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May 26, 2012

Haniwa and Graves - Shibayama Ancient Tombs and Haniwa Museum, Chiba (Museums)

Shibayama, on the eastern side of Narita Airport, is another area rich in old tumulus graves. In contrast to Boso Fudoki-no-Oka, Shibayama has given us numerous large-sized and fascinating haniwa figures. Typical are curious figures with high hats, beards and long curly hair, a very unusual look as haniwa go. They are the trademarks of the whole area, including Narita and you will find copies of them at the entrance to the basement train station in the Narita Terminal no. 2.

The real things are on view in two local museums. One is the Shibayama Ancient Tombs and Haniwa Museum, located in Shibayama Park among the tombs itself. The biggest tombs are the Tonozuka and Himezuka, both in the keyhole shape, square in front and round at the back. In these tombs a complete procession of haniwa figures was found, inspiring the local citizens to start an annual ‘haniwa festival.’ The museum exhibits haniwa from the Kujikuri and Tonegawa areas and other archaeological artifacts such as a sword, metal bells and horse trappings. There are pottery heads of people and animals, as well as a small house and cylinders surmounted by quivers and fans. The ancient Kofun culture is brought to life in photo’s and the reconstruction of an old dwelling.

Shibayama Kannonkyoji, Chiba
[The gate of Kannonkyoji Temple, Shibayama. Photo © Ad Blankestijn]

From the Shibayama Park it is only a short walk to the Kannonkyoji Temple (also called more affectionately Nioson), where we find the other museum, the Shibayama Museum. This museum not only stands inside the temple grounds, but is even connected to the temple’s main hall. On the first floor is a display of more haniwa from the Tonozuka and Himezuka tumuli, while on the second floor one also finds a collection of Buddhist statues and paintings.

The display of the haniwa against a muted gray background is more imaginative than in the first museum, although the two facilities work together. There is a man with a triangular hat from the Himezuka; a 163 cm tall, late 6th c. warrior with a beard, long curly hair and a triangular, tall hat; a farmer with a straw hat; and a young woman wearing large earrings and a flat cap.

The Buddhist art consists of the statues the temple owns, such as a beautiful Dainichi Nyorai (Heian-period), a 13th c. Bishamon and a 12th c. Jizo. There are also Buddhist paintings (the temple owns a Fudo Myo-o and a Jizo). The modern paintings are mainly works illustrating the life of the Buddha. Don’t miss the two black Nioson (Deva Kings) statues inside the gate building, which gave the temple its nickname.
Tel: 0479-77-1828

Hours: 9:00 – 16:30; Cl Mon (next day if public holiday), day after NH, NY.

Tel: 0479-77-0004

Hours: 10:00-16:30; no holidays.

Access (to both): (infrequent) bus from Narita Station to Shibayama, then 5 min. on foot. Or from Higashi-Narita St. on the Keisei Line ‘Noriai Service Taxi’ to Shibayama (the same taxi runs in the opposite direction from Matsuo Station as well). This takes about 20 min, but inquire in advance with the museum as this service runs only on weekends, and then a few times a day. Higashi Narita is only 6 min on the Keisei Higashi Narita Line, but trains are infrequent (about 2 an hour). Matsuo Station can be reached by taking the Sotobo Line express from Tokyo to Naruto (about 1 hr) and then transfer to a local train on the Naruto-Choshi Line for the 5 min ride to next station Matsuo. These local trains are infrequent (one an hour) so plan in advance. You can also take a taxi from Naruto, but this is rather expensive (more than 5000 yen).