Bones of over 1,500 people found at Osaka Station area construction site -- Aug 14
With people think of a Japanese city with a rich cultural legacy, Kyoto is the first place that springs to mind, but Osaka is no slouch in the historical significance department either.

Osaka’s coastal location connected it to trade routes even in Japan’s feudal era, and the town that spread out from Osaka Castle was the country’s most thriving center of merchants and commerce when Tokyo was still a backwater town called Edo.

As present-day Japan’s third-largest city in terms of population, Osaka continues to be a busy place. Right now there’s an urban redevelopment project going on in the area north of Osaka Station, and during construction surveys Osaka’s past, present, and future have intersected.

The district around Osaka Station is called Umeda, and the sub-section where the redevelopment project is taking place is called Umekita (combining “Umeda” and kita/”north”). But once upon a time, it was known as Umeda Haka, or Umeda Grave, one of seven major cemeteries of Osaka. Because of that, survey teams for the Umekita redevelopment project have discovered the bones of more than 1,500 people at a project site, according to a recent announcement from the Osaka CIty Board of Education and Osaka City Cultural Properties Association.

Various burial styles were observed, ranging from enclosed wooden caskets to barrel-like open containers, as well as earthenware coffins called kameganbo (“turtle caskets”). While cremation is the norm in Japan now, surveyors found both cremated and non-cremated remains. Several of the bodies had also been interred with burial items such as juzudama (rosary-like prayer beads), rokusenmon (a set of six coins used to pay passage across the Sanzu River, said to separate the world of the living and the afterlife), pipes, and clay dolls.

In another section of the site, separated from the casket area by a stone wall, a mass grave with bodies of the deceased only covered by earth was found. Given the number of people who were apparently buried at the same time, researchers suspect the burial may have come following a plague that claimed the lives of many in a short period of time.

大阪・梅田で進められている再開発の工事現場から古い時代の人の骨が発掘されました。その数、約1500体。生まれ変わろうとしているエリアには元々、有名な墓地がありました。  大阪の繁華街・梅田周辺にぽっかりと空いた空間。JR大阪駅の北側、「うめきた」と呼ばれる地域で、大阪駅のすぐ隣の工事現場では発掘の結果、なんと1500体の人骨が見つかりました。人骨以外に、土でできた人形や位牌(いはい)なども見つかりました。  一体なぜ、都会の真ん中に・・・。その謎を解く鍵となる絵がありました。「盂蘭盆会(うらぼんえ)七墓巡り図」。江戸時代、大坂にある7カ所の墓地を供養のために参拝して歩く、「七墓巡り」が庶民の間で流行しました。墓地の一つ「梅田墓」。その「梅田墓」があったのが、ここなのです。  大阪市文化財協会調査課東淀川事務所・大庭重信所長:「大阪市内はもちろん、日本全国のなかでもこれほど多数の人骨が一度に見つかる事例はほとんどありません」  土人形やミニチュア食器は、子ども用のおもちゃ。埋葬された子どものために入れられた可能性があるといいます。  この梅田墓があった場所・・・。7年前にその役目を終えた貨物駅があった所です。貨物駅は、100年以上にわたってこの場所にありました。その間もずっと、この地に眠っていたのです。今回、見つかった人骨は大阪駅周辺の再開発事業に伴って行われた発掘調査によるもので、3年前にもこの周辺で約200体の人骨が見つかっています。  大阪市文化財協会調査課東淀川事務所・大庭重信所長:「恐らく、あまり身分の高くない人たちが埋葬されているので、歴史に名前を残さないような人たちに光を当てることが期待できる」  調査を終えた大半の部分はすでに埋め戻されていますが、まだ一部、調査中の所もあるということです。
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With people think of a Japanese city with a rich cultural legacy, Kyoto is the first place that springs to mind, but Osaka is no slouch in the historical significance department either. (