Yoshimi Hundred Caves.

The Mysterious Yoshimi Hundred Caves

Kofun, “ancient grave” or burial mounds, whose name originates from the Kofun period, are megalithic tombs or tumuli found in Japan. They were constructed between the early 3rd century to the early 7th century AD. This was a period was characterized by strong influences from the Korean Peninsula, with Japan also having shared cultures with the islands of Kyushu and Honshu. Japan’s ancient burial mounds contained large stone burial chambers with some of them, surrounded by moat. They were built for the members of the ruling class.

The Mysterious Yoshimi Hundred Caves.

Yoshimi Hundred Caves | Nesnad

The Yoshimi Hundred Caves found in Yoshimi, Saitama in the northern Kantō region of Japan is a site to behold resembling the ancient underground city in Cappadocia, Turkey. The Yoshimi kofuns are a cluster of graves carved into a sandstone hillside. The site was initially excavated in 1887 by Japan’s first anthropologist and pioneer of Japanese archaeology, Shōgorō Tsuboi. He theorized that the caves were initially inhabited by a race of diminutive people in the folklore of Ainu people but remains disputed by others.

The Yoshimi Hills, where the caves are found connects the Hiki Hills to the north. There are about 219 burial caves, despite the names of the ancient grave site, with each tomb measuring about one square meter. The tombs are connected by a narrow entrance tunnel that leads to a larger chamber within that extends several meters into the hill. The graves extend in several rows from west to east along the face of the hill with the entrances to the graves varying slightly in size due to topography. Most of the tombs have an elevated structure within the internal chamber which may have initially held bodies or coffins. Some of the chambers contain multiple pedestals, an indication that the space contained multiple burials. The entrances indicate to have been blocked by slabs of stone.

Yoshimi tunnels created during WWII.

Yoshimi tunnels created during WWII. | Tonusamuel

During the last days of World War II, a tenth of the site was destroyed when some of the caves were enlarged to create an underground aircraft engine factory for Nakajima Aircraft Company.

Another noteworthy burial site in Japan is Emperor Nintoku’s remarkable final resting place, Daisenryo Kofun or “Goryo-san”, in the town of Sakai is a huge keyhole-shaped burial mound. It is one of the three largest tombs in the world.

The site is open the public today including many of the caves. Part of the factory tunnel and a small museum. The exact origins of the Yoshimi Hundred Caves remain a mystery today. Perhaps, the walls of the tomb covered with ancient graffiti will tell us its secrets. The site is designated as a National Historic Monument in 1923, it remains to be the largest grave cluster in Japan, with 219 burial caves known today.