Chikuma City located in Nagano Prefecture has an incredible number of historic sites despite its small size. Among these, is the Mori Shogunzuka Kofun, a 4th century megalithic tomb located in the hills of Chikuma City. There are approximately 30,000 kofun mound tombs in Japan dating from the 3rd century to the 7th century AD. Many of the tombs have distinctive keyhole-shaped mounds which are unique to ancient Japan. The Kofun period (middle 3rd century to early-middle 6th century) derived its name from these tombs.
The Mori Shogunzuka Kofun measures approximately 100 meters long and was designated as a Historic Site in 1971. It was completely excavated, repaired and rebuilt in the original shape during 1981-1991. During the excavation, a pit style stone chamber was found in the rear mound. The floor space of the chamber is presumed to be one of the largest in Japan. Unfortunately, it was plundered by pot hunters who only left behind some fragments of iron weapons, a bronze mirror and some farming tools. There are 76 smaller tombs and 13 small tumuli surrounding the kofun. It is believed that these were constructed afterwards by the relatives and descendants of the chieftain buried in the main chamber.
At the base of the hill, you will find the Shinano no Sato Historic Park with a replica village from that time period along with the Mori Shogunzuka Museum and the Nagano Prefectural Museum of History.
The Shinano no Sato Historic Park replica village features a series of accurately recreated pit-houses, primitive dwellings which were dug into the ground. Aside from providing shelter from Nagano’s extreme winters, these structures were also used to store food and for cultural activities.
It is approximately a 20 minute walk from the village to the mound where the kofun is situated. The longer path to the top is comprised of steep slopes and attract many hikers. The designated short cuts are even steeper and more precarious to navigate, so do use caution.
The village and kofun are open to the public free of charge. The museums charge a small admission fee and contain exhibits of items unearthed during the excavations and provide a detailed look into what life was like during that period.