Asian History   Japan
Amaterasu   |   Jimmu   |   Wei History   |   Constitution   |   Taika Reform   |   Manyoshu   |   Buddhism1   |   Buddhism2   |   Aristocratic Life   |   Shoen   |   Samurai   |   Joei Code   |   Honen   |   Shinran   |   Zen


Again, a conspicuous effort is made by the myth-tellers to link the imperial line with the Sun Goddess in this story of Emperor Jimmu. There is also assertion of the superiority of the imperial line, and the emperor was presumed to rule all under heaven under one roof (Hakko Ichiu), which gave later nationalists a justification for Japan's imperialistic expansion.
In reading this selection, pay special attention to the year kanototori. The yin-yang and five element doctrines and the art of calendar-making were probably introduced to Japan from China between the sixth and seventh centuries. According to these theories, the year kanototori is supposed to bring forth great changes, and the most significant change is to occur every twenty-first time kanototori takes place (each calendar operated on a sixty-year cycle, thus the twenty-first time makes it every 1260 years). The year 601 A.D. was a kanototori, and was a year of great innovation and reform under Empress Suiko and Prince Shotoku (see Chapter II). Having this in mind the writers of the Nihon Shoki probably decided to push back the legendary beginning of Japan 1260 years or to 660 B.C.
Even though the founding of the empire in 660 B.C. had no historical foundation, it was so accepted officially until 1945. The Founding Day of the Nation was celebrated on February 11 every year. (The first day of the lunar calendar in the year 660 B.C. would have fallen on February 11 in the Gregorian calendar.) In 1967, February 11 again became a national holiday in spite of strong protests by many noted historians.

The Eastern Expedition of Emperor Jimmu

 Emperor Jimmu was forty-five years of age when he addressed the assemblage of his brothers and children: "Long ago, this central land of the Reed Plains was bequeathed to our imperial ancestors by the heavenly deities, Takamimusubi-no-Kami and Amaterasu Omikami.... However, the remote regions still do not enjoy the benefit of our imperial rule, with each town having its own master and each village its own chief. Each of them sets up his own boundaries and contends for supremacy against other masters and chiefs.
"I have heard from an old deity knowledgeable i the affairs of the land and sea that in the east there is a beautiful land encircled by blue mountains.... This must be the land from which our great task of spreading our benevolent rule can begin, for it is indeed the center of the universe'.... Let us go there, and make it our capital...."
In the winter of that year, on the day of kanototori, the Emperor personally led imperial princes and a naval force to embark on his eastern expedition....
When Nagasunehiko heard of the expedition, he said: "The children of the heavenly deities are coming to rob me of my country.?He immediately mobilized his troops and intercepted Jimmu's troops at the hill of Kusaka and engaged in a battle.... The imperial forces were unable to advance. Concerned with the reversal, the Emperor formulated a new divine plan and said to himself: "I am the descendant of the Sun Goddess, and it is against the way ofheaven to face the sun in attacking my enemy. Therefore our forces must retreat to make a show of weakness. After making sacrifice to the deities of heaven and earth, we shall march with the sun on our backs. We shall trample down our enemies with the might of the sun. In this way, without staining our swords with blood, our enemies can be conquered.?..So, he ordered the troops to retreat to the port of Kusaka and regroup there....
[After withdrawing to Kusaka, the imperial forces sailed southward, landed at a port in the present-day Kii peninsula, and again advanced north toward Yamato.]
The precipitous mountains provided such effective barriers that the imperial forces were not able to advance into the interior, and there was no path they could tread. Then one night Amaterasu Omikami appeared to the Emperor in a dream: "I will send you the Yatagarasu,?let it guide you through the land.?The following day, indeed the Yatagarasu appeared flying down from the great expanse of the sky. The Emperor said: "The coming of this bird signifies the fulfillment of my auspicious dream. How wonderful it is! Our imperial ancestor, Amaterasu Omikami, desires to help us in the founding of our empire....
At long last, the imperial forces caught up with Nagasunehiko and fought with him repeatedly, but could not gain victory. Then suddenly, the shy became darkened and hail fell. There appeared a mysterious hawk of a golden color
which flew toward the Emperor and perched on the end of his bow. The brilliant luster of this hawk was almost like that of lightning. Beddazzled and confused the soldiers of Nagasunehiko were unable to fight with all their might....
[Subsequently Nagasunehiko was killed by his overlord, and the Emperor continued to make his successful conquest.]
On new year's day, in the year of kanototori, the Emperor formally proclaimed his ascension to the position of the ruler of the universe by virtue of being a descendant of Amaterasu Omikami.'?This took place in the palace of Kashihabara, and the year was counted as the first year of his reign....