Tsukiyama Tumulus (Yamato-takada City) (築山古墳 (大和高田市))

Tsukiyama Tumulus located at of Aza Shiroyama, Tsukiyama, Yamatotakada City, Nara Prefecture, is the ancient Japanese tumulus of a circular shape rear-end with a rectangular frontage. Tsukiyama Tumulus is situated among the southern group of Umami Tumulus groups, and it is assumed to be the tomb built for a leading figure.

The tumulus is under the control of the Imperial Household Agency as a reference Imperial mausoleum, thus it is prohibited to enter the site by general public people. The length of the tumulus is 210m, and the diameter of the circular part is 120m, and the width of the rectangular frontage is 105m. Although the collected information regarding this tumulus is quite limited, the sample Haniwa pieces (a clay image) excavated from the tumulus suggest the construction of this tomb in the late half of the 4th century.

Detailed research has not been performed yet particularly on the stepped construction of the tumulus, but the studies suggest several options for the detail of the step that; Two-stepped rectangular frontage and three-stepped circular rear-end; three-stepped rectangular frontage and three-stepped circular rear-end; three-stepped rectangular frontage and four-stepped circular rear-end.

While the historical background of this tumulus is still unclear, there is a possibility that the bomb was used as a castle, in the same manner as Nagura Kitaike located about 300m south-west of Tsukiyama Tumulus, (Nagura Kitaike is the castle site of Banzai clan, the powerful samurai clan of Hiratanosho Manor) and Babasaki site located south to the tumulus, which is also presumed as a castle related construction.

There is a small pathway circulating around on the tumulus body, which could have decayed the shape of the tumulus. The original surrounding moat was presumably symmetrical and located at the north of the rectangular rear-end part, although its north part is currently deformed thinly by filling in the moat from the outer side toward the embankment. Only at the southern side of the attaching point of the rectangular frontage part and the circular rear-end part, "Tsukuridashi" (a section of the tumulus to place the offerings) is preserved and visible from the outside.

According to "Sanryoshi" written by Kunpei GAMOH (a historical research record regarding Imperial mausoleums written by a Confucian scholar Kunpei GAMOH), Tsukiyama Tumulus is considered to be built as the Imperial Mausoleum for Emperor Buretsu, while Kitsuizuka Tumulus in a circular shape rear-end with a rectangular frontage (the length of the tumulus is 75m, and it is located south to Tsukiyama Tumulus; currently the Imperial Household Agency manages the tomb as Okanishi Imperial Mausoleum) was built as the Imperial Mausoleum for Emperor Kenzo. On the map describing the ancient conditions of this area, those two tumulus were noted as the South/North Mausoleums of "Kataokano Iwatsukino-oka Imperial Mausoleum, which could be the origin of the names of local places, such as Iwazono or Iwatsuki-bashi Bridge (the bridge over Takada-gawa River situated east of the tumulus). Unfortunately it is considered that this tumulus has been robbed already, judging from the singes found in Edo period with scattered Haniwa pieces and a large hole dug on the tumulus ground.

Although a Japanese literature/folklorist, Nobuo ORIKUCHI, also tried to specify the buried figure through his own research during the stay at his friends house located near the tumulus, he did not reach the conclusion; however, he was deeply moved by the villagers taking pride of the tumulus as he conducted hearing with them. Orikuchi's attachment to Tsukiyama Tumulus was particularly strong, thus he visited the tumulus quite often as he visited Taima-dera Temple.
Orikuchi described himself as the follower of Kunpei GAMOH, Mitsuhira TOMOBAYASHI and Toshiakira KAWAJI in his essay, 'Shinsen Sanryoshi' (The New Edition of Sanryoshi, 11th volume, 12th edition published in "Kigen 2600" released in December, 1938) stating the village of Tsukiyama as the 'sacred place' or the 'holy ground.'
Since he wrote the place as the 'village with a distinguished history handed down in tradition,' he might have heard and seen some folklore or tradition regarding the tumulus.
Furthermore, he mentioned he went into 'raptures' when he learned Tsukiyama Tumulus was presumably designated as the 'Imperial Mausoleum.'

When the central axis of the tumulus is extended out to the circular rear-end orientation, it goes through the mountain pass area of Takenouchi Road located south to Futakami-yama Mountain, while the axis extended out to the rectangular frontage orientation goes through Hashihaka Tumulus and Hibara-jinja Shrine area. To the east side of the rectangular frontage part, which is also the orientation toward Miwa-yama Mountain, there is Konpira-yama Mountain Tumulus, which is the largest circular-shaped Tumulus in Kinki region with the diameter of the circle in 95m. It was named as Konpira-yama Mountain Tumulus since Konpira-jinja Shrine, known as the guardian of sailing, was enshrined on top of the tumulus body; it is an interesting point to note that the enshrined guardian deity is the same Omono nushinokami with Miwa-yama Mountain Omiwa-jinja Shrine.

There is a height difference in several meters between the exterior embankment of Tsukiyama Tumulus and Konpira-yama Mountain Tumulus, which extends out and encircle Tsukiyama Tumulus, and forms a pond at one location called Tsuga Pond. It is considered that these are the evidences of the double-moat condition of Tuskiyama Tumulus.

Tsukiyama Tumulus is surrounded by various large and small-scale tumulus, such as; Inkiyama Tumulus (a tumulus with a circular shape rear-end with a rectangular frontage) right at the south of Tsukiyama Station front; series of tumulus located within Otaniyama Natural Park; Kanyama Tumulus (it is locate inside of Tsukiyama Children Park, slightly north of Tsukiyama Tumulus: this tumulus has a scallop-shaped rectangular frontage with a circular rear-end); Furuyashiki Tumulus (it is located west-north of Tsukiyama Tumulus: its stone hut is exposed to the outside); Chausu-yama Mountain Tumulus (south-west of Tsukiyama Tumulus: it is a circular-shaped tumulus with a diameter of 50m); Kitsuizuka Tumulus (it is located south-east of Tsukiyama Tumulus); Konpira-yama Mountain Tumulus (it is located east of Tsukiyama Tumulus).

There are also many other groups of tumulus related to Tsukiyama Tumulus, such as Kuroishi Tumulus Group north of the Tsukiyama Station near Kuroishi-yama Mountain, Egamida Tumulus Group, Moesashi Tumulus Group, and Shinyama Tumulus.

During Meiji period, the village residents living near the tumulus of Kuroishi-yama Mountain were suspected of robbing the tomb and questioned by the police (the result was not guilty.)
At that time, the names of the buried figures in those small tumulus had been forgotten, although each tumulus had a legend handed down over generations. It is expected to perform intensive researches to find out such tradition handed down among those village families regarding Tsukiyama Tumulus.

[Original Japanese]