Nara is considered the first official capital of Japan. But before Nara, there was Asuka. The Asuka period ran from 592 to 710 AD, and this area is often considered to be the first capital of Japan.
A Brief History of Asuka, Japan
The ancient capital was located in the land of Asuka, which corresponds with present day Asuka Village in Nara Prefecture. It’s known as the birthplace of Japan where the Imperial Family lived for 117 years.
Buddhism was introduced to the Asuka area in the 6th century. In the 7th century, Asuka became the center of politics and culture in ancient Japan and took on all the functions of a capital.
Asuka Village has a rich history with temple and shrine ruins, ancient burial mounds, and terraced rice fields.
Ishibutai Burial Mound
Ishibutai Tumulus, called a Kofun in Japanese, is a burial mound from the late Kofun period (300 – 538). It is designated as a national special historic site and is believed to be the burial grounds of Soga no Umako from the Imperial family.
The founding date of this temple is unknown. It first appears in literature in 680 and is said to be the birthplace of Prince Shotoku. It is also believed to be one of the seven temples built by Prince Shotoku.
In the 8th century, it was an enormous temple with 66 halls. Today, only a few buildings remain, including the main hall that was rebuilt during the Edo period.
On the temple grounds, you’ll find a seated statue of Prince Shotoku dating back to the Muromachi period (1336 – 1573) and a stone carved with the two faces of good and evil.
Takamatsuzuka Tumulus , was built somewhere between 694 and 710. It’s a two-tiered, 5-meter high, round burial mound. The first tier is 23 meters in diameter and the second tier measures 18 meters in diameter.
Richly colored murals inside the tomb were discovered in 1972. The stone chamber, with the mural painting, was moved to a restoration facility and a replica can be viewed at the small museum next to the tomb.