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The landscape around Kansai, in southern-central Japan, especially around Osaka and Nara, is dotted by curious keyhole-shaped mounds surrounded by moats. These peculiar structures are ancient burial mounds called kofuns.

Kofuns were built by the Imperial family and members of the ruling classes as tombs for the noble, the elite and the powerful. They ranged in size from a few meters to over four hundred meters long. The more powerful and influential the person was, the bigger his kofun is. The distinctive keyhole shape appeared between the third and the early seventh centuries, and is characteristic of this period of Japanese history. Indeed, the period when kofun started appearing has been named the kofun period.


Daisen Kofun in Sakai. Photo credit:

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