Emperor Jimmu (神武天皇)

Emperor Jimmu (February 13, 711 B.C. ? - April 9, 585 B.C. ?) was legendarily the first emperor in Japan.
He reigned from February 18, 660 ?B.C. to April 9, 585 B.C. ?
Judging from that he lived over 100 years and that he achieved too many results (mentioned later) to believe they were done by a single person, it is commonly understood that he could have been a nonexistent emperor.

In "Kojiki" (The Records of Ancient Matters) he is called Kanyamato Iwarehiko no Mikoto, while in "Nihonshoki" (Chronicles of Japan) he is called Kanyamato Iwarehiko no Mikoto, Hatsukuni shirasu sumera mikoto, Wakamikenu no Mikoto, Sano no Mikoto and Hiko hoho demi. The appellation of Emperor Jimmu was given by a literati in the late Nara period, OMI no Mifune, when he dedicated shi (a posthumous name) of successive emperors all together to the emperor at the time.

It is said that Emperor Jimmu ascended the throne on February 11, 660 B.C. Accordingly, February 11 was designated to be a national holiday (Kigensetsu (the day commemorating the ascension to the throne of the first emperor, Jimmu)) as the day of foundation of Japan in 1873. Although Kigensetsu was abolished in 1948, the day became a national holiday anew called National Foundation Day in 1967.


The following careers of Emperor Jimmu are mostly based on Nihonshoki. Content of the book is mythological and stories, including those about the existence of Emperor Jimmu, are not considered as historical facts in historical science today. Kojiki also has a story of Emperor Jimmu, and its summary is the same as Nihonshoki, but the description about the route of expedition and others are slightly different from those in Nihonshoki. Most descriptions concerning Emperor Jimmu in Nihonshoki and Kojiki are about Jimmu tosei (Eastern expedition of Emperor Jimmu); for details, refer to the section of Jimmu tosei.

The Time as Prince

Before his enthronement, Emperor Jimmu was called Kanyamato Iwarehiko no Mikoto and the fourth son (or the third son) of Ugaya Fukiaezu. He was born with wisdom and strong will. He became the crown prince at the age of 15, then he took Ahiratsuhime as his wife and had a son, Tagishi-miminomikoto.

According to Nihonshoki, at the age of 45, the year of Yang Wood Tiger, Iwarehikono Mikoto, residing at Takachiho no miya in Hyuga Province, brought his brothers and princes together, and declared "Since the 'tensonkorin' (the descent to earth of the grandson of the sun goddess), about 1,792,477 years have passed
(in "Yamato hime no mikoto seiki" and "Jingi fuden zuki" of Shinto Gobusho (Five Books of Shinto) which are considered to be forged ones, it is believed that Ninigi reigned 318,543 years, Hoori reigned 637,892 years, and Ugaya Fukiaezu reigned 835,042 years, then these came to a total of 1,792,477 years), however, we are still in the west, so we have not governed the whole land. I heard that there is a beautiful land in the east, surrounded by blue mountains, and Nigihayahi no Mikoto has descended there. The land would be the rightful place for expanding our great work to reign over in the whole country as long as it is "kuni" (a conquerable land). Therefore, we should make this place our capital." All the princes supported his declaration.

Start of Tosei (Eastern Expedition)

On October 5, Iwarehikono Mikoto went to the east with his older brothers including Itsuse no mikoto by boat and when they got to Hayasui no to, they hired Kunitsukami (gods of the land), Shiinetsuhiko as a guide. After they arrived at Usa, Tsukushi Province, they were invited to the palace of Usatsuhiko and Usatsuhime, and let Usatsuhime marry their courtier, Ame no Taneko no Mikoto.

In December, they stayed at Enomiya, Aki Province via Oka no minato, Tsukushi Province. In March, they entered Kibi Province, then, they constructed Takashima Angu (temporary lodging built to accommodate an Imperial visit) and stayed there for three years and saved boats and army provisions.

Fight with Nagasunehiko

In February, the year of bogo, he dispatched a fleet to Namihaya no kuni. In March, they entered Kawachi Province and advanced toward Tatsuta in April, however, since steep roads prevented them from going forward, they tried to enter Nakasu to go toward the east via Mt. Ikoma. Nagasunehiko who ruled this area gathered his force and started the war in Kusaezaka. The odds were against them, and Itsuse no mikoto got wounded by a stray arrow. Iwarehikono Mikoto, a descendant of the sun god in his understanding, realized that fighting against the sun (against the east) was against God's wishes, and decided to withdraw his troops. They retreated to Kusakatsu and lined up shields and raised a war cry to raise morale. He named this area Tatetsu.

Guide of Yatagarasu (a Japanese mythological big crow)

In May, Iwarehikono Mikoto sailed the boat out, but the arrow wound of Itsuse no mikoto became worse at Yamaki no minato and he died at Kamayama Kii Province.

He executed a woman bandit called Nagusatobe, and sailed the boat out again but was caught in a storm. Being angry about the situation their anabasis was blocked both at sea and ground, his older brothers, Inahi no Mikoto and Mikeiri no mikoto drowned themselves. Although Iwarehikono Mikoto went on to Arasaka no tsu in Kumano with his son, Tagishi-miminomikoto, and executed a woman bandit in Nishikitobe, his army was exposed to poisonous air of the God of Land and struck down by illness.

Amaterasu Oomikami, who worried that tosei (Eastern expedition of the Emperor Jinmu) was making little progress, had a talk with Takemikazuchi no Kami, and gave a sacred sword (Futsu no mitama) to Takakuraji, a resident in Kumano, then Takakuraji presented this sword to Iwarehikono Mikoto. With swords in his hand, his army stood up and marched again. However, they had to go through extreme hardship because of rugged mountain roads. Then, Amaterasu Oomikami dispatched yatagarasu as an instructor. They entered the land of Uda by the guide of yatagarasu.

Tremendous Attack

In August, Iwarehikono Mikoto called Eukashi and Otokashi who ruled the land of Uda. Eukashi did not come but Otokashi did and told a vicious plan that his brother was going to assassinate Iwarehikono Mikoto. Iwarehikono Mikoto dispatched Michinoomi-no-mikoto to kill Eukashi. Iwarehikono Mikoto took a tour of the land of Yoshino with his army, and all residents followed him.

In September, Iwarehikono Mikoto climbed Mt. Takakura and saw the army of Yasotakeru and Eshiki were overflowing. Iwarehikono Mikoto hated them deeply. Takamimusuhi no Mikoto appeared in Iwarehikono mikoto's dream. Iwarehikono mikoto followed his word and made Tenpyo tile as well as a cup for omiki (sacred wine or sake) and enshrined Tenjinchigi (gods of heaven and earth) to pray for their victory.

In October, Iwarehikono Mikoto dispatched the army to attack and kill Yasotakeru in Mt. Kunimidake. In November, Iwarehikono mikoto invaded Shiki and Otoshiki made an offer of surrender to him by sending yatagarasu, however, Eshiki still resisted him together with Ekuraji and Otokuraji, therefore Shiinetsuhiko defeated them by uncanny operations and killed Eshiki with a sword.

In December, he finally had a decisive battle with Nagasunehiko. He underwent a series of battles but could not win, while it was getting cloudy and started hailing. Just then, a kite appeared and perched on Iwarehikono Mikoto's end of bow. When golden sparkle like electrical shock was emitted from the bow and disrupted Nagasunehiko's army, Iwrehikono Mikoto's army attacked them. Nigihayahi no Mikoto surrendered to Iwarehikono mikoto after he killed Nagasunehiko.

In February next year, the year of kibi, Iwarehikono mikoto killed Niikitobe, Kose no hafuri and Inohafuri who did not obey him. He found tuchigumo being small with long arms and legs in Takaohari no mura, then he laid a trap of katura-ami (a trap made of net), caught and killed them. This place was named Katuragi after this event. Consequently, Iwarehikono mikoto suppressed Nakasu. In March, he determined the land of Kashihara City, located in the south east of Mount Unebi, as the capital. In the year of Koshin, he took Himetataraisuzuhime as his lawful wife.


On New Year's Day, 660 B.C., the year of kanototori, Iwarehikono mikoto ascended the throne at Kashiwara no Miya and was called Hatsukuni shirasu sumera mikoto. He was 52 years old.

In 659 B.C., he 功を定め, and made Michinoomi-no-mikoto reside in Tsukisakamuro, Okume reside in the west of Mount Unebi, while he appointed Shiinetsuhiko as Yamato no kuni no miyatsuko, Otokashi as Agata-nushi (District Chieftain) of Takeda no mura, Otoshiki as Agata-nushi of Shiki and Tsurugine, a descendant of Takamimusubi no mikoto, as Kazuraki no Kuni no miyatsuko. In addition, he praised yatagarasu as "the bird that brings happiness."

In 657 B.C., he conquered the whole country, 海内無事を以て詔し, enshrined Mioya no Amatsu Kami in Mt. Tomiyama.

In 630 B.C., he made a tour and climbed the top of 腋上の丘, then he named that place Akitsushima, because the place resembled Akitsu no toname (tail of a mayfly).

In 619 B.C., he appointed a son of Empress Kamununataraisuzuhime, Prince Kamununakawamimi no mikoto as Crown Prince.

Death of Emperor Jimmu

In 585 B.C., Emperor Jimmu died at the age of 127.

Theory of Nonexistence of Emperor Jimmu

It was the Yayoi period when Emperor Jimmu ascended the throne in the year of kanototori (660 B.C.). After the introduction of the study of modern history in the Meiji period, the principle that history should be described on the basis of historical documents at the same period or compiled historical documents in good quality, being considered to have been based on documents at the same period, was widely approved. However, if this principle was applied to ancient history, this would lead directly to doubt the history of Imperial Family, therefore, historical documents concerning the Imperial Family had not been criticized in earnest for a long time. However, there were some people who had a doubt about the history of Imperial Family for the following reasons: Emperors in the early had extremely long lives, or Kinen (dates of their reigns) were too old. For example, a historian Michiyo NAKA in the Meiji period criticized the description in Nihonshoki and explained that Kinen in the Kojiki and Nihonshoki had probably been made up by the editor on the basis of "Shinyu-kakumei-setsu" (a prediction of revolution in Kanototori of the Chinese astrological calendar).

It was not until there appeared Sokichi TSUDA in the Taisho era that criticism of ancient history in Japan actually began to develop. TSUDA was the first person who criticized literature regarding the process of coming into existence of the kojiki and Nihonshoki in earnest, and concluded that the Japanes had to understand that description concerning Emperor Jimmu did not reflect any fact in the Yayoi period, but were mostly written as part of Japanese Mythology in order to justify the ruling of Japan by the Imperial Family, taking advantage of mythology and folklore. Although his books had been banned for sale in the prewar time as the books lacking respect for the emperor, many historians came to support his books as an approximately reasonable assumption when the taboo against discussion of the Emperor system was removed after World War II.

Under these circumstances, existence of Emperor Jimmu is not believed to be a fact in the society of historical science today. Therefore, the majority of opinion is that tales regarding Emperor Jimmu was created in some form, and "theory of model" that tales of Emperor Jimmu was created based on Emperor Sujin, Emperor Ojin and Emperor Keitai, or Emperor Temmu at the time of compilation of the Kojiki and Nihonshoki is also popular. In addition, some people believe that the Jimmu tosei (Eastern expedition by Emperor Jimmu) story was modeled on "tosen" of Yamatai-Koku (theory that the Yamatai-Koku regime transferred its capital from Kyushu to Kinai Province). In standard historical description of ancient history of Japan by scholars of academism today, this period has been written based on mainly archaeology as evidence.

Date of Enthronement

The enthronement date of Emperor Jimmu has been considered to have been determined on the basis of the description in Nihonshoki to be New Year's Day (of the old calendar) or February 11th (of the new calendar) in 660 B.C. legally and conventionally since the Meiji period.

How the Year of His Enthronement, 660 B.C., Was Determined

In Nihonshoki, all years, months and dates were written in the Oriental zodiac, and it is recorded that the date of his enthronement was "kanototorinotoshi harusyogatsu kanoetatunotuitachi."

Before the Solar calendar (the Gregorian calendar) was adopted as a calendar starting from January 1st, in order to prevent Kigensetsu (the National Foundation Day, the day commemorating the ascension to the throne of the first emperor Jimmu) from falling on New Year's Day of Tenpo reki (Tenpo calendar) in the lunar calendar, they had to fix a specific date for Kigensets by converting the date of enthronement of Emperor Jimmu into 遡り暦 of the Gregorian calendar. Monbusho Tenmonkyoku, a government office, calculated the date and a scholar of the study of calendars, Akitake TSUKAMOTO examined and fixed the date February 11th. Although the specific method of calculation has not been revealed, they explained that "干支に相より簡法相立て" at the time.

After 超辰法 of Santo-reki calendar was abolished in 50, at the time of the Later Han Dynasty (calendar was reformed officially in 1616), eto (Chinese astrological calendar) repeats in a 60-year cycle and can calculate. When the year of Emperor Jimmu's enthronment "the year of kanototori" is calculated on the basis of the period of reign of successive emperors, it falls on 660 B.C., and the month of his enthronment was "harushogatsu," which is around the first day of spring, and the date of the enthronment (eto) was "Kanoetatsu." Accordingly, Kanoetatsu no hi (day of Kanoetatsu) which is the nearest to the first day of spring in 660 B.C. is calculated, February 11 is identified in the Gregorian calendar. Around February 11, December 20 in the previous year and April 19 in the same year are also Kanetatsuno hi, but these two days cannot be "harushogatsu." Therefore, February 11th in 660 B.C., is the only day that can be "Kanototori no toshi Haru shogatsu kanoetatsu no tsuitaci." Although it is also recorded that the day was "first day of the month, " in other word, the day of new moon in Nihonshoki, the record was not taken into consideration in a calculation method of the Meiji Government, because first day of the moon depended on rekiho (method of making calendars) and was not able to be calculated by "kampo" (a simple method). When getsurei (age of the moon) at the time is calculated on the basis of astronomical knowledge, this day falls on the first day of the month in astronomy.

A Posthumous Title, Another Name

"Emperor Jimmu" is Chinese-style posthumous name, which was selected and conferred as court rank posthumously by OMI no Mifune.

Japanese-style posthumous names are as follows.

In Jimmu-ki of Nihonshoki, it is recorded that "Hatsukuni shirasu sumera mikoto was entitled as Kanyamato Iwarebiko hoho demi no sumeramikoto."
And, in first book of first section of eleventh part of Jindaiki (Records of period of gods), the following are stated, "Subsequently, Emperor Jimmu was called Sano no Mikoto. "
"In addition he was also called Kanyamato Iwarehiko no Mikoto." "Sano was his title in his young age." "Later, he dominated the whole country." Therefore, obtaining a number of titles, he was called Kanyamato Iwarehiko no Mikoto." However, similar names such as "次Iwarehikono Mikoto, Mausu Kan Yamato Iwarehiko hohodemi-no-mikoto"in first book of second section, "次Kan Yamato Iwarehiko hohodemi-no-mikoto"in first book of third section, and "次Iwarehiko hohodemi-no mikoro"in first book of fourth section are mentioned, respectively.

On the other hand, in Kojiki, he is called "Wakamikenu no Mikoto", "Toyomikenu no Mikoto", and "Kamuyamatoiwarebiko no Mikoto."

"Kanyamato" is an eulogistic name and also an expression honoring Shotoku. "Iware" is the place-name of Yamato. Mt. Iware is located in Tani, Sakurai City, which is in the vicinity of Sakurai mura, Abe mura, Kaguyama mura, Shiki gun, Nara Prefecture (the area covering a central part of Sakurai City, Nara Prefecture and a southeast part of Kashihara City of today). From the fifth to sixth centuries, Iware was often selected for the land of Imperial Palace.

Imperial Place, Kashihara-jingu Shrine

The capital was Kashiwara no Miya (Kashihara-jiugu Shrine in Unebi-cho, Kashiwara City, Nara Prefecture is its traditional place). In kojiki, there is a description "the capital is Unebi no Kashihara no miya," while in "Manyoshu" (Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves), there is a description "the capital is Kashihara no Unebi no miya."

As the place-name "Kashiara" had been lost so early that remains of Imperial Palace had been unknown for a long time; however, many historians began to collect legends and old books according to the description "Unebiyama Tonan Kashiharachi" from the Edo period and after, so as to accumulate the achievements of collection. From the end of Edo period to the Meiji Period, authorization of the Imperial mausoleum led to stimulate momentum among common people to make known the holy place with historic associations to the public; and in February, 1888, Narisato NISHIUCHI, a member of Nara Prefectural Assembly presented a proposal to Minister of Home Affairs, Aritomo YAMAGATA about preservation of remains of the Imperial Palace (initially only to preserve monuments). Next year, Emperor Meiji granted permission for Nara Prefecture to purchase the remains of Kashiwara no Miya, called "Takabatake" (where is a presumed place of Kahiharano miya and is the square in front of Outer Haiden today). Kashihara-jingu Shrine (in 1890, the shrine was given the title of Jingu, and became Kanpei-taisha (large-scale state shrine)) was constructed, while Kashikodokoro (Imperial Sanctuary) and Shinkaden (Deity Venerating Hall) of Kyoto Imperial Palace were granted to Kashiara-jingu Shrine and used as Honden (main shrine) and Haiden (a hall of worship) (current Kaguraden), respectively.

The first enlargement project started in 1911, and Kashihara Jingu Shrine was enlarged from 20,159 tsubo (a unit of land measurement; 3.95 square yards; 3.31 square meters) at the time of establishment to 30,600 tsubo. On this occasion, a total of 13 houses in surrounding villages (eight houses in Unebi, four houses in Kume and one house in Shijo) were relocated (summary report of completion of Kashihara-Jingu Shrine's scale widening project); moreover, in 1917, 1,054 people of 208 houses in Ho buraku (hamlet) were moved (Imperial Household Agency, "Chronology of Unebi部").

With a commemorative ceremony for the 2,600th year of the founding of Japan held in 1938, research on the land of Jingu Gaien (the Outer Gardens of the Meiji Shrine) was conducted under the direction of Masao SUENAGA, and discovered that remains of a large settlement from the late to last of Jomon period was buried under the ground and as well found a giant evergreen oak was buried in a state of standing and spreading out its roots in 16 square meters. According to the description by Keiyo KANUMA (emeritus professor of Tokyo Gakugei University), everything found in excavation was brought to University of Michigan in the United States and dated by carbon-14. As a result, it was revealed that they were 2,600 years old with a margin of error of plus or minus 200 years. Based on this research, some people believe that some sort of historical evidence was reflected in the tradition of Emperor Jimmu in Kojiki and Nihonshoki.

The second enlargement project was carried out (1938-40). Unebi adjacent to forests of precincts in the back of the shrine, public cemetery in Nagayama buraku, the land to the west of precincts, the land to the south of Imperial forest of Mt. Unebi, and houses in the east of Tonanbu Fukada-ike Pond were purchased by Nara Prefecture. "This project promised to preserve this land as precincts" (History of Kashihara-jingu Shrine, written in 1946, third and fifth volumes of five (owned by Kashihara-jingu Shrine).

This project was covered by national expenditure and membership fee of a commemorative ceremony for the 2,600th year of the founding of Japan.

Imperial Mausoleum

In Kojiki, it is recorded that Emperor Jimmu died at the age of 137 and his mausoleum was located in Kashi no one, north of Mount Unebi, while in Nihonshoki, it is recorded that he died at the age of 127 and was buried in Unebi no yama no Ushitora no Misasagi. There is also an article that Emperor Temmu dispatched an envoy to the Mausoleum of Emperor Jimmu to report raising an army at the time of Jinshin War. It is considered that Okubo-dera Temple was constructed as the hakadera (temple attached to an imperial grave) in the Temmu period.

According to "Engishiki" (codes and procedures on national rites and prayers), the area of Emperor Jimmu's mausoleum was 1-cho from east to west and 2-cho from south to north ("cho" is a unit for measuring length and is approximately 109 meters), i.e., about 100m X 100m. In 977, Kokugen-ji Temple was erected in this area where is associated with Emperor Jimmu, however the location of Mausoleum of Emperor Jimmu came to be unknown in the medieval period.

There was a movement to find out the place of Emperor Jimmu's Mausoleum in the early Edo period. On the other hand, the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) tried to enhance their authority by improving mausoleums, around the time when Mitukuni TOKUGAWA started compilation of "Dainihonshi" (Great history of Japan).

In the Genroku era, the Edo bakufu conducted the project to determine and restore the place of Emperor's mausoleums along with the research of mausoleums. At that time, a small round barrow about 700 meters northeast from Mount Unebi, called Fukutsuka (Tsukayama), was designated as Emperor Jimmu's mausoleum (today, this is authorized as the mausoleum of the second emperor Suizei). However, as the mausoleum was far from Mount Unebi and located not on a mountain but a flatland, another theory came forth. It is the theory that a small barrow in Misanzai or Jibuden (current Emperor Jimmu's Mausoleum) located closer to Mount Unebi than Fukutsuka might be Emperor Jimmu's mausoleum. After that, another new theory, Maruyama theory, came forth. Although that was the most convincing one, Emperor Jimmu's Mausoleum was determined to be the one in Misanzai in 1863. The Edo bakufu spent 15,000 ryo (currency unit) for its restoration. On this occasion, not only Emperor Jimmu's Mausoleum, but also over a hundred of mausoleums were restored. The location of Emperor Jimmu's mausoleum has been changed many times through history. In the first year of the Meiji period, Kokugen-ji Temple was relocated from the holly precincts of Emperor Jimmu's mausoleum to the site where Okubo-dera Temple previously stood, but some people believe that the barrow in Misanzai was originally the stylobate of Kokugen-ji Temple Hojo do.

Imperial Household Agency authorized that Yamamoto Misanzai Tomb in Okubo-cho, Kashihara City, Nara Prefecture as Unebi no yama no Ushitora no Misasagi, in other words, Emperor Jimmu's Mausoleum. Although the mausoleum is located in 洞, Okubo-cho, Kashihara City today and this area was called Oaza Yamamoto, Kashi-mura, Takaichi gun in the Taisho period, both are the same place. This place is called Okubo or Yamamoto. It is about 300 meters northeast from Mount Unebi, and covers a large area, which is 500m from east to west and 400m from north to south. On April 3rd every year, Jimmu Tenno Sai (The Emperor Jimmu Festival) is held at the Three Shrines in the Imperial Court and several shrines, while an Imperial envoy goes to the Imperial mausoleum to offer a wand of hemp and paper streamers to the Shinto God.

In addition, all successive emperors are enshrined in one of the Three Shrines in the Imperial Court of the Imperial Palace called Korei-den (the Imperial Ancestors' Shrine).

[Original Japanese]