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The Mozu Kofun tombs, including Nintoku’s, gained World Heritage status in 2019. Image: SAKAI CITY

A grave new world: The tomb of Emperor Nintoku

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Daisen Kofun, believed to be the final resting place of the mysterious Emperor Nintoku, is the largest tomb in Japan. Nintoku was reputedly the 16th emperor of the nation, but because his life and reign are shrouded in myth, his existence remains controversial.

The grounds of the tumulus are amongst the largest in the world. Spanning an area greater than the Great Pyramid of Giza, the forested burial site is certainly fit for royalty.

Mozu Kofun Tombs

The mausoleum of Emperor Nintoku is the centerpiece of a cluster of 49 burial mounds known as the Mozu Kofun Tombs. These megalithic mausoleums are located in Sakai, a city in Osaka Prefecture just south of the metropolis of the same name.

Known as kofun in Japanese, the tomb clusters were erected for wealthy leaders and aristocrats during the Kofun Period (250 to 538 AD).

While they have various shapes and sizes, the most famous tombs have a distinctive keyhole shape when viewed from above.

Daisen Kofun measures 1,594 feet (486 meters) in length and 115 feet (35 meters) in height. Though the Great Pyramid of Giza and the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor of China are technically taller, Nintoku’s mausoleum beats them both in surface area and volume.

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© GaijinPot Travel

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This is a great visit from Osaka or Kyoto, but the only elevated place for viewing is the Sakai City Hall Observation Deck. Even from that vantage point, you'll have a hard time seeing the keyhole shape of the burial mounds. You'll just see large green areas that stand out from the surrounding buildings.

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