Mimizuka Mound - 耳塚 (built 1597)
Not far from the Kyoto train station is an unassuming mound of earth located in a quiet residential neighborhood. Not found on most maps, the shrine�called the Mimizuka�is a rare physical reminder of Japan's 1592-98 war against Korea. It was dedicated on Sept 18, 1597, about a year before the war's end, to serve as the final burial site of tens of thousands of ears and noses sent from Korea in barrels filled with brine. These macabre shipments were delivered by Hideyoshi's generals in Korea, who were rewarded according to the number of enemy dead that they could prove their troops had slaughtered. The number of dead were so numerous that instead of sending back severed heads (a common measure of counting the dead), the generals preferred to return ears and noses, which were easier to transport and offered distinctive proof of casualties inflicted.
It is not known how many ears and noses were ultimately returned from Korea. Most were likely discarded as soon as they had been counted. Only a fraction of the total (about 38,000) ended up at the Mimizuka�the tomb of noses and ears. It is not known precisely why the shrine was constructed, but for centuries it served as a site of pilgrimage to Hideyoshi's conquests and even as "proof" of his leniency toward the defeated�it was unusual to give enemy remains a Buddhist burial. Only in recent decades has the Mimizuka come to symbolize for most visitors the raw horror of Hideyoshi's atrocities. During the 1970s, for example, some members of the Korean government petitioned that the tomb be leveled. Others asked that the remains be returned to Korea to be given a proper burial. But perhaps, the continued existence of the mound bears witness to the past in a manner that a modern monument cannot.
Location of Mimizuka.
All images copyright 2003 Professor Kerk L. Phillips of Brigham Young University, Utah, USA. The video stills on this page were taken in 1998
Visit Kerk L. Phillips' website at www.pomosa.com
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