Himiko (卑弥呼)

Himiko (ca. 175- ca. 248) is said to have been a queen of Wa (Japan) who lived during the later Yayoi period. She ruled the Yamatai Kingdom. Her title was Shingi Wao (the title of the King of Wa). It is said that Toyo, a relative of Himiko, succeeded her to the throne. Her name was originally written "卑彌呼" (卑 without "ノ," or "no").

Himiko in the 'Gishiwajinden'

According to the 'Gishiwajinden' (literally, an 'Account of the Wa' in "The History of the Wei Dynasty"), Himiko confounded her people with magic. There are various opinions about this purported "magic," but no specific details are known. Supposedly, she was already old when she became queen, but did not have a husband--only a younger brother who helped her. After she became queen, there were few people who saw her, and only one boy went in and out of her room to serve her food and drink. Her palace and lookout tower were enclosed within the strong Josaku (an official defense site).

It is said that when Himiko passed away, the Wajin (Japanese people) made a large mound that was more than 150 meters long; more than 100 slaves were killed and buried with her.

Himiko in the Wei-shu Imperial Records

According to the fourth volume of Sanshoteiki, the Wei-shu four of the fourth volume of Sanguo Zhi (the History of the Three Kingdoms), "In December [of 243], Himiko, a queen of Wa, sent an envoy."

From the Records of the Korean Peninsula

The following information is based on "Samguk Sagi" (the History of the Three Kingdoms), created on the Korean Peninsula.

In 173, Himiko, Queen of Wa, sent an envoy to acquire the friendship of Silla. According to Chinese historical records, the country became "Silla" in 356.
(Until then, the country had been called the "Shiro Kingdom.")

Chronological Record

The following information is based on Chinese historical documents.

57 C.E.

Nakoku of Wa was given a gold seal.
Houhan Shu (The History of the Late Han Dynasty)

107 C.E.

Suisho of the King of Wa requested an audience with Emperor An (Han).
Houhan Shu

For 70 or 80 years, the country of Wa had a man as its ruler.

The Reigns of Emperor Huan (Han) and Emperor Ling (Han) (146-189)

The Wakoku War took place.
"Houhan Shu"

The Kowa Era (178-184)

Himiko was installed as ruler and began to govern Wa.
The Book of the Liang Dynasty

239 C.E.

Himiko first sent Nashime and others to Wei (the Three Kingdoms) in China. She was given an improvised gold seal of Shingi Wao and 100 bronze mirrors by the King of Wei (according to "Sanguo Zhi," this occurred in 238).

240 C.E.

A Daifang Commandery envoy of Wei visited Wakoku, offering the King of Wa an Imperial Rescript and an official seal.

243 C.E.

The King of Wa sent eight people, including the high stewards Iseri and Yasuku, as envoys to Wei, during which Yasuku was given an official seal by the Lieutenant Colonel of the Imperial Guard.

245 C.E.

Nashime was temporarily given a yellow banner (to be submitted to the Daifang Commandery).

247 C.E.

Wa sent Saishi, Uotsu, and others to the Daifang Commandery to ask for help. It was then that Nashime was given an Imperial Rescript and yellow banner.

It is unclear whether this occurred in early 247 or later that year.

Himiko passed away, and a tomb was constructed.
(According to the Book of the Liang Dynasty, Himiko passed away between 240 and 249)

A man was installed as king, however, the country fell into conflict, people accused and killed each other, and it resulted in over 1,000 death.

It was only after Toyo, a 13-year-old girl from Himiko's family, was installed as queen that the country was finally brought to order.

Toyo sent 20 people, including Yasuku, to serve Chang Cheng in Wei, for which Yasuku brought 30 slaves, 5,000 white pearls, 2 strings of green jadeite, and 20 brocades with exotic patterns.

From 265 C.E.

Several envoys from Wa paid tribute. According to "Jin shu" (a History of the Jin Dynasty), the last envoy to pay tribute traveled from the Yamatai Kingdom.

The Name "Himiko"

The Imperial Records of the Wei-shu, or "Sanguo Zhi," list Himiko as "俾彌呼," while other sources write her name as "卑彌呼," including the Record of Japan in the History of Wei, the Waden (or "Eastern Barbarians") in the "History of the Later Han Dynasty," Wakokuden (eastern barbarians) of the 46th biography in the 81st volume of "Suishu" (The Book of the Sui Dynasty), the Record of Various Barbarians in the Book of the Liang Dynasty, and the Shilla History of Samguk Sagi (the History of the Three Kingdoms).

According to another account, "characters of contempt" were used for the names of foreign places and people as a result of Sinocentrism (Tsuneji HARADA, "Official History of Ancient Japan Based on the Materials before Kiki" Doshisha, Fujin Seikatsusha, 1976.)

It is also said that special characters were used to express a name's foreign origin to a Chinese perspective. This is similar to the use of katakana characters in modern Japanese, which are used, for example, to write proper nouns from English or nouns from German.

Today in Japan, Himiko is generally called 'Himiko,' but the precise pronunciation of those days is unknown.

Himiko (日巫女)

Himiko (日御子)

Himemiko (姫御子)

Himeko (日女子)

One theory was advocated by Taro MIKI, a professor of Komazawa University. Himiko's name may have been an honorific title for a woman--the counterpart to 'Hiko,' an honorific title for a man.

Himika or Himuka (日向国)

A theory by Seicho MATSUMOTO states that the name had something to do with Hyuga (Hyuga Province).

There are various theories.

Considering Chinese pronunciations, for example, "呼" can be read as "wo" (as demonstrated in examples of writing Xiongnu, and so on), so there is an opinion that Himiko might have been pronounced "Pimiwo."

[Modern Chinese written in Pinyin]

Himiko: bei1 mi2 hu1

(Himiko: bi3 mi2 hu1)

Yasuku: ye4 xie2 gou3

Suisho: shuai4 sheng1

Nashime: nan2 sheng1 mi3

Iseri: yi1 sheng1 qi2

There is even one theory that "Himiko" was meant to be pronounced "Bimifa," according to the Chinese of those days. Under that theory, "mifa" corresponds to "miwa" (god), as in Omiwa-jinja Shrine, while 'bi' can be considered a female honorific title ("bi" or "be"--"bi" means "sun," while "be" means "snake"). Therefore, the name can be interpreted as himegami (female god), higami (sun god), or hebigami (snake god) (there are some evidences that it was interpreted as each of these).

In any event, there is not enough evidence of Yayoi period Japanese or the Chinese of those days to be certain of the original pronunciation or translation of Himiko's name.
(It is, however, academically unsound to interpret the name according modern Japanese standards, as opposed to ancient Japanese phonology.)

The Death of Himiko
The Record of Japan in the History of Wei simply refers to the death of Himiko as follows: "Himiko passed away, and a large mound was made that was more than 150 meters long. More than 100 slaves were killed and buried in order to follow their master."

The description before this depicts a conflict with Kunakoku that was reported by an envoy from the Yamatai Kingdom in 247. The year of Himiko's death was not mentioned in the record, and while the surrounding writings are also undated, it is unlikely that all of them occurred in the same year. There is a strong possibility that they were recorded over several years, but opinions are divided on the year of Himiko's death, be it in 247, 248, or even later.

There are various theories on the kun reading of "以死." According to popular theory, "以" does not have a particular meaning, although due to the mention of "because she died" or "having already died," as well as the preceding sentence, "拜假難升米 爲檄告喻之" ("Nashime took an Imperial Rescript and a yellow flag, then issued a manifesto"), is thought that Himiko had already died by this point. Here, however, the cause of death is not clear. On the other hand, under the translation "so she died," it can be interpreted that the cause of her death was a conflict with Kunakoku or Nashime's manifesto, which was written before this.

The time of Himiko's death corresponds to a transition period between the Yayoi and Tumulus periods, and according to the Yamatai Kingdom Kinai theory, there is a possibility that Himiko's tomb was a tumulus. The dominant theory is that her tomb is the Hashihaka Tumulus (Yamatototohimomoso Hime no Mikoto's tomb by designation of the Imperial Household Agency). The Kyushu theory proposes that the Hirabaru Ruins hold Himiko's tomb.

Kuniji SAITO, an astronomer, claimed that a total eclipse of the sun over the northern part of Kyushu on the morning of September 5, 248 (according to Japan Standard Time; the 4th, according to Universal Time) had something to do with the death of Himiko. Motohiko IZAWA also supported this theory in his book, "A Paradox of Japanese History." Moreover, Akira KITTAKA and Biten YASUMOTO pointed out that a total eclipse of the sun also occurred on the evening of March 24, 247, once again in northern Kyushu. Their theory states that Himiko's death was tied to the solar eclipse in 247, while Toyo's succession to the throne in place of a king was due to the solar eclipse in 248. These theories originate from the Yamatai Kingdom of northern Kyushu and the idea that Himiko was, in fact, Amaterasu Omikai (the Sun Goddess), though the two are not inseparably related.

By today's astronomical calculations, however, these eclipses were actually only partial solar eclipses (though nearly full) over Kyushu Island and the whole Kinai District, both of which are presumed to be important territories within the Yamatai Kingdom. A partial solar eclipse is not entirely uncommon, so the relationship between a solar eclipse and the death of Himiko is easily questioned today.

Himiko's Historical Identity

Since the Edo period, there has been much debate about which records in the "Kojiki" (the Records of Ancient Matters) or the "Nihonshoki" (the Chronicles of Japan) can be identified with Himiko. Interpreting myth and legend as reflections of historical fact, however, can lead to support for any theory, which only paves the way to endless dispute.
(See also the theory of Himiko [卑弥呼] = Himiko [卑弥呼].)

The Empress Jingu Theory

"The Record of Empress Jingu" that appears in the Nihonshoki has a quoted article concerning Himiko in the Record of Japan in the History of Wei. Until the Edo period, because of this record, it was thought that Himiko was, in fact, Empress Jingu. According to this theory, the Yamatai Kingdom was located in the Kinai District, which was under Yamato sovereignty (a political power in ancient Japan).

The Theory of a Female Chief of Kumaso

This theory was advocated by Norinaga MOTOORI, Shigenobu TSURUMINE, and Michiyo NAKA. Norinaga MOTOORI and Shigenobu TSURUMINE advocated the "Forged Title" theory, which stated that Himiko, a female chief of Kumaso (a tribe living in the ancient Kyushu district), pretended to the throne of the Imperial court. Norinaga strongly believed that Japan had been an independent country since ancient times, and therefore to him, the article in the Record of Japan in the History of Wei that described Himiko's tribute to Wei as a fiefdom and appointed her as Queen of Wa was not acceptable. Considering the description in the Record of Japan in the History of Wei, Norinaga concluded that the Yamatai Kingdom was located in the Kyushu District, and a female chief of Kumaso was cultivating friendly relations with Wei under the pretense of Empress Jingu's envoy. Michiyo NAKA maintained that Himiko was a female chief of Kyushu, and had nothing to do with the Imperial Court or Empress Jingu. These theories have been passed down to become the Kyushu Dynasty theory.

The Legend of Mikayori Hime

Takehiko FURUTA, who advocated the Kyushu Dynasty theory, claimed that there was a strong possibility that the ancestor of Tsukushi no Kimi, "Mikayori Hime," (Princess Mikayori) whose name was written in "Chikugo no Kuni Fudoki Itsubun" (a surviving fragment of the topography of Chikugo Province), was "Himika." He also claimed that "Iyo" (Toyo) was the first ruler of Wa, who assumed the Chinese-style name of "[Wa] Yo."

The Theory of Yamato Hime no Mikoto

Konan NAITO, a representative scholar of Oriental history before the war, identified Yamato Hime no Mikoto (a princess of Emperor Suinin) as Himiko.

The Theory of Yamatototohimomoso Hime no Mikoto

Mentions of Yamatototohimomoso Hime no Mikoto in the Nihonshoki and the Kojiki refer to the same individual. In recent years, among the various historical candidates, it is this woman who is most likely to, in fact, be Himiko.

The Hashihaka Tumulus, which is said to be the tomb of Yamatototohimomoso Hime no Mikoto according to the Nihonshoki, is located in the Makimuku ruins--a possible location of the Yamatai Kingdom. This particular tumulus is significant, as its size and enclosed Kibi style artifacts (an original form of "haniwa," or hollow clay figurines) seem to suggest that it served as a model for the later tumuluses all over Japan. Many people think that the Tumulus period started when this tumulus was established.

The Hashihaka Tumulus is about 160 meters in diameter, which corresponds to the Record of Japan in the History of Wei, which states, "When Himiko passed away, the Wajin made a large mound that was more than 150 meters long."

Nihonshoki contains a legend of Yamatototohimomoso Hime no Mikoto marrying a deity of Mt. Miwa, as well as a tale that says the Hashihaka was "built by men during the day, and by gods during the night." Like Himiko, she was considered a mysterious woman. She also acted as a shrine maiden to interpret divine will to Emperor Sujin, and had a relationship that corresponded to that between Himiko and her younger brother that was mentioned in the Record of Japan in the History of Wei: "She had a younger brother and ruled the country with his help."

It has been said that the Hashihaka Tumulus was created between the end of the third century and the beginning of the fourth century, which does not match the period of Himiko's reign. Recently, however, thanks to scientific dating techniques such as dendrochronology and radiocarbon dating, the start of the Kofun period has been considered earlier than previously thought. Opinions concerning the Hashihaka Tumulus differ among scholars, though recently it is widely accepted that the tumulus was created between the mid-third century (which is close to the year of Himiko's death in 248) and the latter half of the third century.

The Hime Mikoto Theory

There is a theory that Unabi Hime no Mikoto, the sixth-generation Hikohoakari mentioned in "A Family Tree of the Amabe Family," was Himiko. The woman had another name, "Oyamato Hime," which suggests that she was a queen of Yamato sovereignty. She was also called Amatsukuru Hime Mikoto, Oamahirume Hime no Mikoto, and Hime Mikoto. It is assumed that this "Hime Mikoto" was transliterated into simply "Himiko." Hime as "日女" (literally "sun woman") is akin to the later hime as "姫" or "媛" (literally, "princess"), which is not a personal name, but a common noun. According to this theory, Toyo, who succeeded to the throne after Himiko, is identified with Amatoyo Hime, whose name was mentioned two generations after Unabi Hime no Mikoto in the family tree.

Apart from "A Family Tree of the Amabe Family," Tatsuya KOGA identified the 21st generation, "Ametsukuru Hime Mikoto," in the "Record of Kora," which was left in Kora Taisha Shrine with Himiko. He also identified the next generation, "Amanoyoto no Mikoto," with Toyo.

The Amaterasu Omikami Theory

Another theory supposes that, if she was important enough to make it into the Chinese history books, then Himiko's name should have been recorded as with equal mention within Japan, and it is only Amaterasu Omikami who held such status in the Japanese history books. This theory was advocated by Kurakichi SHIRATORI and Tetsuro WATSUJI.

Another name of Amaterasu was "Ohirumenomuchi"--this "ru" is an ancient equivalent of the preposition "no," which means "hirume" would become "hinome" ("sun woman") in modern Japanese. The translation would be, "a shrine maiden who serves the sun," which corresponds with Himiko ("a shrine maiden of the sun").

Astronomical calculations have confirmed that total solar eclipses could have occurred on March 24, 247, and September 5, 248, in the vicinity of northern Kyushu where Himiko died (solar eclipses were observed in Yamato, but it is considered that they were not as clear as those in Kyushu). Some people believe these eclipses correspond to the tale of Amaterasu hiding herself in Ama no Iwato (the Cave of Heaven), or Iwato Gakure, in Kiki-shinwa (this story is included in the Kojiki, the Nihonshoki, and mythology). However, some people have recently questioned these astronomical calculations.

Biten YASUMOTO claims that, considering the average periods of the various emperors' reigns, the era of Himiko overlaps with the era of Amaterasu. Another commonality is Himiko's younger brother, who played the role of delivering a divine message, much like Amaterasu's younger brother, Susanoo.
(On the other hand, there is an opinion that Susanoo could have been the King of Kuankoku, which fought against the Yamatai Kingdom as a result of discord between Susanoo and Amaterasu.)

According to the Record of Japan in the History of Wei, after Himiko passed away, a king tried unsuccessfully to rule the country, so Toyo became Queen and brought the country to order. Toyo can be identified with Takuhatachiji Hime no Mikoto, a wife of Amaterasu's son, Amenooshihomimi. In short, that story also tells of a male ruler (perhaps Himiko's son) who succeeded to the throne but could not settle the country, which resulted in his wife's ascent as a relay successor. This happened again during the later Yamato Administration. Incidentally, Yorozuhatatoyoakitsushi Hime (along with Amaterasu) was one of the three gods of the Naiku (the Inner Shrine) in Ise-jingu Shrine, which names her as a high-ranking god that cannot have been a mere wife of another god's son.

Yasumoto states that if Himiko was, in fact, Amaterasu, the Yamatai Kingdom would be Ten (according to the Nihonshoki) or Takamanohara (according to the Kojiki), which would mean that the Yamatai Kingdom was located in Kyushu, then moved to the Kinai region, where it became the Yamato Imperial Court (this is the theory of the Yamatai Kingdom being relocated to the East). The Jinmu Tosei (the Eastern Expedition of the Emperor Jinmu) mentioned in the Kiki (the Record of Ancient Matters and "Chronicles of Japan") tells of the relocation.

A weak point of this theory is that the idea of the Sun Goddess as Kososhin (an Imperial ancestor) is not so old. In fact, according to the record of the first Japanese envoy to the Sui Dynasty in China, which was not written in the Nihonshoki, but in the Suishu, the King of Wa took the Heavens and the Sun as brothers. There is an opinion that the divinity of Amaterasu Omikami was generated in the period of Emperor Tenmu. There is also an opinion that Amaterasu Omikami was originally a male god.

The Theory of No Historical Identity

The theories mentioned above assume that Himiko is identifiable as a character in the Kiki, or old genealogies, but there are also opinions that insist this cannot be done, especially considering the state of the remaining records of ancient Japan. Proponents of these theories claim that it is foolish to identify Himiko, whose very existence is questionable, to characters of myth and legend.

In the books and essays written by professional historians in recent years, no attempt is made to identify Himiko with a mythical and legendary personage. The reason for this is that, upon examining historical materials on the process of creating the Kiki, it was found that the methods for keeping records (particularly the use of letters under Yamato sovereignty) used before Emperor Keitai are not reliable. For example, the Kiki does not say anything about the battle against Koguryo in the depths of the Korean Peninsula (mentioned in the Gwanggaeto Stele), or about envoys of the Five Kings of Wa (despite the most important diplomatic issue in the fifth century being a relationship with Koguryo as Waobu's johyobun).

Relatively trustworthy articles, such as those from Korea, make reference to foreign historical materials. According to today's archaeology, the Hashihaka Tumulus is the most probable resting place of Himiko, so Yamatototohimomoso Hime no Mikoto is considered the most likely person to be identified with Himiko. There is no reason to choose only this theory, of course, as different theories are otherwise reliable. It would be academically irresponsible to make a decision about Himiko based on a one-to-one correspondence between documents such as the Record of Japan in the History of Wei, the Kiki and old genealogies alone.