, there weren't any keyholes in Japan at that time, that is simply modern label for them and why they took that shape is not known. Some had motes around them. Inside the round end of many mounds is a stone burial chamber. The more elaborate ones even have plastered walls with paintings on them and star charts on the ceiling. They also contain sacred items, such as iron swords and clay figures. I don't know if this one has been opened.
Forgive me if I go on a bit about the toilets here. I know it's a somewhat taboo or uncomfortable subject (for some reason the British seem to find the very mention of "the loo" hilarious), but in a world with 6.5 billion people and counting, sewage is a serious health and environmental problem, and conventional treatment systems use up drinking water, deprive the land of nutrients, and often pollute rivers.
These new composting toilets use no water, don't pollute, are quite sanitary and don't have a bad odor. Bio-lux has received awards for their design from forestry to tourist groups and a Medal of Appreciation from the Philippines Minister of Environment. Composting toilets are going to be a factor in reducing water waste and pollution in the world. At a 2003 meeting in Kyoto, scientists from around the world told the United Nations to re-think their plan of hooking up 1 billion people to sewer systems by 2015 and use composting toilets instead, citing the reasons given above.
Ironically, in Japan, "night soil" used to be collected and used as compost, with the collection company paying for it! It was valuable for its nutrients. In fact tenants and landlords sometimes got into arguments over who owned it. This is one reason why 200 years ago Edo (old Tokyo) was one of the cleanest cities in the world. The practice continued in many places until the late 1950's. I remember my uncle, who was a colonel in the USAF, telling me that they had to use a "honey bucket" when he was stationed in Japan with his family in the 50's. It was put out by the street for collection each morning. Of course, that practice was not without health risks, and these days such compost would not be used on food crops.
Anyway, I was impressed with Kashima City's vision in choosing this modern system for the new park. Perhaps being across the street from a large public water treatment plant had something to do with the choice.
Back to the Kofun. One of the things often found in Kofun burial chambers are clay figures called a "haniwa" ("clay cylinder"). Originally that is all they were, a cylinder of clay. They evolved into figures of people and horses.
Haniwa were placed at the entrance to the tomb, facing outward, and often they were placed outside as well on top of the mound and around its base. In the Japanese Journal of History, it says "After Emperor Suinin (the eleventh emperor of Japan) witnessed the horrible sight of the Emperor's entourage being buried alive in the areas around the Emperor's tomb, he had this practice stopped and had clay images of people and horses instead lined up in the tomb, and this became the beginning of the practice of using clay figures, or "haniwa". More modern interpretations say they may have been used simply to shore up the earth works, or to indicate the importance of the person interred there and indicate a succession of power to the new ruler.
As with other ancient cultures, it is the contents of these tombs which have been most valuable in allowing us to know what was going in Japan over 1500 years ago. The technology of the time, religion, government, scientific knowledge, and so on are all revealed by the artifacts so preserved.
Sorry about that. Sometimes I feel like a nut, sometimes I don't. Anyway, we found the "lost" tomb and satisfied our curiosity, learning a bit more about history in the process. Next time we head over to Itako City, we'll have to check out their complex of Kofun.
Last Saturday was busy with a return to Hawaiian restaurant 'Oli'oli for lunch, and a concert by the Kashima Philharmonic Orchestra. There's an event in Suva, Fiji too, so I have plenty to post this week.