Asuka (Japon): remains of raised performance stage in pond at ancient palace

Kazuto Tsukamoto

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Archaeologists have uncovered the remains of what likely supported a wooden stage built over a pond at what was once the garden for the Asuka palace when it ruled as the capital of ancient Japan more than 1,300 years ago.


Many column holes surround the small island in the southern pond of the garden at the ancient Asuka palace. (Provided by the Archaeological Institute of Kashihara, Nara Prefecture)

In particular, researchers have found more than 100 holes where columns were inserted to support the raised stage that was likely used to entertain foreign guests and hold special ceremonies.

Yu Higashikage, a senior researcher at the Archaeological Institute of Kashihara, Nara Prefecture, announced the discovery during a speech given in Kashihara on Aug. 2.

The finds were made in the Asuka-kyo Ato Enchi (garden and pond at the ruins of the Asuka capital), which has been designated a national historic site and place of scenic beauty.

The garden and pond were constructed in the latter seventh century during the Asuka Period. Researchers have already determined that there were two artificial ponds and connecting waterway as well as stone structures that may have been used for fountains.


This illustration by Kazuko Hayakawa depicts a performance on the raised stage over the pond during the period when Asuka was the ancient capital of Japan. (Kazuto Tsukamoto)

According to Higashikage, the column holes were found surrounding a small island that was built in the pentagonal southern pond. A total of about 120 holes were found, with diameters of between 0.9 to 1.2 meters. The columns likely supported a raised stage that was 35 meters wide from east to west and 17 meters long from north to south.

About 40 other holes about one meter in diameter were also found that likely supported another facility located on the southern edge of the pond, near where the Asuka palace was located. That structure measured 15 m by 10 m.

While holes were also found on the east edge of the pond, there is the possibility that the structure constructed there was used by spectators.

It is uncertain if a building or roof were constructed over the various facilities.