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Mimizuka monument

The Mimizuka (耳塚, "Ear Mound", often translated as "Ear Tomb"), an alteration of the original Hanazuka (鼻塚, "Nose Mound")[1][2][3] is a monument in Kyoto, Japan, dedicated to the sliced noses of killed Korean soldiers and civilians[4][5] as well as Ming Chinese troops[6] taken as war trophies during the Japanese invasions of Korea from 1592 to 1598. The monument enshrines the severed noses of at least 38,000 Koreans killed during Toyotomi Hideyoshi's invasions.[7][8][9] The shrine is located just to the west of Toyokuni Shrine, the Shinto shrine honoring Hideyoshi in Kyoto.


Traditionally, Japanese warriors brought back the heads of enemies slain on the battlefield as proof of their deeds. Nose collection in lieu of heads became a feature of the second Korean invasion.[4]: p. 195  [10] Originally, remuneration was paid to soldiers by their daimyō commanders based on the severed heads upon submission to collection stations, where inspectors meticulously counted, recorded, salted and packed the heads bound for Japan.[11][12] However, because of the number of civilians killed along with soldiers, and crowded conditions on the ships that transported troops, it was far easier to just bring back noses instead of whole heads.[10] Hideyoshi was especially insistent upon receiving noses of people his samurai had killed as proof that his men really were killing people in Korea.[13]

Japanese chroniclers on the second invading campaign mention that the ears hacked off the faces of the massacred were also of ordinary civilians[14] mostly in the provinces Gyeongsang, Jeolla, and Chungcheong.[2]: pp. 475–476  In the second invasion, Hideyoshi's orders were thus:

Mow down everyone universally, without discriminating between young and old, men and women, clergy and the laity—high ranking soldiers on the battlefield, that goes without saying, but also the hill folk, down to the poorest and meanest—and send the heads to Japan.[15]

One hundred and sixty-thousand Japanese troops had gone to Korea where they had taken 185,738 Korean heads and 29,014 Chinese ones, a grand total of 214,752.[4]: p. 230 [16] As some might have been discarded, it is impossible to enumerate how many were killed in total during the war.[9]

The Mimizuka was dedicated September 28, 1597.[9] Though the exact reasons as to its construction are not entirely known, scholars contend that during the second Japanese invasion of Korea in 1597, Toyotomi Hideyoshi demanded his commanders show receipts of their martial valor in the destruction, dispatching congratulatory letters to his high-ranking warriors in the field as evidence of their service. Hideyoshi then ordered the relics entombed in a shrine on the grounds of Hokoji Temple, and set Buddhist priests to work praying for the repose of the souls of the hundreds of thousands of Koreans from whose bodies they had come; an act that chief priest Saishō Jōtai (1548–1608) would hail as a sign of Hideyoshi's "great mercy and compassion."[2] The shrine initially was known as hanazuka (鼻塚), Mound of Noses, but several decades later this would come to be regarded as too cruel-sounding a name, and would be changed to the more euphonious but inaccurate mimizuka (耳塚), Mound of Ears, the misnomer by which it is known to this day.[2][3] Other nose tombs dating from the same period are found elsewhere in Japan, such as at Okayama.[9]

Effect on modern foreign relations[edit]

The Mimizuka is almost unknown to the Japanese public unlike to the Koreans.[9] The British historian Stephen Turnbull called the Mimizuka "...Kyoto's least mentioned and most often avoided tourist attraction".[17] A plaque, which was later removed, stood in front of the Ear Mound in the 1960s with the passage, "One cannot say that cutting off noses was so atrocious by the standard of the time." Most guidebooks do not mention the Ear Mound, and only a few Japanese or foreign tourists visit the site.[9] The majority of visiting tourists are Korean – Korean tour buses are often seen parked near the Ear Mound.

In 1982, not a single Japanese school textbook mentioned the Ear Mound. As of 1997, the mound is referred to in about half of all high-school history textbooks according to Shigeo Shimoyama, an official of Jikkyo, a publishing company. The publisher released the first Japanese text book mentioning the Ear Mound in the mid-1980s. The Education Ministry of Japan at that time opposed the description as "too vivid" and pressured the publisher to reduce the tone and also to praise Hideyoshi for religiously dedicating the Ear Mound to store the spirits of the killed people.[9]

In the 1970s under the Park Chung-hee administration, some of the officials of the South Korean government asked Japan to level the monument.[9] However, most South Koreans said that the mound should stay in Japan as a reminder of past savagery.[9] Activity since the 1990s is aptly conveyed thus:[2]: pp. 585–586 

In 1990 a Korean Buddhist monk named Pak Sam-jung traveled to Kyoto and, with the support of a private local organization, concluded a ceremony in front of the tomb to comfort the spirits residing there and guide them home to Korea. Over the next six years the Japanese organization that hosted this event spearheaded a drive to get the mimizuka itself sent home, submitting a petition bearing twenty-thousand signatures to Kyoto city officials, and pledging to bear the cost of excavating the contents of the tomb and shipping them to Korea, together with the nine-meter-high earthen mound and the stone pagoda on top. When Pak Sam-jung returned to Kyoto in 1996, the tomb's return seemed imminent. "These noses were cut off as trophies of war for Toyotomi Hideyoshi," he announced upon leaving Seoul. "They have been there in Kyoto for four-hundred years. It is now our duty to see them returned to Korea to assuage the grief of the 126,000 people whose remains are buried there."[18] In the end the necessary permission to move the mimuzuka was not forthcoming from the Japanese government. It was decided that, as an officially designated national cultural asset, the tomb should stay where it was. It remains in Kyoto to this day, little known and not often visited, and not well marked for tourists. It is just west of Kyoto National Museum and Toyokuni Jinja, the Shinto shrine dedicated to Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who was deified as a kami after his death. Funding from the government is insufficient to care for the site, so the work is done by local residents, who volunteer to cut the grass and tidy up the grounds.[2][9]

On September 28, 1997, the 400th anniversary of the Mimizuka, a ceremony was held in respect for those killed, which people of all nationalities and faiths attended. The current caretaker of Mimizuka as of August 2009 is Shimizu Shirou (清水四郎).[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cho, Chung-hwa (1996). Dashi ssunum imjin waeran-sa (A Revelation of the History of the Imjin War). Seoul: Hakmin-sa. According to Cho Chung-hwa, this name change was made by the government-sponsored scholar Hayashi Rasan (1583–1657) in the early years of the Tokugawa era.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Hawley, Samuel (2005). The Imjin War: Japan's Sixteenth Century Invasion of Korea and Attempt to Conquer China. Royal Asiatic Society. p. 501. ISBN 89-954424-2-5.
  3. ^ a b The Inseparable Trinity: Japan's Relations with China and Korea, (in The Cambridge History of Japan. Vol. 4, Early Modern Japan). Cambridge University Press. 1991. pp. 235–300. doi:10.1017/CHOL9780521223553.007.
  4. ^ a b c Turnbull, Stephen (2002). Samurai Invasion: Japan's Korean War 1592–1598. Cassell. pp. 230. ISBN 0-304-35948-3. Motoyama Yasumasa's account does not fail to mention that many of the noses and ears interred therein were not of fighting soldiers but ordinary civilians, because `Men and women, down to newborn infants, all were wiped out, none was left alive. Their noses were sliced off and pickled in salt.'
  5. ^ See Turnbull, Stephen (2002), p. 230. In Motoyama Buzen no kami Yasumasa oyako senko oboegaki, in Zoku gunsho ruiju Series (Zoku Gunsho Ruiju Kanseikai), 1933, p. 391
  6. ^ See Turnbull, Stephen (2002), p. 222. "the Battle of Sacheon site is now marked by a massive burial mound containing the remains of more than 30,000 Ming troops killed by the Japanese and interred here without their noses, because these important trophies were to be amongst the last contributions to be lodged with Kyoto's Mimizuka."
  7. ^ Sansom, George; Sir Sansom; George Bailey (1961). A History of Japan, 1334–1615. Stanford studies in the civilizations of eastern Asia. Stanford University Press. pp. 360. ISBN 0-8047-0525-9. Visitors to Kyoto used to be shown the Minizuka or Ear Tomb, which contained, it was said, the noses of those 38,000, sliced off, suitably pickled, and sent to Kyoto as evidence of victory.
  8. ^ Saikaku, Ihara; Gordon Schalow, Paul (1990). The Great Mirror of Male Love. Stanford Nuclear Age Series. Stanford University Press. pp. 324. ISBN 0-8047-1895-4. The Great Mirror of Male Love. "Mimizuka, meaning "ear tomb", was the place Toyotomi Hideyoshi buried the noses taken as proof of enemy dead during his brutal invasions of Korea in 1592 and 1597.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Kristof, Nicholas D. (September 14, 1997). "Japan, Korea and 1597: A Year That Lives in Infamy". The New York Times. New York. Retrieved 2008-09-22.
  10. ^ a b See Hawley, Samuel (2005), p. 158. "According to Japanese accounts, more than three-thousand of Sin's men were beheaded that day and several hundred taken prisoner. The severed heads were lined up for the customary post-battle viewing, and then the noses were cut off and packed in salt for shipment back to Japan. Under normal circumstances the heads themselves would have been kept, but in the Korean campaign there were simply too many. Henceforth noses would become the generally accepted trophies of war. They were much more portable."
  11. ^ See Hawley, Samuel (2005), p. 475-476. "From the start the offensive to pacify the provinces of Gyeongsang, Jeolla, and Chungcheong was accompanied by the most horrific atrocities perpetrated against the region’s civilian population. People were killed almost daily well outside the time frame of any significant battle, and their noses hacked off by the hundreds, even the thousands. We know this because the units responsible, ever mindful of recording the proof of their valor, kept meticulous records and receipts, some of which have survived to this day ."
  12. ^ See Hawley, Samuel (2005), p. 494-495. "Noses hacked off the faces of the massacred were submitted by the thousands at the nose collection stations set up on the way, where they were carefully counted, recorded salted, and packed."
  13. ^ Turnbull, Stephen The Samurai Invasion of Korea, 1592-98, London: Osprey, 2008 p.81.
  14. ^ In Turnbull, Stephen (2002), p. 197. Japanese monk Keinen noted that atrocities against the civilian population was just another phase in the military operation. "From early dawn of the following morning we gave chase and hunted them in the mountains and scoured the villages for the distance of one day's travel. When they were cornered we made a wholesale slaughter of them. During a period of ten days we seized 10,000 of the enemy, but we did not cut off their heads. We cut off their noses, which told us how many heads there were. By this time Yasuharu's total of heads was over 2,000." (Wakizaka ki in Yoshino, Jingoza'emon. Yoshino Jingoza'emon oboegaki, in Zoku gunsho ruiju XX-2 Tokyo Zoku Gunsho Ruiju Kanseikai (1933), 1636, p. 448).
  15. ^ In Hawley, Samuel (2005), pp. 465-466. "The seventh and concluding item in Hideyoshi's orders to his commanders recorded in Chosen ki (Korean Record) of samurai Okochi Hidemoto, in Elison George, "The Priest Keinen and His Account of the Campaign in Korea, 1597-1598: An Introduction." In Nihon kyoikushi ronso: Motoyama Yukihiko Kyoju taikan kinen rombunshu, edited by Motoyama Yukihiko Kyoju taikan kinen rombunshu henshu iinkai. Kyoto: Shinbunkaku, 1988, p. 28.
  16. ^ In Turnbull, Stephen (2002), p. 230. Chosen ki in Zoku gunsho ruiju Series (Zoku Gunsho Ruiju Kanseikai), 1933, p. 352
  17. ^ Turnbull, Stephen The Samurai Invasion of Korea, 1592-98, London: Osprey, 2008 p.81.
  18. ^ Pak, Chu-yong (January 16, 1996). "Imran gui-mudom kot tora-onda...Pak Sum-jung sunim chujinjung; Gui-mudom silche hwankukumjikim bongyokhwa". Chosun Ilbo. Seoul.
  19. ^ ""만행 사과하고파"..."귀무덤" 지킨 日노인". 2009-08-14. Archived from the original on 2011-06-08. Retrieved 2009-12-25.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 34°59′29″N 135°46′13″E / 34.991459°N 135.770333°E / 34.991459; 135.770333