SETOUCHI TOURS​

SETOUCHI TOURS

Travel and Adventure

Kibiji

Kibiji is an ancient road connecting Sōja and Okayama.

Kibiji

Kibiji is an ancient road connecting Sōja and Okayama, the central area of what was once the kingdom of Kibi. Traversing a vast plain, the road is level and ideal for cycling. The path meanders past numerous sites of historical interest including Bitchu Kokubun-ji Temple, Kibitsu Shrine, Kibitsuhiko Shrine, and the Tsukuriyama burial mound. Travelling the road conveys an overwhelming feeling of being amidst timeless history.

An agricultural area, the scenic views of rice fields make traveling the road rewarding in any season. The area is known for its fine fruit, including strawberries, peaches, and grapes.

Tsukuriyama Tumulus (Sakusan)
This is the second largest burial mound in Okayama Prefecture and the tenth largest in Japan. It was built in the middle of the 5th century (mid-Kofun period). There are two tumuli in the immediate area, both named Tsukuriyama, and so this one is known as Sakusan, and the mound to the east is called Zōzan. No full-scale excavation has been conducted of Sakusan so far, and it’s thought that it may still contain an intact burial. Three large tumuli are arranged along the old San’yō Road suggesting that the local powers intended to awe travelers with their authority.

A little further on, an impressive five-storey pagoda rises up between some low hills and the rice fields. This is Bitchū Kokubun-ji Temple.

 Bitchū Kokubun-ji Temple
The pagoda stands on a small hill just outside a walled compound with a main hall, Daishi Hall, and priest’s housing. This Shingon Buddhist temple is the successor to the provincial temple established in each domain by Emperor Shōmu during the Nara period (710 – 794) for the purpose of promoting Buddhism as the national religion of Japan and standardising Yamato rule over the provinces. In 741, the Emperor ordered that a state-subsidized monastery and nunnery be established in every province. The temples were built to a standard template, staffed by twenty monk who would pray for the state’s protection. Associated nunneries were built on a smaller scale, with ten nuns to pray for the atonement of sins. Little is known of the history of the Bitchū Kokubun-ji. Bitchū Kokubun-ji Temple experienced several waves of decline and revival. The current temple dates from the middle of the Edo period (1704-1711). The foundation stones of the nunnery can still be seen in the pine woods a little further along the route beyond the Kōmorizuka tumulus.

From Kokubun-ji, the route continues straight through more open fields. Soon on the left, you see a stepped, earthen structure topped with pines. This is Kōmorizuka Tumulus.

Kōmorizuka Tumulus
When viewed from above, the tumulus is keyhole shaped. At the southwestern end in the middle of the round portion is a stone burial chamber constructed of megalithic blocks of granite. You can enter this impressive tunnel and gaze through a metal gate on a house-shaped sarcophagus which was found inside the tomb. It was hollowed out from shell limestone quarried at Mount Namigata in Ibara, Okayama. Originally it contained the remains of a wooden coffin. Some grave goods were also discovered, including pommels of iron swords with a phoenix design, iron arrowheads, horse trappings, and ornaments, such as small glass beads and gold rings. The tumulus was built in the latter half of the 6th century.

Near the bottom of the keyhole is a pine forest where you can see the foundation stones of the nunnery associated with Kokubun-ji. Nearby are two thatched houses dating from the Edo period that you can enter free of charge and have a rest.

The route passes several small tumuli before diverting around another very large tumulus, also called Tsukuriyama.

 Tsukuriyama (Zōzan)
This is the largest burial mound in Okayama Prefecture and the fourth largest in Japan. Part of it is wooded, and a village stands in its lee. You can take one of several paths up to the top. The keyhole shaped mound was created by cutting away an existing hill in three tiers. Originally it was covered in large pebbles and decorated with clay haniwa figures. Later, a Shintō shrine was built on it. From the size of the tumulus, it’s thought to be the tomb of the 5th century kings of the Kingdom of Kibi. However, it has never been excavated, so its contents may be intact. The circular portion was flattened and used as a fortification during Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s invasion of western Japan since it commands a broad view of the surrounding area. The Tsukuriyama Kofun Visitor Center nearby has a few exhibits, and there’s a statue of an aristocrat from the Kofun period in the carpark.

After Tsukuriyama, the route follows a little irrigation ditch which flows into the Ashimori River. Waterfowl such as herons and ducks are in evidence. After a bend in the river, the route zigzags through rice fields, passing a machine tool factory with a display of its old machines outside. Then you come to the first major Shintō shrine of the ride, Kibitsu Shrine.

Kibitsu Shrine
This beautiful shrine has several unusual features. It’s raised up on a plastered earthen platform and its tile-roofed worship hall is integrated into the main hall which features two magnificent gabled roofs. The upper half of the wall is lined with lattice windows. The various other shrine buildings in the large compound are joined by a tiled cloister that runs up and down several slopes. At the other end of the compound from the main hall is a dark, smoky building, the Mikama-den, where divination with a food steamer is performed for a fee.
The present main hall and worship hall were begun to be built by Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, the third shogun of the Muromachi Shogunate, in 1390 at the order of Emperor Go-Kōgon.

Information

Name in Japanese: 吉備路

Pronunciation: ki-bi-ji

Address:Kanbayashi, Soja, Okayama 719-1123

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