Decorated Tombs (decorated tumulus by pictures, patterns and engravings) (装飾古墳)

Decorated tombs are a general term for the decorated tumulus by pictures, patterns and engravings on the interior wall or the stone coffin and it includes Yokoanabo cave tombs (tunnel graves) which has no mound. Most of them center on Kyushu region, especially in Kumamoto Prefecture. Chibuzan-kofun Tumulus in Yamaga City, Kumamoto Prefecture and others are famous.


As for the distribution, there are about 600 decorated tombs across Japan, more than half of which, 340 tombs are in Kyushu region, 100 in Kanto region, 50 in Sanin region, 40 in Kinki region, about 40 in Tohoku region and the rest of them are sparsely in seven prefectures.

They were decorated from the early Kofun period (tumulus period). The decorations were made on the side or cover of kurinuki-style (hollowed) stone coffin in the early Kofun period, on the upper side of cover of combinational large oblong chest stone coffin, the cover and the inner or outer side of iegata sekkan (house-shaped stone coffin), box type stone coffin in the middle period, and the horizontal stone chamber was decorated with carvings and colors which was done the whole chamber around the early fifth century.

As the way of decoration there were three ways such as relief engraving, line drawing carving and coloring, and the coloring added to the relief engraving or line drawing carving was also concomitantly used. Sculptures were mainstream technique in the earliest period; relief engravings were found in many places while line drawing carving partly and only red pigment was used. Around fifth century colors other than red came to be used for sculptures. In sixth century sculptures based on relief engraving disappeared, and basically designs only with color came to be painted on the whole wall of stone chamber. Following patterns are found in decorated tombs; geometric and abstract chokko-mon (arc and straight-line pattern), warabite-mon (bracken-shaped, scroll-like pattern), kaginote-mon (hook pattern), en-mon (circular pattern), doshinen-mon (concentric pattern), renzoku sankaku-mon (consecutive triangular pattern), hishigata-mon (diamond pattern), sokyakurinjo-mon (circular pattern with two legs), kukaku-mon (vertical running patterns), and so on; however, those are inscrutable. Next, concrete designs are the weapon and panoply such as shields, ligaments, armors, swords, ships and so on, the other properties, people, horses, birds, hikigaeru (frog), and Suzaku (red Chinese phoenix).

Construction period.

They were built from around fourth century to seventh century, the late stage of Kofun period (tumulus period).

The list of major decorated tombs

Only major decorated tombs are listed as follows while about 800 are said to be in Japan.

Kanto region

Taishi no Karodo-kofun Tumulus: Aza Takkouchi, Oaza Ajiki, Dejima Village, Niihari County, Ibaraki Prefecture
Large keyhole-shaped tomb mound

Kansai region

Takamatsuzuka-kofun Tumulus: Asuka village, Takaichi County, Nara Prefecture.
A round barrow

Kyushu region

Sekijinzan-kofun Tumulus: Oaza Ichijo Hitokatabaru, Hirokawa Town, Yame County, Fukuoka Prefecture
Large keyhole-shaped tomb mound
Tsurugizuka-kofun Tumulus: 3 Chome, Takeshita, Hakata Ward, Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Prefecture
Large keyhole-shaped tomb mound
Mezurashizuka-kofun Tumulus: Aza Nishiyagata, Oaza Tominaga Aza, Yoshii Town (currently Ukiha City), Ukiha County, Fukuoka Prefecture
A round barrow
Hinooka-kofun Tumulus: The precincts of Wakamiya Hachiman-gu Shrine, Oaza Wakamiya, Yoshii Town, Ukiha County, Fukuoka Prefecture
Large keyhole-shaped tomb mound
Ozuka-kofun Tumulus: Sakamoto, Oaza Jumyo, Katsuragawa Town, Kaho County, Fukuoka Prefecture
Large keyhole-shaped tomb mound
Goroyama-kofun Tumulus: Aza Goroyama, Oaza Harada, Tsukushino City, Fukuoka Prefecture
A round barrow
Soroku-kofun Tumulus: Aza Higashifure, Tateishi, Katsumoto Town (currently Iki City), Iki County, Nagasaki Prefecture
Large keyhole-shaped tomb mound
Oninoiwaya-kofun Tumulus: Aza Tsukahara, Kita-ishigaki, Beppu City, Oita Prefecture
A round barrow
Chibuzan-kofun Tumulus: Aza Seifukuji, Oaza Shiro, Yamaga City, Kumamoto Prefecture
Large keyhole-shaped tomb mound
Ishinuki Nagino Tunnel Caves: Aza Nagino, Oaza Ishinuki, Tamana City, Kumamoto Prefecture
Tunnel caves

[Original Japanese]