Scholars to get OK to survey two Imperial mausoleums

Kyodo News

News photo
The Mausoleum of Emperor Meiji – in Fushimi Ward, Kyoto, is shown in this aerial photo taken Thursday.

Representatives of 16 archaeological and historical societies will be allowed to inspect two Imperial mausoleums from February to March 2008.

One is Emperor Meiji’s (1852-1912) mausoleum in Fushimi Ward, Kyoto. The other, in Nara, is that of Empress Jingu, who, legend has it, was the wife of another legendary figure, Emperor Chuai, and lived from 170 to 269.

Emperor Chuai, whose birth year is not known, is said to be Japan’s 14th emperor; Emperor Meiji was the 122nd. Japan’s legendary first emperor is Emperor Jimmu (711-585 B.C.).

Emperor Meiji’s mausoleum is on the site of Fushimi Castle, which was originally built by warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537-1598). Empress Jingu’s mausoleum is a keyhole-shaped tomb mound built during the third- to sixth-century Kofun Period.

The Imperial Household Agency had long barred academics from visiting Imperial mausoleums and tombs, which it says are not mere cultural assets but places subject to Imperial rituals.

Just last week, the agency said it reprimanded an employee for deleting a line in an entry on the Imperial mausoleums in the Wikipedia online encyclopedia that suggested it was restricting access to those tombs out of fear researchers could unearth facts that might shake the foundations of the Imperial family.

In January this year, the agency modified its in-house rules on management of Imperial mausoleums and tombs and decided to accept on-site inspections by scholars after scrutinizing their applications, the sources said.

The agency’s new rules allow not only historians but researchers in any academic field to request on-site inspections through their academic societies.

Those researchers will be allowed mainly to check the mausoleums visually or enter them at the lowest levels. But no excavation work will be allowed.

In July, following the rule change, representatives of the 16 academic societies held a meeting with officials of the Imperial Household Agency and asked for permission to make an on-site inspection of the two mausoleums.