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Jimmu, Emperor

The legendary first sovereign of Japan, according to the ancient chronicles Kojiki (712) and Nihon shoki (720). The Nihon shoki gives Jimmu's reign dates as 660 BC - 585 BC; however, these impossibly early dates were arrived at arbitrarily, and there is doubt as to whether Jimmu ever existed. The chronicles relate that Jimmu was the great-great-grandson of the sun goddess Amaterasu Ōmikami. At age 45 he resolved to conquer the Yamato region. At first defeated by local chieftains, he ultimately subdued the area with the aid of a golden bird and was enthroned as Japan's first emperor. Some scholars maintain that the myth surrounding Jimmu reflects the spread of Yayoi culture from Kyushu to the Kinai region (the general area around Yamato); others consider Jimmu a composite of several figures including the legendary emperor Suijin and Emperor Kitai (early 6th century). (adapted from Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. Tokyo: Kodansha, 1993)

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