The Asuka Capital Site (飛鳥京跡)

The Asuka Capital site, located in Oka, Asuka Village, Takaichi County, Nara Prefecture, is an Asuka-period archaeological site.


It's considered to be the site of a palace built in the seventh century. The site is thought to be the palace of the emperors (the kings [of the Yamato sovereign]) that was built in the Asuka area noted in Nihonshoki (Chronicles of Japan), etc.

It has been said that in this area there is an archaeological site that appears to be a palace. It was handed down as the site of Itabuki no Miya Palace. The remains discovered during the initial archaeological survey were designated as a national historical site and registered as Den Asuka Itabuki Miya Ato (the legendary site of Asuka Itabuki Miya). This name is often used for reference.

Archaeological Survey

The archaeological survey started in 1959. In the area where archaeological research has progressed, it has been discovered that the remains of different ages were found in the sequence of archaeological layers. The remains from different ages can be roughly divided into the first, second and third periods. The time order of the three periods was checked by looking up the description written in historical materials such as Nihonshoki. It is thought that the remains of the three periods are as follows: first period, Okamoto no Miya Palace (630 - 636); second period, Itabuki no Miya Palace (643 - 645 or 655); and third period, Okamoto no Miya (656 - 660) and Asuka Kiyohara no Miya Palace (672 - 694). Judging from the result of examining the age of the artifacts that have been excavated from the site, it is very probable that the remains of the third period were Nochino Asuka no Okamoto no Miya Palace and Asuka Kiyomihara no Miya Palace.

The remains of the top layer consist of a naikaku (inner defensive enclosure) area and a gaikaku (outer defensive enclosure) area.

The naikaku area measures 158 meters from east to west and 197 meters from south to north. It is separated into the two areas of north and south. The north area, which is square, is larger than the south area, measuring approximately 151 meters on a side. In the north area, some wells, raised-floor constructions and covered corridors are commonly found, and river stones are laid out. In the south area, a large building site measuring 20 meters by 11.2 meters has been found. The centerline of the building corresponds to that of the naikaku area. The pebbles are spread around the building. The south gate stood a short distance away from the building.

In the gaikaku area, some moats, stone-paved ditches and pits of "hottate-bashira" (columns embedded directly in the ground for construction, such as in a raised-floor construction) have been found. Both the naikaku and gaikaku are surrounded by moats in which the thick hottate-bashira columns were erected. Other than the above two areas, there is an area called 'Ebinoko-kaku' (Ebinoko enclosure) (so named because it was located in the subsection of the village called 'Ebinoko'), where the large hottate building (called the Ebinoko grand palace) measuring 29.2 meters by 15.3 meters and the canopies on four sides were discovered. The building is surrounded by the moat, and its length is more than 100 meters from north to south and approximately 100 meters from east to west, where the hottate-bashira columns were erected.

Some Bokusho-mokkan (a narrow wooden strip on which some words are written in black ink called 'sumi') on which some Chinese characters are written, such as 'Kanotomi' (辛巳年),' 'Otsu-no-miko' (大津皇子 [Prince Otsu]) and 'Okume' (大来), were discovered in the outer area of the gaikaku. It can be estimated that those characters refer to the following: 'Kanotomi' means Tenmu 10th year (681), and 'Okume' means the name of Prince Otomo's sister, Okume-no-miko (Princess Okume). Therefore, if we assume that the remains of the top layer comprise the palace building, it is reasonable to consider that the widely accepted theory is that the remains are the Emperor Tenmu's Asuka Kiyomihara no Miya Palace.

Because the overall range of remains hasn't yet been defined, archaeological research by which to specify the range has been conducted.

Generally, the 'Asuka capital site' points out the palace sites mentioned above.
However, the site located 600 meters north of the palace site is also called the 'Asuka capital site.'
Sometimes the garden site (Asuka Kyo Ato Enchi iko [the site of a large pond in the garden located in the Asuka capital site]), which is located northwest of the palace site, is introduced as 'the garden pond site found within the Asuka capital site.'
Apparently, the range of 'Asuka capital site' isn't always the same for some people and in some cases.

Asuka Kiyohara no Miya Palace

It is Asuka Kiyomihara no Miya Palace whose structure has been more clearly defined by the archaeological research. The area, which corresponds to the emperor's residence, stretches 152 to 158 meters from east to west and 197 meters from north to south. The space for religious services, located in the southeast of the emperor's residence, measures 94 meters from east to west and 55 meters from north to south. The related facilities, such as government offices and gardens, encircle the space. Some sites of the government offices are also found in the surrounding areas.

Asuka no Miya Palace

The two emperors, Kogyoku and Saimei, used Itabuki no Miya Palace and the two successive emperors, Tenmu and Jito, used Asuka Kiyohara no Miya Palace. This indicates that people of the time felt that a palace should be used by many emperors rather than used as an angu (the palace where the emperor lived temporarily) for one emperor. The Asuka no Miya Palace represented the turning point of a form of capital that was changing from one that would be moved each time a new emperor changed his palace to a capital that was established in one place.

[Original Japanese]