Naniwa no Miya (an ancient palace in the Asuka and Nara periods in present Chuo Ward, Osaka City) (難波宮)

Naniwa no Miya was a palace located in the present-day Chuo Ward, Osaka City in the Asuka and Nara periods.

It was mentioned in a history book (Nihonshoki [the Chronicles of Japan]), however, its location remained unknown until the end of the World War II. In 1913, several roof tiles with the jukenmon (concentric circle design) and rengemon (lotus flower patterns) were found but were virtually ignored. In 1953, however, Shibi (ornamental ridge-end tile) was unearthed in the vicinity where the roof tiles had been found. That discovery jump-started the excavation and study by Naniwakyushi Kenshokai (Association of honoring publicly for Naniwa-kyu Palace site) under the leadership of Tokutaro YAMANE and, little by little, the remains of the palace in the Nara period became unraveled. In 1958, additionally, the remains of pillars believed to be a generation older than Shibi and, from the scorched earth that filled pillar holes, it became known that there had been a fire. In short, based on the record that 'the Naniwa no Miya Palace burnt down' in February 686, it can be presumed that the palace of Emperor Kotoku was lost in fire whereby it came to be thus considered that a new palace was subsequently built for Emperor Tenmu.
These palaces in the foregoing are referred to as 'the early Naniwa no Miya Palace.'

In 1961, the excavation work performed by Tokutaro YAMANE and his collaborators unearthed the remains of Daigokuden (Council Hall in the Imperial Palace) in 'the late Naniwa no Miya Palace' of the era of Emperor Shomu and its existence was confirmed.

At the time of this discovery, Yamane stated, 'I have seen the vision of Daigokuden.'

The Early Naniwa no Miya Palace

In 645, after the Taika Reforms, Emperor Kotoku relocated the capital city to Naniwa (Naniwa no Nagara no Toyosaki no Miya Palace) whereby the earthfast and thatched-roof palace was completed in 652.

In January 655, after the passing of Emperor Kotoku, Empress Saimei ascended to the throne for the second time at Asuka Itabuki no Miya Palace in Nara whereby transferring the capital city.

The Late Naniwa no Miya

During the Nara period (726), Emperor Shomu appointed FUJIWARA no Umakai as Chief of Construction of Naniwa no Miya to start the construction of Naniwa-kyo (an ancient capital of Naniwa) while having a detached palace in place (under the dual capital system in conjunction with Heijo-kyo[the ancient capital of Japan in current Nara]). The palace was built with Chinese technique including cornerstones and tiled roofs. In 744, the capital was transferred and it is considered that Naniwa-kyo was also in existence at that time. On January 24, 744, the following year, the capital city was transferred from Naniwa no Miya Palace to Shigaraki no Miya Palace.

In 784, concurrent with the relocation of capital to Nagaoka-kyo (an ancient capital of Nagaoka) by Emperor Kanmu, buildings such as Daigokuden were dismantled and reconstructed in the new capital city.

Naniwa no Miya Historic Site

Today, part of the remains of Naniwa no Miya Palace has turned into Naniwa no Miya Historical Park which is being maintained to the south of Osaka-jo Castle.

The remains of Naniwa no Miya extend over the surrounding area which includes the district where NHK Osaka and Osaka Museum of History are located. On the first basement level of the Osaka Museum of History, visitors can view the subterranean archaeological site.

The thatched-roof stilt warehouse in front of that museum is a replica of one of the massive stilt warehouses existed in the fifth century (Kofun period [Tumulus period]) that were found in the Hoenzaka Site. It is the ancient structural remnants of Naniwa no tsu (Naniwa Port) which became the key transportation hub prior to the times of Naniwa no Miya Palace.

In 2006, mokkan (a narrow strip of wood on which an official message is written), from approximately the mid seventh century, believed to be the oldest of its kind which was written in Manyo-gana (a form of syllabary used in the Manyoshu [Collection of Myriad Leaves]) was excavated. Mokkan measured 18.5 centimeters long and 2.7 centimeters wide with writings in ink on one side being '皮留久佐乃皮斯米之刀斯' which is believed to read 'Harukusa no Hajime no toshi' (Spring grass of the new year). Based on earthenware excavated at the same time and the conditions of geological formation, it is considered that mokkan was made around the time when the early Naniwa no Miya was completed and it was the finding which urged reconsideration of the existing belief that Manyo-gana came into existence between 672 and 697.

Virtually the entire Hanshin Expressway (No.13) Higashi Osaka Route which runs east to west on the north side of Naniwa no Miya Historical Park is an elevated expressway except for the part near the remains of Naniwa no Miya Palace which is at street level. As a result of pre-construction consultation, this 'street-level design' was adopted to preserve the remains of the Naniwa no Miya Palace ruins and to secure the scenery between Naniwa no Miya Historical Park and the ruins of the Osaka-jo Castle. The sudden steep inclination in this section of the highway, however, often causes accidents and traffic congestions. A special structural design was used for the foundation of the street-level section of the expressway whereby no stakes were driven into the ground so as not to damage the center section of the Naniwa no Miya Palace ruins.

[Original Japanese]