Mausoleum of the 1st Emperor Jimmu (JINS_2903)

According to the Nihon Shoki or the Chronicles of Japan which is the 2nd oldest book of Japanese history, it is Emperor Jimmu who achieved the foundation of Japan and ascended to the Imperial Throne as the 1st Emperor of Japan. The years described in the Nihon Shoki were based on the old Japanese calendars and were recalculated in 1872 shortly after Japan adopted the Gregorian calendar, which concluded that it was the year of 660 BC when the 1st enthronement was done.

There has been much controversy over a question of “Is the year of 660 BC true?” There are some historians who argue that the year of the enthronement by Emperor Jimmu should be in 0s BC because the length of a year recorded in the Nihon Shoki does not necessary equals that in the Gregorian calendar: in some cases, a year in the Nihon Shoki must have been two to four years in the Gregorian calendar.

Another controversy is around a very fundamental question of “Did Emperor Jimmu really exist? Was he just a legendary emperor just in the Japanese mythology?” Actually there is the big tomb or mausoleum in Kashihara, Nara, which is said to be for Emperor Jimmu. But some historians say that pieces of historical and archeological evidence are not enough to justify the existence of Emperor Jimmu. Others say that Emperor Jimmu existed but the location of its tomb is not in Kashihara.

Nearby the tomb of Emperor Jimmu, there exists the Kashihara Jingu Shrine where the deified spirit of Emperor Jimmu is enshrined. Visiting both the mausoleum of Emperor Jimmu and the Kashiraha Jingu Shrine must be a worthy short trip if you accompany friends of yours who have different perspectives over the history of Japan and the imperial system. I visited there in October, 2022, with such friends of mine who actually expressed their own views over the questions referred to in this article, which has put me into more chaos.

Jin Shibata

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