Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture – Within the Japanese Alps – mountains so tall they seem to touch the sky – lies a small yet charming mountain. Despite the hustle and bustle of the city below, combined with its historical past and magnificent view, atop the summit of this mountain one may feel as if time stands still.
At first glance one may not recognize the historical significance of this location. However, upon observing the rectangular formation of neatly placed stones at the peak of Kōbōyama, one may recognize its tumulus-like features. And, one would be right to. Kōbōyama is in fact a tumulus, or burial mound.
Kōbōyama’s history is as interesting as it is perplexing. The tumulus' creation dates back to the 3rd century. It is known that Kōbōyama had not been recognized as a tumulus until as late as after World War II and that some research began in the early 1950’s. However, under the Cultural Properties Protection Law, no formal investigation was done at this site. It was only in 1974 when a high school called ‘Masshougakuen’, acquired Kōbōyama that the Matsumoto City Board of Education decided to carry on with the excavation and investigation of Kōbōyama’s tumulus. It was at this time that Kōbōyama was discovered to be the oldest tomb in all of Eastern Japan. And suddenly Kōbōyama gained a significant amount of attention among society and was declared a historic site in 1976
Signs can be seen everywhere around Kōbōyama. Some with information about the tomb and others showing the topography of Kōbōyama itself.
One sign, near the top of Kōbōyama states that the stones of the tomb are from Matsumoto’s Azusa, Narai, Ta, and Susuki Rivers. It also explains the size of it to be 5.5 m in length, 1.5 m in width, and 1 m in depth.
Because of its ties to the past, Kōbōyama is visited by many people during the spring. With the majority of its flora being the Japanese cherry blossom, it’s no wonder why dozens of people come here. However, it isn’t only in the spring that Kōbōyama shows its beauty. Excavations revealed that amongst its contents was a mirror inscribed with the four beasts – now one of Matsumoto City’s many treasures. Ancient Japanese weaponry, a curved jewel, glass beads, and pottery have also been excavated and are currently displayed at the Matsomoto Municipal Museum of Archaeology. A peculiar fact about Kōbōyama’s tumulus however, is that though classified as a burial mound, there were no coffins excavated from this site.
As seen in the 2015 cinema movie based on the manga ‘Orange’, Kōbōyama is shown to have a spectacular view of the city below it. With Kōbōyama’s view being equally as beautiful in the day as it is at night, it’s hard to see why anyone wouldn’t want to take a trip to this charming little mountain. Photographers have been seen from dawn to dusk – all striving to record moments of this historical wonder. Its timeless beauty however is plausibly one that cannot be simply captured by any type of fancy lens – but can only be felt by standing atop its summit.
How to get there: There are many ways to get to Kōbōyama. The closest station being the JR Minami Matsumoto Station at around a 2.1 km distance, you could either take the 30-45 min. walk or catch a cab. To catch a bus, you should be at the ALPICO bus terminal which is across the street from the JR Matsumoto Station. The bus ride tends to be around 15 min. with your final destination being ‘Kōbōyama Iriguchi Gesha’. From there, it’s a 10 min. walk to Kōbōyama.