Feb 11, 660 BC, is the date traditionally associated with the founding of Japan by Emperor Jimmu (神武天皇 Jimmu-Tenno, meaning “Divine Might”). According to legend, he was a direct descendant of Sun Goddess Amaterasu (modern-day, Emperor Akihito claims to be a direct descent from Jimmu, through an uninterrupted line of succession).

Kojiki (古事記 Record of Ancient Matters), a collection of myths and legends, is the source for our knowledge of Emperor Jimmu. According to the legend, Jimmu migrated to Honshu with his brothers and followers. After landing on the Kii peninsula, they defeated the native rulers and declared Jimmu the ruler. They settled at Yamato.

Fact or Fancy?

Many scholars question the existence of Emperor Jimmu, as a true historical figure. It’s not only the fact that the Kojiki is the primary source for the story. The first nine emperors are all in question. In fact, the first recognized emperor is: Sujin, in the 1st century BC.

Scholars have instead made correlations between the stories of Emperor Jimmu with Chinese Explorer Xu Fu — also known as a deity, Jofuku (徐福). Similarly, scholars have found a parallel with the story of Moses from the Biblical Exodus.

Despite the uncertainty of his life and legacy, he’s still an intriguing figure in Japanese history. The Japanese government erected a shrine to Emperor Jimmu in 1890, at Unebi (his legendary burial site). March 11, 585 BCE, is traditionally the date associated with his death.

 

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