Nintoku: “The Great King Who Rules All Under Heaven”

Emperor Nintoku was the 16th ruler of Japan. A mystic owl was said to have flown into the room to closely witness the birth of the emperor. Emperor Nintoku ruled for 87 years and is credited to be a wise and benevolent ruler who built ports and canals, encouraged rice farming and reformed taxation. He lived to be 143 years old in 399 AD.


According to the Nihon Shoki, Nintoku ruled from 313 to 399 and his achievements include constructing a thorn field bank known as “Naniwa no Horie”. Created to prevent flooding in Kawachi plains, it is considered to be Japan’s first large-scale engineering undertaking.

Emperor Nintoku

Nintoku also established a thorn field estate under the direct control of the Imperial Court (mamuta no miyake) and is also credited for creating a Yokono bank (horizontal parcel, Ikuno-ku, Osaka-shi).

Emperor Nintoku’s remarkable final resting place, Daisenryo Kofun or “Goryo-san”, in the town of Sakai is a huge keyhole-shaped burial mound. It is one of the three largest tombs in the world. The other two are the pyramid of King Khufu and the tomb of Qin Shi Huang. Emperor Nintoku’s tomb was built sometime in the fifth century. The tomb was built undoubtedly for a person with the highest power in Japan at the time, although there are still some doubts that it was actually that of Emperor Nintoku.

The tomb is roughly 486 meters long with the front part measuring about 307 meters wide and 35.8 meters high. It is surrounded by triple moats and is managed by the Imperial Household Agency.

Nintoku Kofun. |  Copyright © National Land Image Information (Color Aerial Photographs)

Visitors are allowed to access the front worshiping spot, entry beyond that is prohibited. 270,000 10-ton trucks of dirt are estimated to have been used to create the tomb and it took almost 16 years to be completed. Truly a remarkable monument to Japan’s culture and heritage.