Kofun (古墳, from Sino-Japanese "ancient grave") are megalithic tombs or tumuli in Northeast Asia. Kofun were mainly constructed in the Japanese archipelago between the middle of the 3rd century to the early 7th century CE.
The term is the origin of the name of the Kofun period, which indicates the middle 3rd century to early–middle 6th century. Many Kofun have distinctive keyhole-shaped mounds (zempō-kōen fun (前方後円墳)). The Mozu-Furuichi kofungun or tumulus clusters were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2019, while Ishibutai Kofun is one of a number in Asuka-Fujiwara residing on the Tentative List.
The kofun tumuli have assumed various shapes throughout history. The most common type of kofun is known as a zenpō-kōen-fun (前方後円墳), which is shaped like a keyhole, having one square end and one circular end, when viewed from above. There are also circular-type (empun (円墳)), "two conjoined rectangles" typed (zenpō-kōhō-fun (前方後方墳)), and square-type (hōfun (方墳)) kofun. Orientation of kofun is not specified. For example, in the Saki Kofun group, all of the circular parts are facing north, but there is no such formation in the Yanagimoto kofun group. Haniwa, terracotta figures, were arrayed above and in the surroundings to delimit and protect the sacred areas.
Kofun range from several metres to over 400m long. The largest, which has been attributed to Emperor Nintoku, is Daisen Kofun in Sakai City, Osaka Prefecture.
The funeral chamber was located beneath the round part and comprised a group of megaliths. In 1972, the unlooted Takamatsuzuka Tomb was found in Asuka, and some details of the discovery were revealed. Inside the tightly assembled rocks, white lime plasters were pasted, and colored pictures depict the 'Asuka Beauties' of the court as well as constellations. A stone coffin was placed in the chamber, and accessories, swords, and bronze mirrors were laid both inside and outside the coffin. The wall paintings have been designated national treasures and the grave goods as important cultural property, while the tumulus is a special historic site.
Kofun burial mounds and their remains have been found all over Japan, including remote islands such as Nishinoshima.
A total of 161,560 kofun tomb sites have been found as of 2001. Hyōgo Prefecture has the most of all prefectures (16,577 sites), and Chiba Prefecture has the second most (13,112 sites).
Most of the tombs of chiefs in the Yayoi period were square-shaped mounds surrounded by ditches. The most notable example in the late Yayoi period is Tatetsuki Mound Tomb in Kurashiki, Okayama. The mound is about 45 metres wide and 5 metres high and has a shaft chamber. Broken pieces of Tokushu-kidai, cylindrical earthenware, were excavated around the mound.
Another prevalent type of Yayoi period tomb is the Yosumi tosshutsugata funkyūbo, a square mound with protruding corners. These tombs were built in the San'in region, a coastal area off the Sea of Japan. Unearthed articles indicate the existence of alliances between native tribes in the region.
One of the first keyhole-shaped kofun was built in the Makimukuarea, the southeastern part of the Nara Basin. Hashihaka Kofun , which was built in the middle of the 3rd century AD, is 280 metres long and 30 metres high. Its scale is obviously different from previous Yayoi tombs. During the next three decades, about 10 kofun were built in the area, which are now called as the Makimuku Kofun Group. A wooden coffin was placed on the bottom of a shaft, and the surrounding walls were built up by flat stones. Finally, megalithic stones formed the roof. Bronze mirrors, iron swords, magatama, clay vessels and other artifacts were found in good condition in undisturbed tombs. Some scholars assume the buried person of Hashihaka kofun was the shadowy ancient Queen Himiko of Yamataikoku, mentioned in the Chinese historical texts. According to the books, Japan was called Wa, which was the confederation of numerous small tribes or countries. The construction of gigantic kofun is the result of the relatively centralized governmental structure in the Nara Basin, possibly the origin of the Yamato polity and the Imperial lineage of Japan.
During the 5th century AD, the construction of keyhole kofun began in Yamato Province; continued in Kawachi, where gigantic kofun, such as Daisen Kofun of the Emperor Nintoku, were built; and then throughout the country. The proliferation of keyhole kofun is generally assumed to be evidence of the Yamato court's expansion in this age. However, some argue that it simply shows the spread of culture based on progress in distribution, and has little to do with a political breakthrough.
A few tombs from the mid-Baekje era were excavated around the Yeongsan River basin in South Korea.[ citation needed ] The design of these tombs are notably different. The tombs that were discovered on the Korean peninsula were built between the 5th and 6th centuries CE.[ citation needed ] There remain questions about who were buried in these tombs such as nobility, aristocracy, warriors or mercenaries.
Keyhole-shaped kofun disappeared in the late 6th century AD, probably due to the drastic reformation in the Yamato court, where Nihon Shoki records the introduction of Buddhism during this era.
This list includes the "Mozu-Furuichi Kofun Group: Mounded Tombs of Ancient Japan",which was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site on 6 July 2019.
|Aoyama Kofun||0.51 ha (1.3 acres)|
|Chuai-tenno-ryo Kofun||9.34 ha (23.1 acres)||350 ha (860 acres)|
|Dogameyama Kofun||0.06 ha (0.15 acres)|
|Genemonyama Kofun||0.09 ha (0.22 acres)|
|Gobyoyama Kofun||5.4 ha (13 acres)|
|Hachizuka Kofun||0.31 ha (0.77 acres)|
|Hakayama Kofun||4.34 ha (10.7 acres)|
|Hakuchoryo Kofun||5.65 ha (14.0 acres)|
|Hanzei-tenno-ryo Kofun||4.06 ha (10.0 acres)|
|Hatazuka Kofun||0.38 ha (0.94 acres)|
|Hazamiyama Kofun||1.5 ha (3.7 acres)|
|Higashiumazuka Kofun||0.03 ha (0.074 acres)|
|Higashiyama Kofun||0.41 ha (1.0 acre)|
|Ingyo-tenno-ryo Kofun||6.43 ha (15.9 acres)|
|Itasuke Kofun||2.42 ha (6.0 acres)|
|Joganjiyama Kofun||0.52 ha (1.3 acres)|
|Komoyamazuka Kofun||0.08 ha (0.20 acres)|
|Komuroyama Kofun||2.92 ha (7.2 acres)|
|Kurizuka Kofun||0.11 ha (0.27 acres)|
|Magodayuyama Kofun||0.45 ha (1.1 acres)|
|Maruhoyama Kofun||0.69 ha (1.7 acres)|
|Minegazuka Kofun||1.12 ha (2.8 acres)|
|Mukohakayama Kofun||0.33 ha (0.82 acres)|
|Nabezuka Kofun||0.14 ha (0.35 acres)|
|Nagatsuka Kofun||0.51 ha (1.3 acres)|
|Nagayama Kofun||0.97 ha (2.4 acres)|
|Nakatsuhime-no-mikoto-ryo Kofun||7.23 ha (17.9 acres)|
|Nakayamazuka Kofun||0.24 ha (0.59 acres)|
|Nintoku-tenno-ryo Kofun, Chayama Kofun and Daianjiyama Kofun||46.4 ha (115 acres)|
|Nisanzai Kofun||10.53 ha (26.0 acres)|
|Nishiumazuka Kofun||0.07 ha (0.17 acres)|
|Nonaka Kofun||0.19 ha (0.47 acres)|
|Ojin-tenno-ryo Kofun, Konda-maruyama Kofun and Futatsuzuka Kofun||28.92 ha (71.5 acres)|
|Osamezuka Kofun||0.07 ha (0.17 acres)|
|Otorizuka Kofun||0.51 ha (1.3 acres)|
|Richu-tenno-ryo Kofun||17.3 ha (43 acres)|
|Shichikannon Kofun||0.09 ha (0.22 acres)|
|Suketayama Kofun||0.12 ha (0.30 acres)|
|Tatsusayama Kofun||0.34 ha (0.84 acres)|
|Terayama-minamiyama Kofun||0.42 ha (1.0 acre)|
|Tsudo-shiroyama Kofun||4.74 ha (11.7 acres)||23 ha (57 acres)|
|Tsukamawari Kofun||0.07 ha (0.17 acres)|
|Yashimazuka Kofun||0.25 ha (0.62 acres)|
|Zenemonyama Kofun||0.1 ha (0.25 acres)|
|Zenizuka Kofun||0.3 ha (0.74 acres)|
The Yamato period is the period of Japanese history when the Imperial court ruled from modern-day Nara Prefecture, then known as Yamato Province.
The Mozu Tombs are a group of megalithic tombs in Sakai, Osaka Prefecture, Japan. Originally consisting of more than 100 tombs, only less than 50% of the key-hole, round and rectangular tombs remain.
Furuichi kofungun (古市古墳群) is a group of one hundred and twenty-three kofun or tumuli in Fujiidera and Habikino, Osaka Prefecture, Japan. Thirty-one of the burial mounds are keyhole-shaped, thirty round, forty-eight rectangular, and a further fourteen are of indeterminate shape. In 2010 the Furuichi kofungun cluster of tumuli, along with those of Mozu kofungun, were proposed for inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Saitobaru kofungun (西都原古墳群?) is a group of three hundred thirty three kofuns or tumuli in Saito city, Miyazaki Prefecture, Japan. This is one of the largest kofun groups in Japan, and the largest group in Kyushu situated on a 70-meter hill composed of diluvium. It is located within the Saitobaru-Sugiyasukyō Prefectural Natural Park.
The Dampusan Kofun (断夫山古墳) is a large keyhole-shaped kofun burial mound located within the grounds of the Atsuta Shrine complex in the Hayata neighborhood of Atsuta-ku, Nagoya, Japan. The tumulus was designated a National Historic Site of Japan in 1987.
Fukiishi were a means of covering burial chambers and burial mounds during the kofun period of Japan. Stones collected from riverbeds were affixed to the slopes of raised kofun and other burial chambers. They are considered to have descended from forms used in Yayoi-period tumuli. They are common in the early and mid-Kofun periods, but most late Kofun-period tumuli do not have them.
The Shimofunazuka Kofun (下船塚古墳) is a kofun burial mound located in the Hikasa neighborhood of the town of Wakasa, Fukui in the Hokuriku region of Japan. It was designated a National Historic Site of Japan in 1935. It is also called the "Meotozuka" as it is paired with the Kamifunazuka Kofun, which has a separate National Historic Site designation.
Yanaida Nunōyama Kofun (柳田布尾山古墳) is a kofun burial mound located in the Yanaida neighborhood of the city of Himi, Toyama in the Hokuriku region of Japan. The tumulus has been protected as a National Historic Site since 2001.
The Ayamezuka Kofun (菖蒲塚古墳) is a keyhole-shaped kofun burial mound located in the Takenomachi neighborhood of Nishikan-ku, Niigata in the Hokuriku region of Japan. The tumulus was designated a National Historic Site of Japan in 1938.
The Senryū-Shōgunzuka Kofun - Himezuka Kofun (川柳将軍塚古墳・姫塚古墳) is a pair of Kofun period tumuli, located in the Shinonoi-ishikawa neighborhood of the city of Nagano in the Chubu region Japan. They have has been protected under a single National Historic Site designation since 1977.
The Shinpōinyama Kofun group is cluster of kofun burial mounds dating from the late Yayoi to the early Kofun period located in the Mukasatakenouchi neighborhood of the city of Iwata, Shizuoka in the Tōkai region of Japan. The site was designated a National Historic Site of Japan in 1987.
The Magoshi-Nagahizuka Kofun (馬越長火塚古墳) is a large Kofun period burial mound located in the Ishimakihonmachi neighborhood of the city of Toyohashi, Aichi in the Tōkai region of Japan. The site was designated a National Historic Site of Japan in 2016.
Ōta Tenjinyama Kofun (太田天神山古墳) is a Kofun period burial mound located in the Uchigashimacho neighborhood of the city of Ōta, Gunma Prefecture in the northern Kantō region of Japan. It was designated a National Historic Site of Japan in 1941. It is the largest kofun in Gunma Prefecture and the 28th largest in the country. It is the only kofun with a length in excess of 200 meters in eastern Japan.. It is also sometimes referred to as the Dantaiyama Kofun (男体山古墳).
The Nomi Kofun Cluster (能美古墳群) consists of five groups of kofun burial mounds in Terai, Ishikawa in the Hokuriku region of Japan. Two of these kofun clusters were collectively designated a National Historic Site of Japan in 1975, with the Akitsuneyama Kofun Cluster added in 1998 and expanded in 2000, and the Teraiyama and Nishiyama clusters added in 2013.
The Iida Kofun cluster is group kofun burial mounds located in the Shimoida neighborhood of the city of Iida, Nagano in the Chūbu region of Japan. Thirteen tumuli have been collectively protected as a National Historic Site since 2016.
Funakiyama Kofun group is a cluster of Kofun period burial mounds located the city of Motosu, Gifu Prefecture in the Chūbu region of Japan. It was designated a National Historic Site of Japan in 2018.
The Kōmyōsan Kofun (光明山古墳) is akofun burial mound located in the Yamahigashi neighborhood of Tenryū-ku, Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture in the Chūbu region of Japan. The tumulus was designated a National Historic Site of Japan in 2020.
The Isohama Kofun Cluster is a group of ancient Kofun period burial mounds, located in what is now part of the town of Ōarai, Ibaraki in the northern Kantō region of Japan. Three of the tumuli at this site were designated a National Historic Site in 2020 and three more are under consideration.
The Dairizuka kofun (内裏塚古墳) is a Kofun period burial mound located in what is now the Kashima neighborhood of the city of Futtsu, Chiba Prefecture in the Kantō region of Japan. The tumulus was designated a National Historic Site of Japan in 2002, with the area under protection extended in 2009.
The Saikitama Kofun Cluster is a group of burial mounds located in the city of Gyōda, Saitama Prefecture, in the Kantō region of Japan. The site was designated a National Historic Site in 1938, and was upgraded in status to a Special National Historic Site of Japan in 2020. The site consists of nine large kofun, which were built in the 5th to 7th centuries AD, i.e. from the late Kofun period into the Asuka period, when the construction of burial mounds was already out of fashion in western Japan.
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