The Mozu-Furuichi Kofun Group comprises 49 distinctive, often keyhole-shaped earthen burial mounds.
They were the stage for funerary rituals of kings and can be up to 500m in length. The kofun date from the late 4th and early 5th century.
Map of Mozu-Furuichi KofungunLoad map
After a failed attempt to visit Antequera in early 2017, I finally succeeded in visiting a WHS inscribed less than a year before on my December 2019 trip to Kansai and Hiroshima. The kofungun at Mozu in Sakai are now the closest WHS to Osaka, and it's from there that I visited Nintoku-tenno-ryo. I used the Nankai Line to Mikunigaoka Station, which is basically at the tip of the great tomb, and walked the whole length of it to the front. Mozu Station is actually closer to the front, and you can access it on the JR Hanwa Line. On the way, I passed a few small circular mounds, including one that seemed to be accessible from the adjacent garage. Otherwise, the scenery was quite uniform throughout the walk, just a small canal-like moat on one side and modern houses on the other. The trees on the mounds look lovely in autumn colors, though. Upon reaching the front of the famous kofun, I was greeted with the view that everyone who comes to this little-known site gets. Crossing the bridge reveals another moat layer behind the first, and in the distance, a Torii gate seems to serve as the spiritual entrance to the tomb. While the mound is huge, probably even greater in volume than than the Pyramids of Giza, it sure doesn't have the same effect.
The mound looks like a forest, and that's mostly what it is. It's not significantly taller than its surroundings, and it just doesn't really demonstrate any unprecedented level of engineering for its age. Just a few hundred years later, beautiful temples were being built in Horyuji! All that being said, I personally appreciated the serenity of the area, the unique preservation of the tombs as holy sites, their beauty in the autumn scenery, and the surprising number of them. They do indeed represent the unique culture of the kofungun and are indeed the richest site to represent them, but how they compare to the rest of the world, I can't say yet. I feel like they're a worthy WHS, comparable to the tumuli sites in nearby Korea, but they don't offer much to the casual visitor. I'd still recommend a visit to anyone who visits Osaka, as this seems to be the most authentic and interesting look into the ancient past of this great metropolis.
In 2014 I visited the centerpiece of this nomination, the Daisen Kofun, which is considered to be the grave of Emperor Nintoku and is the single largest grave in the world by area.
It is so large that the best way to view it is perhaps to take off or land at the Kansai (Osaka) International Airport.
The photo shows the Shinto Torii Gate in the middle, behind which lies the widest of the three moats that surround the all important keyhole-shaped grave.
I believe it'll be surprising if this site gets a go at getting on the WH list, simply because, no matter what the nomination dossier says, nobody is certain that the Daisen Kofun is really the grave for the Emperor. This absurdity comes from the fact that the belief that the grave belongs to an Emperor means it is managed by the Imperial Household Agency, an ultra conservative entity that wouldn't allow anyone to visit such a holy site, let alone to dig it, resulting in the uncertainty. (Remember that the Japanese Imperial Family is considered to be the descendants of Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess, in the Japanese mythology.) I was told by a man who managed this property on site that the Ministry of Culture, which takes care of the World Cultural Heritage in Japan, had been unsuccessfully battling it out with the Imperial Household Agency, which takes care of the past and present living deity!
But this nomination is not just about the Daisen Kofun, but about the whole group. Numbers count.
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