Ibaraki town creates map of prefecture’s ancient burial mounds

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The Ibaraki kofun map produced by the Oarai Town Board of Education

MITO — An education board in a coastal town in Ibaraki Prefecture has created a map of the prefecture’s ancient burial mounds in a bid to attract visitors.

The Oarai Town Board of Education embarked on this mission with the help of cultural property officials from other municipalities in the prefecture, in the hopes that visitors would use the map, “Ibaraki kofun tabi mappu” (Ibaraki burial mounds travel map), to visit the kofun burial mounds in Oarai and other municipalities.

Since the kofun map’s completion at the end of last year, 5,000 copies have been distributed to municipalities and other locations, with some having to be restocked due to popular demand.

The map introduces the characteristics of each burial mound with helpful illustrations and explanatory texts, such as, “The largest burial mound in the prefecture and the second largest in the Kanto region” for the Funatsukayama burial mound in Ishioka, and “The dawn of the Kofun period in Ibaraki Prefecture” for the Isohama Kofun Cluster in Oarai.

The kofun map also shows photos of the tombs as well as parking lot locations. Nine burial mounds located in six cities and towns were carefully selected for the map, with age and region being deciding factors.

Included on the map are the Torazuka Tumulus in Hitachinaka, famous for its colorful murals, and the Sanmaizuka Tumulus in Namegata — where a gilt bronze crown, generously adorned with horses and designated as an Important Cultural Property, was excavated.

Kamiyu Tatenuma, 49, head of the cultural property section of the town’s board of education, played a central role in the map’s creation. While touring ancient tombs within and outside of the prefecture, both publicly and privately, he came to a realization that prompted the idea. He found that Okayama, Tochigi and other prefectures have maps that list their representative burial mounds, but Ibaraki Prefecture did not have such a map.

The town was once planning to create a map to publicize the Isohama Kofun Cluster, which was designated as a National Historic Site in 2020. However, Tatenuma came up with the idea of a map that would not just cover a single municipality but link the mounds to surrounding tombs across the prefecture. He consulted with people in charge of other municipalities with whom he had regular contact and received their support.

The illustrations and explanatory texts were delegated to Hiroko Sakai, 56, an illustrator living in Ishioka who has held solo exhibitions featuring archaeological motifs.

Sakai, who has been involved in excavation research since her student days, has experience working as an editor for a cultural property information magazine. She visited the sites and carefully interviewed a survey company about the shape of the burial mounds. She also included illustrations that show excavated artifacts and surrounding facilities.

“I would like to have many people visit Ibaraki and tour the tombs,” Sakai said. “We want people to become interested in archaeology as a whole, starting with the burial mounds.”

Other city officials in charge of cultural properties also cooperated by providing materials and checking the texts.

The map is available at the Oarai municipality’s lifelong learning division, the Ibaraki Prefectural Archives and Museum and other locations, as well as on the town’s website.

“I hope that other municipalities will make use of this map, and that it will help to boost the excitement of Ibaraki,” Tatenuma said. He is also considering producing a second edition of the map in the future.