Nomi Tomb Group:
A tomb group continually built across 300 years without interruption. Incised with the characters and , the oldest inscribed Sue ware is also recovered.


Location of the Nomi tomb group (from the southwest)

The Nomi tomb group is located atop isolated hills of around 40 m elevation formed at the southern end of an alluvial fan of the Tedori river. The largest river in Ishikawa prefecture, the Tedori river is visible at top left in the photo.
Adapted fromHakkutsu sareta Nihon rettō 2014 [Excavations in the Japanese Archipelago, 2014] (Bunkachō [Agency for Cultural Affairs], ed., Asahi Shimbun Publications, 2014).


Akitsuneyama tomb group (from the northeast)

Akitsuneyama No. 1 is a keyhole tomb built in three tiers, with an estimated 40,000 cobbles paving its slopes. There are nohaniwa , and the burial facility has not yet been investigated. The adjacent No. 2 tomb is a square mound approximately 30 m on a side that was built in the latter portion of the Middle Kofun period, decorated withhaniwa on its top, and having iron tools deposited collectively at the western edge of the mound.


Transitions of tomb construction in the Nomi tomb group

Adapted fromHakkutsu sareta Nihon rettō 2014 [Excavations in the Japanese Archipelago, 2014] (Bunkachō [Agency for Cultural Affairs], ed., Asahi Shimbun Publications, 2014).


Tombs 100 m or greater in length in the Hokuriku region

  1. Yanaida Nunooyama (Etchū region, latter half of the fourth century, 107.5 m)
  2. Akitsuneyama No. 1 (Kaga region, end of the fourth century, 140 m)
  3. Rokuroseyama No. 1 (Echizen region, latter half of the fourth century, 140 m)
  4. Tegurigajōyama (Echizen region, latter half of the fourth century, 129 m)
  5. Jōnozuka (Wakasa region, first half of the fifth century, 100 m)
Adapted fromHakkutsu sareta Nihon rettō 2014 [Excavations in the Japanese Archipelago, 2014] (Bunkachō [Agency for Cultural Affairs], ed., Asahi Shimbun Publications, 2014).

Sue ware recovered from the moat of the Wadayama No. 23 tomb

Lidded pedestaled dishes were lined up in orderly fashion making a rectangle extending 120 cm long by 60 cm wide, above which were other items including a pedestaled jar that had collapsed into sherds, and a jar stand.


Nomi Tomb Group, Nomi City, Ishikawa Prefecture

A leading area of tomb concentration in Hokuriku

The Nomi tomb group is constructed atop five independent hills (from the west, Teraiyama, Wadayama, Matsujiyama, Akitsuneyama, and Nishiyama) distributed in island-like fashion on the plain portion of Nomi city in the Kaga region, Ishikawa prefecture. Beginning with two round and three square keyhole-shaped tombs, a total of 62 tombs have been found.

Transitions in tomb construction

The construction of tombs began with Yayoi period burials (third century, first half) on Teraiyama and Nishiyama as the first items, and continued from the start of the Kofun period (third century, second half) to the Late Kofun (sixth century, second half).

Looking at subsequent transitions, square tombs appeared on Wadayama at the start of the Kofun period, followed by square keyhole tombs built on Matsujiyama.

By the start of the Middle Kofun (end of the fourth century) the Akitsuneyama No. 1 tomb (mound length approximately 140 m), in the largest class for Hokuriku, was built. This tomb was complete with tiered construction and surface cobbles, and boasts a scale that is outstanding among the Nomi tomb group.

In the first half of the Middle Kofun (fifth century, first half) there were only medium-sized round mounds at Wadayama, but in the latter portion of the period (final portion of the fifth century) the keyhole tomb Wadayama No. 5 (mound length approximately 55 m) appeared, after which the construction of mid- and small-sized round mounds became active on each hill into the first half of the Late Kofun (sixth century, first half).

In the latter half of the Late Kofun (sixth century, latter half), the core of the tomb group moved to Nishiyama and round mounds with horizontal stone chambers of dressed volcanic tuff were built, and with these final items tomb construction came to an end.

Over this interval, various types of burial facilities were utilized, including directly interred wooden coffins, clay compartments, horizontal wooden chambers, and horizontal stone chambers.

Grave goods were also richly seen, including many valuable items such as the lone example from Hokuriku of a mirror with six attached bells (Wadayama No. 1 tomb) and a bronze bracelet with bells (Wadayama No. 2 tomb), and large amounts of weapons and armor interred in the Wadayama No. 5 tomb.

From these characteristics, the persons buried in this tomb group are thought to be chiefs representing the Nomi region and those who served them. Also, as tombs regarded as prominent among those of the Kaga region are included, beginning with the Akitsuneyama No. 1 tomb, this shows the influence of these chiefs extended at times over broad areas of the Kaga region.

Oldest Sue ware inscribed with incised characters in Japan

In a reexamination that began in the 2011 fiscal year of previously recovered artifacts, among Sue ware discovered in an excavation of the Wadayama No. 23 tomb in 1977, two items inscribed with incised characters were ascertained. The time of production is around the end of the fifth century, placing these as the oldest examples of Sue ware with incised writing presently known nationwide.

Writing is thought to have come into full-scale use in the Japanese archipelago from the fifth century. In addition to providing more evidence for this, in the midst of many inscriptions on swords and mirrors, because these characters were engraved on Sue ware, a ceramic widely circulated among society at large, they are extremely valuable materials for learning about the spread of writing at the time. (Sugahara Yūichi)

(principal artifacts, Nomi Tomb Group)


Sue ware vase with incised character

(Wadayama No. 23 tomb)

Final portion of the Middle Kofun period, end of the fifth century.

Rim diameter: 10.4 cm; height: 15.3 cm.

Green natural ash glaze adheres at the shoulder. The incised character was found at the location shown by the arrow (enlargement at right). It appears to have been incised prior to firing with a tool in the shape of a narrow bamboo skewer. The inscription has been deciphered as either the character or part of a term including that character. It is thought to have been used for one of its meanings, as the sign of the ram (the eighth member of the Chinese zodiac) or as part of the name of the artisan who made the vessel.

Sue ware lid, for a pedestaled dish, with incised characters

(Wadayama No. 23 tomb)

Final portion of the Middle Kofun period (end of the fifth century)

Rim diameter: 11.8 cm; height: 5.0 cm.

An incised inscription of two characters turned on their sides can be made out on the outer surface of the lidfs rim (at the arrow, and enlarged at left). The lid was probably held in the hand in a manner to facilitate writing vertically. It is understood as having been executed with a tool in the shape of a narrow bamboo skewer prior to firing. The characters are deciphered as ("two" plus "year").


Iron swords, iron arrowhead

(Teraiyama No. 6 burial)

Final Yayoi period, first half of the third century.

(Sword, top) Length: 43.3 cm; width: 3.3 cm.

(Sword, middle) Length: 41.0 cm; width: 3.7 cm.

(Arrowhead, bottom) Length: 3.2 cm; width: 1.8 cm.

Teraiyama No. 6 is a Yayoi mound burial in a precinct demarcated by a ditch 14 m on a side. Two burial facilities were found, and from one the iron sword (top) and arrowhead were recovered. The sword had been intentionally bent, and is thought to have had a special use.


Iron-handled knives

(Akitsuneyama No. 2 tomb)

Middle Kofun period, latter half of the fifth century.

(Item at left) Length: 14.2 cm; width 1.4 cm.

(Item at right) Length: 13.0 cm; width 1.0 cm.

Akitsuneyama No. 2 is a square mound approximately 27 meters north–south by 32.5 m east–west, which yielded a large amount of grave goods from its burial facility. These knives are a rare type made as a unified piece of iron including the handle, with traces clearly remaining of the cloth and cord used to wrap the handles.


Grave goods from the Wadayama No. 5 tomb

Middle Kofun period, latter half of the fifth century.

(Spear on the photofs left edge) Length: 45.9 cm.

A large amount of grave goods reaching 300 or more items was recovered from the Wadayama No. 5 tomb. The main items were various types of iron weapons and armor, from which the mode of activity in life of the tombfs occupant can be glimpsed.


Equestrian gear from the Nishiyama No. 1 tomb

Late Kofun period, latter half of the sixth century.

(Belt fitting at top) Length 3.7 cm.

Nishiyama No. 1 is a round tomb with an inferred diameter of 18 m, and has a horizontal stone chamber built with dressed volcanic tuff as its burial facility. Items recovered from within the chamber include iron swords, knives, iron arrowheads, equestrian gear, beads, and Sue ware. As equestrian gear there are, among others, a harness bit and belt fittings, and the latter are of iron with a gilt bronze finish. As there are few examples in the Hokuriku region of tombs with equestrian gear as grave goods, these finds are very valuable.