Emperor Jimmu (神武天皇, Jinmu-tennō) was the first Emperor of
Japan, according to legend. His accession is traditionally dated as
660 BC. According to Japanese mythology, 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. In modern Japan, Jimmu's accession is marked
National Foundation Day on February 11.
1 Name and title
2 Consorts and children
3 Legendary narrative
4 Modern veneration
5 See also
8 External links
Name and title
Jimmu is recorded as Japan's first ruler in two early chronicles,
Kojiki (712) and
Nihon Shoki (721).
Nihon Shoki gives the dates of
his reign as 660–585 BC. In the reign of Emperor Kanmu
(737–806), the eighth-century scholar
Ōmi no Mifune
Ōmi no Mifune designated
rulers before Ōjin as tennō (天皇, "heavenly sovereign"), a
Japanese pendant to the Chinese imperial title Tiān-dì (天帝), and
gave several of them including Jimmu their canonical names. Prior to
this time, these rulers had been known as sumera no mikoto/ōkimi.
This practice had begun under Empress Suiko, and took root after the
Taika Reforms with the ascendancy of the Nakatomi clan.
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 April 9,
585 BC (the eleventh day of the third month).
Kojiki and the
Nihon Shoki give Jimmu's name as Kamu-yamato
Iware-biko no mikoto
(神倭伊波礼琵古命/神日本磐余彦尊). Iware indicates a
toponym whose precise purport is unclear.
Imperial House of Japan
Imperial House of Japan traditionally based its claim to the
throne on its putative descent from the sun-goddess
Jimmu's great grandfather Ninigi.
Consorts and children
son: Emperor Suizei
In Japanese mythology, the
Age of the Gods
Age of the Gods is the period before
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
and the legends in Ōjin's chronicles seem to derive from Soga clan
traditions. Jimmu figures as a direct descendant of the sun
Amaterasu via the side of his father, Ugayafukiaezu.
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,
Kamu-yamato Iware-biko no mikoto, became Emperor Jimmu.
Depiction of a bearded Jimmu with his emblematic long bow and an
accompanying wild bird. This 19th century artwork is by Tsukioka
According to the chronicles
Kojiki and Nihon Shoki, Jimmu's brothers
were born in Takachiho, the southern part of
Kyūshū in modern-day
Miyazaki Prefecture. They moved eastward to find a location more
appropriate for administering the entire country. Jimmu's older
brother, Itsuse no Mikoto, originally led the migration, and led the
clan eastward through the
Seto Inland Sea
Seto Inland Sea with the assistance of local
chieftain Sao Netsuhiko. As they reached Naniwa (modern day Ōsaka),
they encountered another local chieftain, Nagasunehiko ("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 ("eight-span crow"), they
moved to Yamato. There, they once again battled Nagasunehiko and were
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. Upon scaling a
Nara mountain to survey the
Seto Inland Sea
Seto Inland Sea he now controlled, Jimmu
remarked that it was shaped like the "heart" rings made by mating
dragonflies, archaically akitsu 秋津. A mosquito then tried to
steal Jimmu's royal blood but since Jimmu was a god incarnate emperor,
akitsumikami 現御神, a dragonfly killed the mosquito.
received its classical name the
Dragonfly Islands, akitsushima
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 the time in which legends about
the origins of the
Yamato dynasty were chronicled in the Kojiki.
Unebi Goryō, the mausoleum of Jimmu in Kashihara City, Nara
There are accounts written earlier than either
Kojiki and Nihon Shoki
that present an alternative version of the story. According to these
accounts, Jimmu's dynasty was supplanted by that of Ōjin, whose
dynasty was supplanted by that of Keitai. The
Kojiki and the Nihon
Shoki then combined these three mythical dynasties into one long and
The traditional site of Jimmu's grave is near Unebiyama in
The inner prayer hall of
Kashihara Shrine in Kashihara, Nara, the
principal shrine devoted to Jimmu
Veneration of Jimmu was a central component of the imperial cult that
formed following the Meiji Restoration. In 1873, a holiday called
Kigensetsu was established on February 11. The holiday
commemorated the anniversary of Jimmu's ascension to the throne 2,532
years earlier. After World War II, the holiday was criticized as
too closely associated with the "emperor system." It was suspended
from 1948 to 1966, but later reinstated as National Foundation
Between 1873 and 1945 an imperial envoy sent offerings every year to
the supposed site of Jimmu's tomb. In 1890
Kashihara Shrine was
established nearby, on the spot where Jimmu was said to have ascended
to the throne.
Before and during World War II, expansionist propaganda made frequent
use of the phrase hakkō ichiu, a term coined by
Tanaka Chigaku based
on a passage in the
Nihon Shoki discussing Emperor Jimmu. Some
media incorrectly attributed the phrase to Emperor Jimmu. For the
Kigensetsu celebration, marking the supposed 2,600th anniversary
of Jimmu's enthronement, the Peace Tower was constructed in
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
Modern system of ranked
Age of the Gods
Japanese imperial year
^ a b c "Jimmu", Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia (1993), Kodansha,
^ "Genealogy of the Emperors of Japan" at Kunaicho.go.jp; retrieved
^ Kelly, Charles F. "Kofun Culture", Japanese Archaeology. April 27,
^ Kitagawa, Joseph. (1987). On Understanding Japanese Religion, p.
145, 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."
Boleslaw Szczesniak, "The Sumu-Sanu Myth. Notes and Remarks on the
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Japanese Buddhism, Brill 1967 pp. 65–67.
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(nö-mikötö) Donald Philippi, tr.Kojiki, University of Tokyo Press,
1969 p. 488
^ Bob Tadashi Wakabayashi, [Japanese Loyalism Reconstrued: Yamagata
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Japanese Buddhism, Brill 1967 pp. 69–70.
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Imperial Household Agency
Imperial Household Agency (Kunaichō): 神武天皇 (1); retrieved
August 22, 2013.
^ "Nationalism and History in Contemporary Japan". Retrieved 11
^ a b c "
Kigensetsu Controversy", Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia
(1993), Kodansha. ISBN 978-4069310980.
^ Britannica Kokusai Dai-Hyakkajiten article on "Kigensetsu".
^ "Founding Day rekindles annual debate". The
Japan Times. February
11, 1998. Retrieved May 24, 2014.
^ Martin, Peter. (1997). The Chrysanthemum Throne: A History of the
Emperors of Japan, p. 18–20.
^ Kashihara City website tourism page on "Kashihara Jingū".
^ Britannica Kokusai Dai-Hyakkajiten article on "Hakkō ichiu".
^ Dower, John W., War Without Mercy: Race & Power in the Pacific
War, faber and faber, 1993 p.223.
^ 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)
^ Motomura, Hiroshi (10 February 2015). "Miyazaki's controversial
Peace Tower continues to cause unease". The
ISSN 0447-5763. Retrieved 9 February 2018.
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Japan at Its Zenith:
The Wartime Celebration of the Empire’s 2,600th Anniversary. Cornell
University Press. p. 41. ISBN 9780801471827. Retrieved 10
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A more detailed profile of Jimmu (archived April 2011)
A detailed summary of Jimmu's descent legend (archived July 2014)
Imperial House of Japan
Born: 13 February 711 BC Died: 9 April 585 BC
Emperor of Japan
Italics mark imperial consort and regent Jingū, who is not
Years given as CE / AD
Empire of Japan
Japan (Post-war Japan)
Akihito (Heisei period; Reigning Emperor)
Imperial family tree
Japanese creation myth
Yamata no Orochi
Hare of Inaba
Ashihara no Nakatsukuni
Major Buddhist figures
Five Dhyani Buddhas
Seven Lucky Gods
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