Noguchino Ono-haka Tumulus (野口王墓)

Noguchino Ono-haka is a Hakkaku-fun (octagonal tumulus) constructed in the end of the Kofun period (tumulus period) located in Asuka-mura, Nara Prefecture. It is a Tenno-ryo (Emperor's mausoleum), which was identified and determined as the Shared Mausoleum of Emperor Tenmu and Empress Jito (meaning that it was determined as an imperial mausoleum). According to "Ryobo yoran" (Survey of Imperial Mausoleum) published by the Imperial Household Agency, the name of the said imperial mausoleum is Hinokuma no Ouchi no Misasagi (imperial mausoleum).
In Nihonshoki (Chronicles of Japan), it is described as ' Ouchi no Misasagi.'


The tumulus is round-shaped measuring approximately 58 meters in length from east to west, 45 meters in length from north to south and nine meters in height. The original shape of the tumulus is considered to have been five-tier octagonal surrounded by stone steps. It is considered that there is a stone chamber of Kiriishi zumi (masonry laid with regularly cut stones) consisting of two rooms, in which kyochokan coffin of Emperor Tenmu and a gilt bronze urn of Empress Jito were placed. This tumulus can be considered as the mausoleum of an emperor and there is no question as to whether the owner of that tomb actually existed. It is one of the few ancient mausoleums which can be authenticated. As a similar example, the Mausoleum of Emperor Tenchi (Gobyo no Kofun Tumulus) can be mentioned.

Most of the grave goods, however, were stolen by grave robbers in 1235. It is said that the coffin of Emperor Tenmu was opened and his remains were pulled out during the robbery so that the bones and gray hair of the Emperor were scattered in the stone chamber. It is said that, after cremation, the ashes of Empress Jito were placed in a silver urn which was also stolen and, tragically, her ashes were discarded nearby.

Noguchino Ono-haka recorded in documents

Numerous historical data concerning Noguchino Ono-haka from the time of its construction to the present time remain in existence. Particularly, since it was determined as the joint mausoleum of Emperor Tenmu and Empress Jito after many twists and turns and there are plenty of related historical materials. Based on the assumption that Noguchino Ono-haka is the Tenmu-Jito Mausoleum, the following is a description of that tomb as verified by documents.

Ancient times

In the article for December 4, 687 of "Nihonshoki" (Chronicles of Japan), there is a description that 'Ouchi no Misasagi was constructed for the first time' after the death of Emperor Tenmu. In December 688, executions came to an end, Emperor Tenmu was buried. On January 31, 704, Empress Jito who died in 702 was cremated at Asukaoka and, on February 9 of that year, her remains were buried in Ouchiyama no Misasagi where Emperor Tenmu rested. In the Engishiki (an ancient manual of protocols and procedures for national rituals and prayers) of Shoryoryo (the Bureau of Imperial Mausoleum Administration), it says the following. Hinokuma no Ouchi no Misasagi (where Emperor Tenmu who governed this country in Asuka no Kiyomihara no Miya Palace rests. It is located in Takaichi County, Yamato Province. The graveyard of the mausoleum measures five-cho (1 cho is approximately 109 meters) from east to west and four-cho from north to south with five pairs of Ryoko (imperial tomb guard)) and in the said Ouchi no Misasagi (in which Empress Jito who governed this country in Fujiwara Kyu Palace also rests. Empress Jito was also buried in Hinokuma no Ouchi no Misasagi.
No additional tomb guards were provided.'
(Notes have been provided in parentheses in the above reference materials.)

Medieval period to beginning in the early-modern times

In the entries for April 27 and June 29, 1235 in the diary of FUJIWARA no Teika "Meigetsuki" (Chronicle of the Bright Moon), it was recorded that Noguchino Ono-haka had been robbed during the evenings of April 16 and 17 of the same year. On that occasion, "Aoki no Sanryoki" was developed as a record for the stone chamber. In "Aoki no Sanryoki," it is written that the stone chamber and coffin were made of agate and Kanshitsu (dry lacquer), respectively. It seems that, between the Muromachi period and the early Edo period, this imperial mausoleum was poorly maintained. In "Yamato meisho zue" published in 1791, there is description that visitors not only climbing on the tumulus but also freely entering and viewing inside the stone chamber.

Early-modern times

In the beginning of the early-modern times, there was confusion between Noguchino Ono-haka Tumulus and Mise Maruyama Kofun Tumulus as to which one of these two tombs was the joint mausoleum of Emperor Tenmu and Empress Jito, causing controversy. During the imperial mausoleum restoration project performed by 1699 in the Genroku era of the Edo period, Noguchino Ono-haka was treated as the Tenmu-Jito Joint Mausoleum ("Goryosho ko"). However, in "Yamatoshi" (Historical Records of Yamato) completed in 1734, Mise Maruyama was mentioned as the Tenmu-Jito Mausoleum while making no reference to Noguchino Ono-haka being the Tenmu-Jito Mausoleum. Confusion surrounding these two tombs as to which was the joint mausoleum of Emperor Tenmu and Empress Jito subsequently continued until the Meiji period.

End of the Edo period and Meiji Restoration

In the end of the Edo period, Mise Maruyama was considered as the Tenmu-Jito Mausoleum in "Uchisuminawa" written by Sadamasa KITAURA in 1848 and Noguchino Ono-haka was identified as the Mausoleum of Emperor Monmu. In "Seiseki zushi" by Hyosai HIRATSUKA published in 1854, Mise Maruyama was also considered as the Tenmu-Jito Mausoleum but the writer also mentioned that there had been a theory of Noguchino Ono-haka being the Tenmu-Jito Mausoleum and another theory of Noguchino Ono-haka being identified as the tomb of Yamato-hiko no Mikoto.

Afterward, during the imperial mausoleum restoration project in the Bunkyu era of the Edo period which started in 1862, Noguchino Ono-haka underwent an interim repair as the Mausoleum of Emperor Monmu. It seems that the restoration was performed only as an interim measure at that time. As one of the reasons for the above restoration being a temporary one, it is considered that, yet again, there was a dissenting opinion concerning the determination of Noguchino Ono-haka being the Monmu Mausoleum.
In "Sanryoko" by Yoshiomi TANIMORI, the following has been argued:
'Empress Jito was cremated and her urn was robbed. In light of the above, the joint mausoleum of Emperor Tenmu and Empress Jito must contain one stone casket.
It is, therefore, odd that there are two stone caskets in Mise Maruyama if it had been the Tenmu-Jito joint mausoleum.'
It is possible that such a dissenting theory as above was the background of Noguchino Ono-haka undergoing a restoration as the interim Mausoleum of Emperor Monmu. For unknown reasons, however, Tanimori's theory was never accepted and it seems that Noguchino Ono-haka remained to be tentatively identified as the Monmu Mausoleum until certain time.

Modern times

At some point in time between the restoration in the Bunkyu era and 1871, the determination was once again changed from Mise Maruyama to Noguchino Ono-haka. In 1871, the determination was subsequently changed again whereby it was decided that Noguchino Ono-haka not to be the Tenmu-Jito Mausoleum.

However, Noguchino Ono-haka was subsequently redetermined yet again as the Tenmu-Jito Mausoleum. In 1880, "Aoki no Sanryoki" was found in Kozan-ji Temple in Togano, Kyoto. In light of the above, in December 1880, Sugaomi OSAWA and Nagaoki OHASHI, government officials of the Department of the Imperial Household (the present Imperial Household Agency) wrote 'A Study of the Location of the Hinokuma no Ouchi no Misasagi Mausoleum of Emperor Tenmu and Empress Jito' ("Kobunroku" (Compiled Records of the Grand Council of State) owned by the National Archives of Japan). In 'A Study of the Location of the Hinokuma no Ouchi no Misasagi Mausoleum of Emperor Tenmu and Empress Jito,' the authors made a reference to the opinion of Tanimori in the foregoing stating that it was impossible for Mise Maruyama to be the Tenmu-Jito Mausoleum. And the authors argued that, since the descriptions of 'Aoki no Sanryo Rigo Noguchi' in the "Aoki no Sanryoki" and 'Yamato Aoki no Misasagi, the Mausoleum of Emperor Tenmu' in "Shoryo zoji chumon"(1200) agreed with one another, Noguchi was indeed 'Aoki,' the mausoleum of Emperor Tenmu.

This 'Study of the location of the Hinokuma no Ouchi no Misasagi Mausoleum of Emperor Tenmu and Empress Jito' was delivered to Kunaikyo (Minister of the Sovereign's Household) Sanetsune TOKUDAIJI, and a request to revise the existing determination was submitted to Daijo-daijin (Grand minister of state) Sanetomi SANJO. In January 1881, this request was accepted by Department of the Interior of Daijokan (Grand Council of State) and, subsequent to the submission for Imperial sanction, it was approved on February 1 of that year. As a result, Noguchino Ono-haka Tumulus was formally determined as the joint mausoleum of Emperor Tenmu and Empress Jito and that decision remains unchanged to the present. Additionally, with its status as an Imperial mausoleum being removed, Mise Maruyama was subsequently reclassified from a legendary mausoleum to a referable mausoleum which has remained unchanged to the present.

The Law of Funeral and Tumulus

The Law of Funeral was issued in 646 but it did not negate construction of tombs as a whole. The actual situation was that a small group of the ruling class continued to build tumuli, whereas, the lower-ranking government official class and common people were not allowed to do so. In other words, funerals remained elaborate for some people but were simple for the majority. Some tumuli including Noguchino Ono-haka Tumulus, Nakaoyama Kofun Tumulus and Takamatsuzuka Kofun Tumulus were constructed after the promulgation of the Law of Funeral.

[Original Japanese]