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The front of the Mimizuka, March 2004

The Mimizuka (耳塚?, literally "Ear Mound", often translated as "Ear Tomb") is a monument in Kyoto, Japan, dedicated to the sliced ears and noses of killed Korean soldiers and civilians taken as a war trophy during the Japanese invasions of Korea from 1592 to 1598. The monument enshrines the mutilated body parts of at least 38,000 Koreans killed during Toyotomi Hideyoshi's invasions.[1][2][3] The shrine is located just to the west of Toyokuni Shrine, the Shinto shrine honoring Hideyoshi in Kyoto.



Traditionally, Japanese warriors would bring back the heads of enemies slain on the battlefield as proof of their deeds. Remuneration was paid to soldiers by their feudal lords based on the severed heads. 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 ears and noses instead of whole heads.[citation needed] The dismembered facial features were brought to Japan in barrels of brine. Some might have been discarded, so it is impossible to be sure how many were killed during the war. Estimates have been as high as one million.[3]

The Mimizuka was dedicated September 28 1597.[3] The exact reasons it was built are unknown. In that time, it was uncommon for a defeated enemy to be interred into a Buddhist shrine.[citation needed] Alternatively, the Mimizuka could have been meant as a warning for those who resisted Japanese conquest.[citation needed] The Mimizuka is not unique. Other nose and ear mounds dating from the same period are found elsewhere in Japan, such as Okayama; see nose tomb for details.[3]

Effect on modern foreign relations

The Mimizuka is almost unknown to Japanese public while most Koreans are aware of it; the Ear Mound is a symbol of cruelty.[3] 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 ears or noses was so atrocious by the standard of the time." Most guidebooks do not mention about the Ear Mound, and only few Japanese or foreign tourists visit the site.[3] The majority of visiting tourists are Korean - Korean tour buses are often seen near 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 text book mentioning the Ear Mound the mid 1980s of Japan. The Education Ministry of Japan at that time opposed the description "too vivid" and pressured the publisher to reduce the tone and also to describe Hideyoshi for religiously dedicating the Ear Mound in order to store the spirits of the killed people.[3]

In the 1970s under the Park Chung-hee administration, some of the officials of the Korean government asked Japan to level the monument.[3] However, most Koreans said that the mound should stay in Japan as a reminder of past savagery.[3]

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).[4]

See also


  1. 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 0804705259. "Visitors to Kyoto used to be shown the Minizuka or Ear Tomb, which contained, it was said, the ears of those 38,000, sliced off, suitably pickled, and sent to Kyoto as evidence of victory."
  2. Saikaku, Ihara; Gordon Schalow, Paul (1990). The Great Mirror of Male Love. Stanford Nuclear Age Series. Stanford University Press. pp. 324. ISBN 0804718954. "The Great Mirror of Male Love. "Mimizuka, meaning "ear tomb", was the place Toyotomi Hideyoshi buried the ears taken as proof of enemy dead during his brutal invasions of Korea in 1592 and 1997."
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 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 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "kristof" defined multiple times with different content
  4. "“만행 사과하고파”…‘귀무덤’ 지킨 日노인". 2009-08-14. Retrieved 2009-12-25.

External links


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