Mimizuka (Ear Mound) (耳塚)

Mimizuka is a tomb mound that was made to bury and pay respects to severed ears and noses of dead soldiers of the Korean (Joseon) and Chinese (Ming) armies in the Bunroku-Keicho War (wars initiated by the invasion of the Korean Peninsula by Hideyoshi's army in 1592 through to 1598).

Mimizuka in Kyoto City

It is a historic spot also called Hanazuka located 100 m down the street from Hokoku-jinja Shrine in Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto City. Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI was furious about the failure of his army's first invasion of the Korean Peninsula, or the Bunroku War. In the second invasion called the Keicho War, he ordered the severed noses of killed soldiers of Joseon Korea and the Ming Dynasty to be sent to Japan as proof of his army's bravery in battle. This pressed his army to cut noses off even living women and children to send to Hideyoshi. Hideyoshi ordered them shown in tubs all over the streets in Kyoto and Osaka in order to play up the success of the battles. These noses were buried in Mimizuka. A five storied pagoda stands on a tumulus-shaped mound surrounded by a stone fence. It was designated as a National Historic Site and was named 'Stone tomb and pagoda of Hoko-ji Temple' on April 12, 1968. It was initially called 'Hanazuka' (nose mound). The name Mimizuka became common after Razan HAYASHI called it 'Mimizuka' in his book "Toyotomi Hideyoshi Fu" (a biography of Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI) because severing noses was, he thought, too barbaric.

In 1597, this tomb mound was built and Segaki Kuyo (a Buddhist service for the dead struggling in hell) was held on September 28 (old lunar calendar) in the same year. This service, Segaki Kuyo, conducted by a monk Saisho Jotai of Shokoku-ji Temple in accordance with Hideyoshi's wishes, is said to have been a huge one, with all the monks of Kyoto Gozan (the prestigious five Zen temples in Kyoto) invited.

In May 1915, the surrounding stone fence was donated by kabuki actors and other famous entertainers, and the promoter is said to have been 'Fushimi no Yuzan', a yakuza in Kyoto. He also promoted the building of the incense offering platform and the stone steps in front of the mound.

In those days, soldiers brought back the heads of high-ranked enemy officers that they had killed to have them examined as evidence of the achievement, and farmer soldiers or low ranked soldiers brought back noses (ears) to prove how many of the enemy soldiers they had killed. If they avoided this practice, it was called uchisute (literally, kill and leave). They put them in salt or in alcohol to keep them from decaying while carrying them back. It was an old Japanese custom to pay respects to the war dead after the examination to prevent those spirits from causing harm to living people, so these noses were treated with great respect.

For a period it was removed from sightseeing courses in response to protests from Koreans living in Japan.

Mimizuka in Kashii, Fukuoka City

A mound called 'Mimizuka' is also in Kashii, Higashi Ward, Fukuoka City (at the side of Kashii-gu Shrine). Legend has it that it was built when Empress Jingu's army defeated three Korean dynasties, but details are unknown.

Other mimizuka

Mimizuka (Azumino City): the ears of Gishiki Hachimendaio (a local monster) are said to be buried.

Mimizuka Kofun: located in Kotobuki, Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture, its name is popular there.

[Original Japanese]