Samida Takarazuka Tumulus (佐味田宝塚古墳)

Samida Takarazuka Tumulus is a keyhole-shaped mound built in the latter half of the earlier Kofun period (tumulus period); it is located in Kawai-cho, Kitakatsuragi-gun, Nara Prefecture.


Samida Takarazuka Tumulus is in the Umami burial mounds of the southwestern Nara Basin. The front part of the tumulus is facing northeast and its total length is 111.5 meters long while the diameter of the rounded part is 60 meters long. No moat has been found.

In 1882, over 30 bronze mirrors were excavated from this tumulus. Among them was a large mirror (22.9 centimeters in diameter) called "Kaoku Monkyo." The pattern on the mirror depicts houses where the people buried in this tumulus used to live.

These houses are considered to have been used for rituals and political affairs, or for daily life of the local leaders around the 4th century.

In 1985, a research was conducted to verify the dimensions of the tumulus. The tumulus is estimated to have been built between the end of the 4th century and the beginning of the 5th century, as several cylindrical haniwa (clay figure) were excavated from the foot of the tumulus.

Kaoku Monkyo

On the back of the mirror are pictures representing four types of houses and chu (a hole for a cord) in the center.
The pictures are of a pit house (House A), a one-story house (House B), a raised-floor house (House C) and a house which seems to be a warehouse on stilts (House D.)

House A is seemingly a pit dwelling with a door lifted by a column, as well as a balcony and a sunshade which are the same as those of House C. House A has larger floor space than other three houses. This is probably because House A represents the place for daily life. A picture of a pit house which is similar to the picture of House A, is carved on the ring pommel of an iron sword excavated from Todaijiyama Tumulus in Tenri City, Nara Prefecture.

House B is a one-story house with a half-hipped roof. Its wall looks like hinged double doors built on stylobate, which seems to have been influenced by the continent-style architecture.

House C is a raised-floor house with a half-hipped roof. There is a railed ladder on one side and a balcony with a sunshade (a sign of high position) on the other side of the house. Shapes of lightning streaks (a kind of "raimon" [architectural design pattern thought to be based on flashes of lightning]) together with a portrait inside, are represented on both sides of the roof. This building is considered to have been a center for rituals or political affairs. House-shaped haniwa similar to this House C was excavated from the surrounding moat of Misono Tumulus in Yao City, Osaka Prefecture.

House D is a raised-floor house with a gabled roof and a ladder on one side of the house. There is a storage space with a partition made of straws under the raised-floor.

Among the four, the one-story house (B) and the raised-floor house (D) have trees on both sides of the house, which are thought to be shinboku (sacred tree). Other two are fine houses but they do not have shinboku. Instead, there are sun shades placed against the doors, which shows that the houses belong to someone of high rank.

Three houses except House A have two birds on each of them.

House-shaped haniwa similar to Kaoku Monkyo pattern

House-shaped haniwa similar to Kaoku Monkyo pattern are excavated from different parts of Japan. Various house-shaped haniwa of the mid Kofun period (tumulus period) were excavated from Tonobeta number 1 mound in Shibayama-cho, Sanbu County, Chiba Prefecture and Nagase Takahama site in Umanoyama burial mounds located in Hawai-cho, Tohaku County, Tottori Prefecture. House-shaped haniwa which looks similar to House A was excavated from the surrounding moat of Misono Tumulus in Yao City, Osaka Prefecture, and eight different types of house-shaped haniwa were excavated from Akabori Chausuyama Tumulus in Akabori-machi, Isesaki City, Gunma Prefecture.

[Original Japanese]