The shrine as seen from the top of the stairs (Photo: Elizabeth Wormald)

Takehara Tomb

6th century tomb housing ancient wall paintings

The shrine as seen from the top of the stairs (Photo: Elizabeth Wormald)
Elizabeth Wormald   - 3 min read

Takehara Tomb, located in Miyawaka, Fukuoka Prefecture, dates back to the sixth century. The tomb is famous for its cave drawings so I decided to pay this historical site a visit. The tomb was discovered in 1956 and construction has been added to preserve the artwork while allowing visitors to observe the wall paintings. The tomb is just a 15-minute taxi ride from Hotel Grantia Wakiyama. I wouldn’t recommend walking and taking a taxi is quick and easy.

The entrance fee is ¥215 for adults, which is extremely cheap! You just head into the shop and pick up the key… yes, when it’s not tourist season, it’s quite a DIY adventure. At the top of the stairs are a shrine and a small building, where you must unlock the door to find the Takehara Tomb. Does it sound like a video game quest yet? I wouldn’t advise going alone as it’s a little scary. You have to enter through three sets of doors, the last one being quite low down. Beyond this Alice in Wonderland door is a small cave room, with another miniature door inside through which you can view the paintings. This is definitely not a good idea if you suffer from claustrophobia because these rooms are fairly cramped.

Despite this, I had to admit I kind of felt like Indiana Jones. Miyakawa is a quiet place, so chances are you will be alone on your visit. This explorer adventure comes to a head with the paintings. Peering through the final glass door you can glimpse these centuries-old paintings. I was really surprised by how many remain, how carefully they have been looked after and how clear the paintings are. Takehara Tomb gives you an intimate look back in time. It’s very humbling to see such well-preserved relics from our ancestors. If you’re interested in not just Japanese history but world history—this is a fantastic sight to visit!

There is a Japanese language pamphlet available from the shop out front, but nothing in English. Within the pamphlet the painting is broken down into individual components: the animals, the people, the waves, and so on. Though the intended meaning is hard to grasp, you’re welcome to interpret the paintings as you please and make this piece of human history your own. All I know is that it’s a fascinating archeological find and I feel lucky to have seen this place.

Elizabeth Wormald

Elizabeth Wormald @elizabeth.wormald

Hi, I'm a University student from England. I like art, quiet coffee shops and of course travelling. I hope some of my finds can inspire you to explore Japan, and introduce some of the wonderful experiences and cultural heritage the country offers.