“Kofun” is the Japanese word for an ancient burial mound, which Sakitama Kofun Park has aplenty. Entering into the park with no prior knowledge, the area looks more like a bumpy hillside village from a kids TV show.
But these hills are actually all burial mounds – some of the largest in Kanto. They’ve been around since the sixth century and house the period’s most exalted leaders, along with their precious belongings. The ancient tombs were built by human hands only to be shaped once more by nature, becoming grassy knolls covered with cherry blossom trees and flowers.
Head to the Sakitama Kofun Museum to see some of the items excavated from the mounds. There’s the Inariyama Sword, a national treasure, from Inariyama Kofun in the same park. There are also haniwa, strange terracotta figures originally found on top of the tombs, ranging from simple cylindrical humans to elaborate saddled horses.
You can even try your hand at making your own haniwa at Haniwa no Yakata. It takes about two hours on average, but you can stay until closing time. However, if you want to take your souvenir home, you’ll have to make arrangements since the clay needs to dry for a full month before being baked. You can also make your own magatama too. Magatama are comma-shaped beads that were used as jewelry in the Kofun period.
Try some of Gyoda’s famous zeri fry while you’re at it. There’s a shop at the park entrance where you can get this okara-coated potato croquette.
The park is especially beautiful in the spring during cherry blossom season. Climb Inariyama Kofun and enjoy a view of Gyoda under dancing cherry blossom petals.