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Japanese Tombs from the 17th century in the Hoi An countryside

| 09 Dec 2018
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Japanese Tombs from the 17th century in the Hoi An countryside
09 Dec 2018

Three seventeenth century Japanese tombs in the Hoi An countryside are little-known but fascinating emblems of the town’s merchant past.

Note: The information provided in this review was correct at time of publishing but may change. For final clarification please check with the relevant service

Hoi An’s Japanese Bridge is the old town's best known icon. Its central position in the old town is testament to the clout wielded by Japanese traders during the early 17th century. Japanese tombs in the surrounding countryside are further reminders. We’ve visited three. If you love old graves as I do, you'll find one or two of these worth a look and they're easily visited while exploring by bicycle.

All three of the Japanese tombs we've seen in Hoi An are in reasonable shape after nearly 400 years. One source describes them as “the only known tombs of Edo-era Japanese merchants outside Japan.” If true, that’s pretty special.

There has been some work to preserve them by Japanese and local experts, including work by members of Indochina's Japanese community in the late 1920s.

The Edo period was a time of economic isolation so we’re not sure why there was so many Japanese in Hoi An in the early 17th century? It's possible that these men were acting in defiance of Edo era isolationism.

The tombs add a human dimension that is mostly missing from Hoi An’s presentation of its history to visitors. They don't see many tourists and it was decades after my first visit to Hoi An before I stopped for a proper look.

The first tomb you’ll come across  as you head along Hai Ba Trung St towards An Bang Beach (see map below), is that of a chap named Banjiro, who passed away in 1665. The setting of this tomb, in what looks to be an old residential dwelling, is pretty special too.

Banjiro's Japanese Tomb, Hoi An
Photo: Mark Bowyer Banjiro's Japanese Tomb, Hoi An

 

The best tomb to visit if you only visit one, is that of Tani Yajirobei. It sits, overrun with weeds, in the middle of rice fields. It's easily found on a leisurely cycle along Hai Ba Trung St to An Bang Beach from the old town. The plaque explains that Mr Yajirobei, who passed away in 1647, returned to Hoi An despite edicts against trading, in search of his local lover.

Tani Yajirobai's Japanese Tomb Hoi An
Photo: Mark Bowyer Tani Yajirobei's Japanese Tomb Hoi An

 

This is a lovely ride. You can check out our guide to cycling in Hoi An here.

I only stumbled across a third tomb on a visit to Hoi An in 2018. It’s hidden away in the grounds of a noodle eatery. I didn’t see any explanatory signage so I’m only assuming this is a Japanese tomb. It’s at 235 Cua Dai Rd. I didn't get close enough to look for detail and there didn't seem to be any signage.

Japanese Tomb, Hoi An
Photo: Mark Bowyer Japanese Tomb, Hoi An

 

Travel tips
You can find the tombs using maps below. The first two are the most interesting and are convenient stops on a cycle to An Bang beach and to the surrounding countryside.

Mark Bowyer
Mark Bowyer is the founder and publisher of Rusty Compass.
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