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Walking through the historic sites of Kumagaya - Hatara Gunga(county office) ruins and Miyazuka tumulus FEB, 2024

The area that was once called Hatara County in Musashi Province now consists of Fukaya City and Kumagaya City. Even so, Japan has largely abandoned emotional place names. Among the merits and demerits of the Meiji Restoration, I believe that the greatest sins were the abolition of Buddhism and the loss of old country and county names due to the abolition of feudal domains, prefectures, and city formation. In recent years, this trend has accelerated with the "big merger of local governments" boom, and glittering names are appearing all over the place, but there is a humorous example in Saitama Prefecture. “Saitama” was originally the name of a county occupying the northeastern part of Saitama Prefecture, and Urawa and Omiya, which do not belong to the same county, used it as their city name (only the former Iwatsuki City was part of Saitama County).

At the beginning of the 8th century, the Imperial Court, which moved the capital to Heijo-kyo, issued instructions to give county names in each country an "auspicious" name made of "two characters". Hara(幡羅) is said to have been renamed from the word Hara(原). As you reach the northern part of Saitama Prefecture, the vast Kanto Plain and the alluvial fan of the great river (Arakawa) spread out, and there are many places where you can feel the scenery of ancient and medieval times.

This time, we toured the ruins of the Hara County government office (gunga), which existed from the 7th to the 11th century, and the ruins of a ruined temple in Nishibeppu. This site was discovered just over 20 years ago, and was excavated a few years ago and has now been backfilled and turned into farmland. It is rare that the remains of the Gunga and its associated temples remain in such perfect condition even in Japan. Some of the excavated artifacts are on display at the Kumagaya City Konan Cultural Properties Center, and the eaves tiles and other items are the same as those seen at the museum in Nara.

There is a small shrine (Yudono Shrine) in a corner of the Gunga ruins, and you can see Mt. Fuji beyond the wide farmland. Since our county is located on the northern side of Musashi Province, officials from 1,400 years ago must have walked the 70-80km route to Kokuga (currently Fuchu City, Tokyo) while looking at Mt. Fuji on the right hand side. Mt. Fuji had a major eruption during the Jogan period (864), which was a little earlier than this period, and then the Hoei eruption (1707), resulting in its current form. It may have been a little lower and had a different shape back then. Apparently underground water from the Arakawa River has been gushing out since ancient times, and there are still swamps all over the place. The area is thought to have been developed as arable land since ancient times, as it is dotted with natural irrigation ponds, and I imagine that the fertile fields where the Arakawa and Tone rivers run parallel produced powerful tribes and powerful clans. Come to think of it, the manor where the Ashikaga and Nitta clans were raised is nearby.  

There are many kofun (tumulus) in the Kanto Plain, but there is a unique kofun called Miyazuka kofun in the neighborhood, so I decided to go there. What makes it unique is its shape, which is an upper circular lower tumulus (the lower tier is a rectangular tumulus and the upper tier is a round tumulus), which is rare even in Japan. It dates from the latter half of the 7th century (the final period of the Kofun period), and although it is not very large, it was standing in the middle of farmland next to the Shinkansen elevated train. Was it built by powerful families as proof of their rule in the process of being incorporated into the local administration of the Yamato court? According to the Nihon Shoki (Chronicles of Japan), the imperial court issued a ban on making burial mounds in 646, but it seems that this continued for some time.  

Gunga and temples seem to have lost their functions after the 9th to 10th centuries, when the Kanmu Heishi clan settled in the Kanto Plain and Taira no Masakado flourished, and in the 11th century, when the Seiwa-Genji advanced. Later, the Narita clan, who came into the limelight with "Nobou no Castle" (movie), set up a base here, and 6-7 km east of here are Oshi Castle and the Sakitama Tumulus Group. This area could be called the crossroads of ancient times, medieval times, and early modern times.



Thank you for coming!

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