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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Samurai Burial Mound

Along with the allure of Japanese castles, I was always fascinated by the Samurai warrior class.

Samurai are a trained warrior class who fight for a Master, who have their own code of ethics called Bushido (the way of the warrior).

There are plenty of great books out there on Samurai, and I won't try and sully it by giving you my version of it in 1,000 words or less - at least not today.

However... if you check out the photos I took contained within this blog, you will find images of several ancient Samurai burial mounds in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan.

According to Wikipedia, these mounds are dated to approximately 1692. That's sounds more of an exact date rather than approximation, but what are you going to do?

No one knows exactly who is buried within these mass graves - except that they were all Samurai. It would be MY guess that after a large battle, locals must have buried the bodies here, probably after stripping them of anything of value. It would also be MY guess that the Samurai buried here may have been hired by locals, and the Samurai either failed and were buried en masse, or these dead Samurai were buried by their surviving brethren.

I would imagine that the latter is less likely only because Japan has such fabulous records of history... and with a gap in data like this, it must have been because the people doing the burying of the dead Samurai simply lacked the knowledge of who the dead actually were or simply could not write well enough to record the history. And... if you were going to strip a corpse of valuables that you could sell (and every Samurai had a detailed family history scroll upon them, I believe), you would hardly advertise exactly who it is that is buried in a mound less family or other samurai come looking for their possessions or heirlooms.   

I'm just guessing of course. I'm a writer... I like to create my own stories.

The Samurai burial mounds each stood about 12-feet (3.66 meters) high and maybe 30-feet (9.14 meters) long- but that's just a guess.... while I could have walked atop it, I'm kind of funny about doing anything atop graves. It's just my sign of respect for who they were in life.

For your viewing pleasure are two different photos, with a duplicate of one taken in color. There is a stone marker in one of the shots... if by clicking on any photo and enlarging it you could read the kanji inscribed on the marker, I would surely appreciate a translation.

Mike Rogers has dropped a comment (below) with a translation:
It says: "shiseki shimozamurai ? kofun" The third kanji from the bottom is illegible. The approximate translation is: "Burial place of lower level samurai."

Awesome Mike - Thanks!

Photos taken by the author, Andrew Joseph, in 1992 with his non-digital Minolta SE camera using a 50mm lens and Ilford 200 Black and White film, and Kodak 400 color film.

By Andrew Joseph

1 comment:

  1. It says, "shiseki shimozamurai ? kofun" The third kanji from the bottom is illegible.

    Translation (approx.): "Burial place of lower level samurai"

    Since they were lower level samurai, that might explain why they got wiped out.