In Japan, kofun are ancient megalithic tombs or tumuli dating back to the early 4th to 8th century, a period known simply as the Kofun period. Some kofun are quite huge, being over 900 feet (300 meters) long, while some are decidedly small, merely the size of an unnoticeable hill.
There are said to be more than 160,000 kofun in Japan, and the metropolitan city of Tokyo is no exception. One can even find kofun in major tourist spots such as Ueno Park and Shiba Park, right below Tokyo Tower.
By comparison, Shirahatazuka Shiseki Park may not be as well-known or popular, but it stills deserves a mention. Nestled among the residential district of Ikō, Adachi Ward, this park holds an early 6th-century kofun, known as the Shirahatazuka Kofun.
The tumulus sits on a little pond at the center of the park, approximately 39 feet (12 meters) in diameter and 8 feet (2.5 meters) tall. Little is known about this kofun since no archaeological field survey has ever been conducted. However, evidence does show that it was once part of the seven (or eight) tumuli that formed the Ikō kofun complex. The rest of the complex was destroyed during the post-World War II modernization of the area.
The kofun is not the only thing that makes this park unique. Throughout this little park are replicas of four types of haniwa statues, and a stone compass-like monument with ancient Japanese script engravings. Visitors to the park can also view actual samples of the Aki-no-nanakusa, or the “Seven Flowers of Autumn,” a classic grouping of herbs and flowers based on an ancient poem.
As for the name of the site, it’s believed that it derived from a battle that took place in the park around 1062. During the conflict, samurai lord Minamoto no Yoriyoshi and his son Yoshiie fought and won by a hair’s breadth. After their victory, Yoriyoshi put up a white flag (shirohata) on the mound (tsuka), hence the name.
Know Before You Go
About a 10-minute walk from Takenotsuka Station. Another 1o minute walk from the park is Ikō Heritage Park, which has a little museum of Kofun period artifacts excavated from the Iko area. Shirahatazuka Shiseki Park is open every day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., free entry.