Mozu-Furu Q&A Vol.01

What are kofun?

Kofun are tumuli: ancient tombs covered with mounds of earth. Many of them were made about 1,400-1,750 years ago.
The people buried in these kofun are the kings and local elite figures from those days, and some of their family members.
The Nintoku-tenno-ryo Kofun in Sakai is the largest keyhole-shaped tumulus in Japan.
Inside, there is a stone chamber where the dead person was buried. The mound and banks were lined with fired clay figures called haniwa.
Nintoku-tenno-ryo Kofun Nintoku-tenno-ryo Kofun, the largest keyhole-shaped tumulus in Japan
Haniwa were made by firing clay. They came in various shapes; some were cylindrical, some shaped like houses, others like animals, and so on.
The most common haniwa shape is the cylindrical one.
Cylindrical haniwa were placed on the mounds and banks side by side with no space in between. This created a sort of fence to prevent people from entering the sacred space of the kofun.
Cylindrical haniwa, Horse-shaped haniwa, Man-shaped haniwa
The mounds of kofun also come in various shapes as shown above.
Keyhole-shaped tumulus, Round tumulus, Square tumulus, Scallop shell-shaped tumulus

Who constructed the kofun?

Kofun were constructed by the local elite figures in ancient times. We can tell how powerful a leader was by the shape and size of the kofun, as well as the goods buried inside it.

Mozu-Furu Q&A INDEX

  • How were kofun constructed?
  • Where did people live in the Kofun Period?
  • What kinds of haniwa are there?
  • What did people wear in the Kofun Period?
  • What is the inside of a kofun like?