A Brief Introduction to Japan’s Largest Ancient Burial Mound: Daisen Kofun

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  • A kofun is an ancient grave constructed by emperors and wealthy elites during the early 3rd century in Japan. They actually resemble the Egyptian Pyramids in size yet they are unknown to many people around the world. One eye-catching feature is the key-hole shape of the burial mounds which make it unique to ancient Japan. The largest of all kofun is the Daisen Kofun which is located in Osaka Prefecture.

    What is a Kofun?


    Just like Egyptian Pharaohs, the Japanese Emperors were also buried in a similar way. Their deaths also mean burying their valuable goods with them in the kofun. Some of these items are iron, weapons, bronze and many more. Kofun is cultural property considered as sacred religious sites and are guarded and administered by the Imperial Household Agency, the department responsible for all matters related to the emperor and his family. A kofun assumes various shapes throughout history. Some are circular types while others are square types. However, the keyhole type is the most popular of all. This is the shape of Daisen Kofun. It measures over 1,500 feet long and over 1,000 feet wide.

    Features of Daisen Kofun

    You can clearly see the shape of Daisen Kofun from afar. The circular part of the mound is where you can find the entombed bodies which reach over 90 feet. The rectangular portion is said to have been used for mortuary rites. The Japanese government actually restricted further archaeological research in the early 1970s.


    The kofun is presumed to have entombed the body of Emperor Nintoku, regarded as a legendary emperor by many historians. This is considered to be his final resting place although the actual site of his grave is unknown.

    There are over 160,000 kofun, including Daisen Kofun, in all of Japan. They make up Mozu Tumulus, which is currently on the list of UNESCO’s Tentative World Heritage Sites.

    Note: The tomb in Daisen Kofun is not welcome for public viewing. However, you can still observe by walking along the path encircling the tomb.


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