Emperor Jimmu

Emperor Jimmu

Emperor of Japan
Reign February 11, 660 BC – 9 April 585 BC (mythic)
Successor Suizei
Spouse Ahiratsu-hime
Issue Tagishimimi-no-mikoto
Emperor Suizei
Father Ugayafukiaezu
Mother Tamayori-bime
Born February 13, 711 BC (mythic)
Died April 9, 585 BC (aged 126) (mythic)
Burial Unebi-yama no ushitora no sumi no misasagi (畝傍山東北陵) (Kashihara, Nara)(mythic)

Emperor Jimmu was the first emperor of Japan, according to legend. His accession is traditionally dated as 660 BC.[1][2][3] He is a descendant of the sun goddess Amaterasu through her grandson Ninigi, as well as a descendant of the storm god Susanoo. He launched a military expedition from Hyuga near the Inland Sea, captured Yamato, and established this as his center of power.


  • Name and title 1
  • Legendary narrative 2
    • Jimmu's migration 2.1
  • Modern veneration of Emperor Jimmu 3
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Name and title

Emperor Jimmu
Japanese name
Kanji 神武天皇

The conventional names and dates of the early emperors were accepted in the reign of Emperor Kanmu (737–806),[4] when Oumi no Mifune conferred on all putative 'emperors' before Ōjin, known until then as sumera no mikoto/ōkimi, the title of tennō or 'Heavenly Ruler', a Japanese pendant to the Chinese imperial title Tiān-dì (天帝). This practice had begun under Empress Suiko, and took root after the Taika Reforms with the ascendancy of the Nakatomi clan.[5] Jimmu's name, like those of several other legendary emperors, was already attested among the ruler names of the Korean kingdom of Silla.[6]

According to the legendary account in the Kojiki, Emperor Jimmu was born on February 13, 711 BC (the first day of the first month of the Chinese calendar), and died, again according to legend, on March 11, 585 BC (both dates according to the lunisolar traditional Japanese calendar).

Both the Kojiki and the Nihon Shoki give Jimmu's name as Kamu-Yamatö-ipare-biko (神倭伊波礼)[7] Ipare (modern Japanese iware) indicates a toponym whose precise purport is unclear. The Imperial house of Japan traditionally based its claim to the throne on its putative descent from the sun-goddess Ama-terasu-opo-mi-kamï via Jimmu's great grandfather Ninigi.[8]

Legendary narrative

In Japanese mythology, the Age of the Gods is the period before Jimmu's accession.[9]

The story of Jimmu seems to rework legends associated with the Ōtomo clan, and its function was to establish that clan's links to the ruling family, just as those of Suijin arguably reflect Mononobe tales and the legends in Ōjin's chronicles seem to derive from Soga clan traditions.[10] Jimmu figures as a direct descendant of the sun goddess, Amaterasu. Amaterasu had a son called Ame no Oshihomimi no Mikoto and through him a grandson named Ninigi-no-Mikoto. She sent her grandson to the Japanese islands where he eventually married Konohana-Sakuya-hime. Among their three sons was Hikohohodemi no Mikoto, also called Yamasachi-hiko, who married Toyotama-hime. She was the daughter of Ryūjin, the Japanese sea god. They had a single son called Hikonagisa Takeugaya Fukiaezu no Mikoto. The boy was abandoned by his parents at birth and consequently raised by Tamayori-hime, his mother's younger sister. They eventually married and had four sons. The last of these, Kan'yamato Iwarebiko, became Emperor Jimmu.[11]

Jimmu's migration

Depiction of bearded Emperor Jimmu with his emblematic long bow and an accompanying wild bird — artwork by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839–1892).
The mausoleum of Emperor Jimmu in Kashihara City, Nara Prefecture.

Mythic records in the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki describe, with distinct versions that often disagree on details, how Jimmu's brothers were born in Takachiho, the southern part of Kyūshū (in modern day Miyazaki prefecture), and decided to move eastward, as they found the location inappropriate for reigning over the entire country. Jimmu's older brother, Itsuse no Mikoto, originally led the migration, and led the clan eastward through the Seto Inland Sea with the assistance of local chieftain Sao Netsuhiko. As they reached Naniwa (modern day Ōsaka), they encountered another local chieftain, Nagasunehiko (lit. "the long-legged man"), and Itsuse was killed in the ensuing battle. Jimmu realized that they had been defeated because they battled eastward against the sun, so he decided to land on the east side of Kii Peninsula and to battle westward. They reached Kumano, and, with the guidance of a three-legged crow, Yatagarasu (lit. "eight-span crow"), they moved to Yamato. There, they once again battled Nagasunehiko and were victorious.

In Yamato, Nigihayahi no Mikoto, who also claim descent from the Takamagahara gods, was protected by Nagasunehiko. However, when Nigihayahi met Jimmu, he accepted Jimmu's legitimacy. At this point, Jimmu is said to have ascended to the throne of Japan.

According to the Kojiki, Jimmu died when he was 126 years old. This emperor's posthumous name literally means "divine might" or "god-warrior". It is undisputed that this identification is Chinese in form and Buddhist in implication, which suggests that the name must have been regularized centuries after the lifetime ascribed to Jimmu. It is generally thought that Jimmu's name and character evolved into their present shape just before[12] the time in which legends about the origins of the Yamato dynasty were chronicled in the Kojiki.[4]

The fluidity of Jimmu before the compilation of the Kojiki and of the Nihon Shoki is demonstrated by somewhat earlier texts that place three dynasties as successors to the mythological Yamato state. According to these texts, Jimmu's dynasty was supplanted by that of Emperor Ōjin, whose dynasty was supplanted by that of Emperor Keitai.[13] The Kojiki and the Nihon Shoki then combined these three mythical dynasties into one long and continuous genealogy.

The traditional site of Jimmu's grave is near Unebiyama in Kashihara.[14]

Modern veneration of Emperor Jimmu

The inner prayer hall of Kashihara Shrine in Kashihara, Nara, the principal shrine devoted to Emperor Jimmu

Veneration of Emperor Jimmu was a central component of the imperial cult that formed following the Meiji restoration. 1872-73 saw the establishment of a new holiday called Kigensetsu ("Era Day") commemorating the anniversary of Jimmu's ascension to the throne 2,532 years earlier.[15] Between 1873 and 1945 an imperial envoy sent offerings every year to Mount Unebi, the supposed site of Jimmu's tomb.[16]

In 1890 Kashihara Shrine was established nearby, on the spot where Jimmu was said to have ascended to the throne.[17]

Before and during World War II, expansionist propaganda made frequent use of the phrase hakkō ichiu, a neologism coined by Tanaka Chigaku based on a passage in the Nihon Shoki discussing Emperor Jimmu.[18] Some media incorrectly attributed the exact phrase to Emperor Jimmu.[19] For the 1940 Kigensetsu celebration, marking the supposed 2,600th anniversary of Jimmu's enthronement, the Peace Tower平和の塔 Heiwa no Tō, originally called the "Hakkō Ichiu Tower" 八紘一宇の塔 Hakkō Ichiu no Tō or the "Pillar of Heaven and Earth" 八紘之基柱 Ametsuchi no Motohashira) was constructed in Miyazaki.[20]

The same year numerous stone monuments relating to key events in Jimmu's life were erected around Japan. The sites at which these monuments were erected are known as "Emperor Jimmu Sacred Historical Sites".[21] Kigensetsu was suspended in 1948 during the occupation of Japan, but was reinstated in 1966 as Kenkoku Kinen no hi, which continues to be celebrated as a national holiday.[22]

See also


  1. ^ Kelly, Charles F. "Kofun Culture," Japanese Archaeology. April 27, 2009.
  2. ^ Kitagawa, Joseph. (1987). p. 145On Understanding Japanese Religion, , p. 145, at Google Books; excerpt, "... emphasis on the undisrupted chronological continuity from myths to legends and from legends to history, it is difficult to determine where one ends and the next begins. At any rate, the first ten legendary emperors are clearly not reliable historical records."
  3. ^ Boleslaw Szczesniak,'The Sumu-Sanu Myth. Notes and Remarks on the Jimmu Tenno Myth,' in Monumenta Nipponica, Vol. 10, No. 1/2 (1954), pp. 107-126.
  4. ^ a b Aston, William. (1896). Nihongi, pp. 109–137.
  5. ^ Jacques H. Kamstra Encounter Or Syncretism: The Initial Growth of Japanese Buddhism, Brill 1967 pp.65-67.
  6. ^ Jacques H. Kamstra, Encounter Or Syncretism: The Initial Growth of Japanese Buddhism, Brill 1967 p.67.
  7. ^ 神倭伊波礼琵古命:Kamu-Yamatö-ipare-biko (nö-mikötö) Donald Philippi, tr.Kojiki, University of Tokyo Press, 1969 p.488
  8. ^ Bob Tadashi Wakabayashi, [Japanese Loyalism Reconstrued: Yamagata Daini's Ryūshi Shinron of 1759,] University of Hawai'i Press, 1995 pp.106-7.
  9. ^ Nussbaum, "Jindai" at p. 421, p. 421, at Google Books.
  10. ^ Jacques H. Kamstra, Encounter Or Syncretism: The Initial Growth of Japanese Buddhism, Brill 1967 pp.69-70.
  11. ^ Nussbaum, "Chijin-godai" at p. 111, p. 111, at Google Books.
  12. ^ Kennedy, Malcolm D. A History of Japan. London. Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1963.
  13. ^ Ooms, Herman. Imperial Politics and Symbolics in Ancient Japan: the Tenmu Dynasty, 650–800. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2009
  14. ^ Imperial Household Agency (Kunaichō): 神武天皇 (1); retrieved August 22, 2013.
  15. ^ Britannica Kokusai Dai-Hyakkajiten article on "Kigensetsu".
  16. ^ Martin, Peter. (1997). The Chrysanthemum Throne: A History of the Emperors of Japan, p. 18-20.
  17. ^ Kashihara City website tourism page on "Kashihara Jingū".
  18. ^ Britannica Kokusai Dai-Hyakkajiten article on "Hakkō ichiu".
  19. ^ Dower, John W., War Without Mercy: Race & Power in the Pacific War, faber and faber, 1993 p.223.
  20. ^ [1]
  21. ^ Ruoff, Kenneth. (2010). Imperial Japan at its Zenith: The Wartime Celebration of the Empire's 2,600th Anniversary, p. 186.
  22. ^ "Founding Day rekindles annual debate". The Japan Times. February 11, 1998. Retrieved May 24, 2014. 


  • Aston, William George. (1896). Nihongi: Chronicles of Japan from the Earliest Times to A.D. 697, Volume 1. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner. OCLC 448337491
  • Bix, Herbert P. (2001). Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan. New York: HarperCollins. 10-ISBN 0-06-093130-2; 13-ISBN 978-0-06-093130-8
  • Brown, Delmer M. and Ichirō Ishida, eds. (1979). Gukanshō: The Future and the Past. Berkeley: University of California Press. 10-ISBN 0-520-03460-0; 13-ISBN 978-0-520-03460-0; OCLC 251325323
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  • Nussbaum, Louis-Frédéric and Käthe Roth. (2005). Japan encyclopedia. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 10-ISBN 0-674-01753-6; 13-ISBN 978-0-674-01753-5; OCLC 58053128
  • Ponsonby-Fane, Richard Arthur Brabazon. (1959). The Imperial House of Japan. Kyoto: Ponsonby Memorial Society. OCLC 194887
  • Titsingh, Isaac. (1834). Nihon Odai Ichiran; ou, Annales des empereurs du Japon. Paris: Royal Asiatic Society, Oriental Translation Fund of Great Britain and Ireland. OCLC 5850691
  • Varley, H. Paul. (1980). Jinnō Shōtōki: A Chronicle of Gods and Sovereigns. New York: Columbia University Press. 10-ISBN 0-231-04940-4; 13-ISBN 978-0-231-04940-5; OCLC 59145842

External links

  • A more detailed profile of Jimmu
  • A detailed summary of Jimmu's descent legend
Regnal titles
New creation Emperor of Japan
660–585 BC
(Traditional dates)
Succeeded by
Emperor Suizei