The Japan Times
March 28, 2000

Ancient burial chamber may be oldest in Japan

KASHIHARA, Nara Pref. (Kyodo) A burial chamber believed to be the oldest in Japan has been excavated from a tomb in Nara Prefecture, researchers announced Monday.

Wooden beams surrounding a coffin in the 80-meter-long Hokenoyama tomb in the city of Sakurai apparently date from the middle of the third century, said Takayasu Higuchi, head of the prefectural Archaeological Institute of Kashihara.

The chamber measures 7 meters x 2.7 meters and is believed to have housed a coffin measuring 5 meters long by 1 meter wide, which was surrounded by vertical beams and a number of round stones, Higuchi said.

Kunihiko Kawakami, a senior researcher at the institute, said he believes the occupant of the coffin was a powerful local leader belonging to the generation of the father or grandfather of Empress Himiko, who ruled Yamatai Kingdom in the mid-third century. He said the tomb was completed between 220 and 230 AD.