Names in this site follow the Japanese custom of family name first.

May 26, 2012

Sword and Haniwa - Sakitama Historical Park, Gyoda (Museums)

The Sakitama Historical Park in Gyoda consists of nine large-scale tumuli graves (kofun) built between the end of the fifth and beginning of the seventh century. Here we find the Maruhaka Kofun, one of the highest round tumuli in Japan; the Inariyama Kofun, a keyhole shaped grave originally 120 meters in length, and the oldest in the park - it was excavated in 1968 a sword with inscription was found; the Shogunyama Kofun, unfortunately already excavated by local people in 1894, that has been restored to its original shape - near the stone burial chamber, an interior observation room has been built with a model arrangement of the grave and various artifacts; and the Wakazuka Kofun, where many interesting haniwa were found.

Sakitama Historical Park, Gyoda, Saitama
[Tumuli in Sakitama Historical Park, Gyoda. Photo Ad Blankestijn]

In the 30 ha park also stands the Sakitama Shiryokan, an archeology (and folklore) museum. Materials found in the nearby graves are on display: haniwa, such as a dancing man, a man playing a zither, a warriors' head with large helmet and various clay cylinders; Sue ware, a grayish pottery of somewhat later date (and not as beautiful as the red-flamed haniwa); horse trappings such as an iron horse mask for protection in battle, and various bells; and a great number of iron swords.

Among these is also a sword known as 'Shingai,' inscribed with a lengthy text in Chinese on both sides of the blade. Shingai is one of the dates in the Chinese 60-year calendar system and refers to 471 CE - this much can be ascertained because the name of the then reigning emperor, Yuryaku, is mentioned as well. When the sword was found, the inscription was overlooked due to the heavy rust on the blade. Only when it was sent to an institute for special treatment so that it could be better preserved, it became clear that the blade had been inscribed with 115 characters in gold inlay. Polishing has made these characters now clearly legible. The text gives the name of the owner, his family tree, and the fact that he served Emperor Yuryaku as a warrior.

The sword is exhibited in a special glass case in the middle of the exhibition room and, together with other artifacts from the tombs, was declared a national treasure in 1983.

The museum (standing at the end of a driveway, across the street from the parking lot) gives a good impression of the items found in the kofun tumuli; the park (especially the part at the side of the parking lot) is an excellent place for a pleasant stroll.
Address: 4834 Sakitama, Gyoda-shi, Saitama-ken. Tel. 0485-59-1111

Access: 15 min. by bus or taxi from JR Gyoda Station (1 hr. by train on the Takasaki Line from Ueno Station) to the archeological park (Fudoki no Oka).

Hours: 9:00-16:30. The same ticket is valid for the exhibition room in the Shogunyama Tumulus.