Misemaruyama Kofun (見瀬丸山古墳)

The Misemaruyama Kofun (Ancient Tomb) is a zenpokoenfun (keyhole-shaped tomb) located in Mise-town, Gojyo-town and Ogaru-town, in Kashiwara City, Nara Prefecture. It is presumed to have been constructed in the latter half of the sixth century, and the theory that it is the mausoleum of Kimmei Emperor and Soga no kitashihime is widely accepted among scholars.

Basic data
This kofun stands on a slope of a hill. It is an extremely large-scale zenpokoenfun with its total length 318 meters, the front part 15 meters in length and 10 meters in width, the back circular part 115 meters in diameter, 21 meters in height and the front part 210 meters in width. This kofun is the largest in size in Nara Prefecture, the sixth largest even in Japan, and having an excellent reputation of its greatest size of all the tombs constructed in the late latter half the Kofun period.

Moreover, its corridor-style stone chamber is 28.4 meters in total length, ranking first in size across the country. The dromos with its ceiling covered with six pieces of huge natural stone 4.8 meters in length is 20.1 meters in length, more than 1 meter in width and 1.5 meters in height. The burial chamber is 8.3 meters in length, 4.1 meters in maximum width, in which two hollowed-out house-shaped stone coffins were placed in an L-letter shape. In the chamber about one-meter-high earth and sand is piled up, and though the details of the bodies of the coffins are unknown, the coffin at the back has a lid 2.42 meters in length, 1.44 meters in width and 0.4 meters in height. The coffin at the front has a lid, 2.75 meters in length, 1.41 meters in width and 0.63 meters in height. They are made of ryholitic welded tuff called Tasuyama-ishi taken from the vicinity of Kakogawa River.

As shown in the name of Maruyama (round mountain), many people had regarded this tomb simply as an old round tomb or a round barrow, and in old days this tomb was called Gojyono Maruyama Kofun. Since the Meiji period it has been called by the present name, but locally it is still called Maruyama Kofun because its back round part lies in Gojyono-town and a large portion of its front part in Ogaru.

History of Research

Research of the inside of the stone chamber had been made several times from the Edo period to the Meiji period. In 1790 Sadamasa KITAURA recorded that the stone chamber, in which some water were staying, was an extremely long one, 28 meters in maximum length. In 1796 Korenori TSUTSUMI noted in "Korenori Jikken-ki (Diary)"that he, standing waist deep in the water, measured the stone chamber and found that it was 3 jyo (about 30.3 centi meters) in length and 1.5 jyo in width. "Seiseiki Zushi" written by Kiyokage TSUKUI in 1854 says as follows. There were two house-shaped stone coffins left, the first one from the entrance being placed to the right of the chamber, parallel to the axis and the second one sideways. The dromos, which gradually lowered and had pools in its deep part, had six ceiling stones and was 14 ken (about 1.8 meters) in length. The burial chamber had three ceiling stones and was 4 ken in length and 3 ken in width. In 1855 Awaji no kami WAKISAKA measured the tomb and noted that the dromos was '11 ken (about 1.8 meters) 3 shaku (about 30 centimeters) 4 sun (about 3 centimeters)'.

With the start of the Meiji period William Gowland, who visited Japan as an employed foreigner and researched ancient tombs in Nara, praised the tomb as 'the greatest dolmen (corridor-style stone chamber) in Japan'. His records show that the dromos had six huge natural stones (the largest one reaching 16 feet), is about 60 feet in length, 8 to 10 feet in height and 4 to 8 feet in width, and the walls were built of piled-up huge coarse natural stones. Because of a pool 4 feet in depth at the point 40 feet away from the entrance of the dromos, he couldn't reach the burial chamber, but observed two house-shaped stone coffins whose tops were only just above the water.

Based on the research mentioned above, the Tenno-ryou-hitei work project at the end of the Edo period mistakenly concluded that it was a joint Mausoleum of Emperor Temmu and Emperor Jito. Later in 1880 the discovery of "Afukinosanryoki", the record of looters of Emperor Temmu Mausoleum in the Kamakura period led to the transfer of a designated joint mausoleum from this kofun to another. Misemaruyama Kofun had its designation as a joint tomb canceled by the Imperial Household Ministry, but a part of the upper stage of the back circular part was designated as a site for a ryobosanakochi (site possibly related to an imperial tomb).

Later a Chinese-style mirror was unearthed from the back circular part and now is in the possession of the Museum of Kyoto University Literature Department. From the facts that fragments of unglazed ware assumed to be TK43-type in Tanabe Chronology from their characteristics were unearthed in the measurement survey by the Imperial Household Agency and that no haniwa (clay figure) found in kofun built by the 5th century to the latter half of 6th century has been discovered, the theory that this kofun was constructed in the latter half of the 6th century has been highly probable.

Arguments over Taking Photographs of the Stone Chamber in 1991
When a child living Kashihara City was playing with his friends in 1991, he found an entrance to the dromos of a corridor-style stone chamber outside the hedge of this ancient tomb. The father of the child who heard this story entered the inside through the dromos with his child on the early morning of May 30 before he went to work, and took photographs of the inside of the stone chamber. Osaka Asahi Broadcasting Corporation, which was reported by the father, worked together with Tokai University Information Center and Konica to analyze the photographs.
Measurements were determined on the basis of the child of the photographer in the photographs
Both of the house-shaped stone coffins which had been placed as recorded in the Edo period document were covered close to the lid with mud and from their characteristic projects for roping the coffins the front coffin was presumed to be a hollowed-out type and made in the third quarter of the 6th century and the back one in the first quarter of the 7th century. The granite megalith configurating the front of the stone chamber is presumed to weigh more than 100 tons, larger than the 75-ton stone in the Ishibutai Kofun. From its stone masonry pattern, the stone chamber was thought to have been built from the end of the sixth century to the beginning of the 7th century.

Later, Koichi MORI, the professor of Doshisha University (at that time) took up this story in his Osaka lecture on December 10, and TV Asahi also introduced thirty photographs of them in the News Station. People who probably had a chance of having a glimpse into an real imperial tomb showed a keen interest. Kofun research experts also praised highly its academic values of these photographs.

Later from August 10 through September 15 in 1992 the Kunaicho Shoryoubu (the Library of Kunaicho) conducted closure works of an opening, along with an additional simple measurement investigation and after the work and research they published the written report.

Arguments over Buried Persons
Study results to date and the size of the kofun have been making the theory widely accepted by scholars that this kofun is the mausoleum of Emperor Kimmei and Soga no kitashi hime. However, according to the "Nihonshoki" (Chronicles of Japan) the Emperor Kimmei died in 571, his funeral ritual was given in Furuichi, in Kawachi and he was buried in the Hinokumaskaairyou, but there is a theory that the Misemaruyama Kofun is not located in the Hinokuma district, and also in "Nihonshoki" it is recorded that the Kimmei Mausoleum was covered with stones and the ground level was raised, but there is no trace of fukiishi (a layer of stone covering the soil over a burial mound). In this respect the Umeyama Kofun, whose possibility of it being Kimmei Mausoleum is now being discussed, is located in Hinokuma and a large-scale fukiishi has also been found there. Therefore, there still remains a theory that the Umeyama Kofun, which was built almost at the same time when the Misemaruyama Kofun was built may be the Emperor Kimmei's Mausoleum.

If the deceased persons of Misemaruyama Kofun are not Emperor Kimmei and Kitashi hime, the next candidate will be Soga no iname in view of the time when it was constructed.

[Original Japanese]