Asuka-mura and Kitora tomb
Village of time machine
Asuka-mura is the land where ancient Asuka palaces were located. There are strict rules governing construction in this historic town. Thanks to the ancient capital, which is located there, Asuka has been known as a good place to sightsee, especially for history lovers.
In 1956, the village of Asuka was founded as a result of a merger of three villages, Sakaai, Takechi and Asuka. In 1966, Asuka was proclaimed a "historic town", as defined by the national Special Arrangement for Preservation of Historic Sites Law as well as Kyoto, Nara and Kamakura. The law restricts constructions and other civil engineering operations in the designated areas due preservation of the historic sites. In 1967, a part of Asuka, around 391ha in area, was designated as a historic site for preservation. Along with this decision, the government planned to build Asuka National Historic Park, for which construction was launched in 1966 and finished in 1994.
In 1972, a site with colorfully painted murals from the late Asuka-era was found in the Takamatsuzuka Tomb and later found Kitora Tomb. Since the Special Arrangement for Preservation of Historic Sites Law (1966) restricts any visual changes in the areas which it concerns, it has directly affected the daily life of residents. To preserve the site, they have had to give up some elements of modern life. As compensation, the Asuka Law, which aims to preserve the site effectively and give economic support for Asuka residents, was settled in 1980.
The Takamatsuzuka Tomb is an ancient circular tomb in Asuka village, Nara prefecture, Japan. The tomb is thought to have been built at some time between the end of the 7th century and the beginning of the 8th century. It was accidentally discovered by a local farmer in the 1960s. The mound of the tomb was built of alternating layers of clay and sand. It is about 16 meters in diameter and 5 meters high. Digging yielded a burial chamber with painted fresco wall paintings of courtiers in Goguryeo-style garb. The paintings are in full color with red, blue, gold, and silver foil representing four male followers and four abigails together with the Azure Dragon, Black Tortoise, White Tiger, and Vermilion Bird groups of stars. The paintings are designated as a national treasure of Japan. For whom the tomb was built is unknown, but the decorations suggest it is for a member of the Japanese royal family or a high-ranking nobleman.
The Cultural Affairs Agency of Japan is considering taking apart the stone chamber and reassembling it elsewhere to prevent further deterioration to its wall paintings. A painting called Asuka Bijin, or "beautiful women", is one of the murals in the tomb facing deterioration. The unusual preservation method is being considered because the tomb's current situation makes it impossible to prevent further damage and stop the spread of mold. Unlike the Kitora Tomb, also in Asuka, removing pieces of the Takamatsuzuka wall plaster and reinforcing them for conservation appears difficult because the plaster has numerous tiny cracks.
The Kitora Tomb is an ancient tumulus (kofun in Japanese) located in the village of Asuka, Nara Prefecture, Japan. The tomb is believed to have been constructed some time between the 7th and early 8th centuries, but was only discovered in 1983.
A small stone chamber, the Kitora Tomb is a little over 1 meter in height and width and about 2.4 meters long, just large enough to bury a single person. The four walls are aligned with the cardinal points of the compass, and respectively feature the Black Tortoise of the North, the Azure Dragon of the East, the Red Bird of the South, and the White Tiger of the West. On the ceiling of the chamber there is also a star chart that has been the focus of much research and debate by scholars in the field of archaeoastronomy. In addition, the zodiac animals-headed figures with human body are painted on the wall, which may be one of the oldest remaining zodiac murals in East Asia. Fragments of a lacquered wooden coffin, torn apart when the tomb was robbed, lay 5 cm thick on the chamber floor, mixed with grave goods and human bone. A gilded bronze fitting and sword decorations were discovered, both executed with superbly inlaid patterns. Based upon analysis of the bone fragments and items found in the tomb, it is believed the interred was a middle-aged or older male of aristocratic background. The paintings have suffered the ravages of time, and, as important National Cultural Assets of Japan and World Heritage listed treasures, their preservation has been accorded the highest priority. The entire tomb has been roofed over, and a series of adjoining antechambers was constructed to isolate the central chamber from temperature and humidity fluctuations, and prevent contamination by airborne mold spores and microorganisms.