views updated


JINGŌ (169269?), a legendary Japanese empress, was the mother of Ōjin, Japan's first emperor, and symbol of Japanese female shamanism. Jingō is one of fifteen imperial figures fabricated by the authors of the oldest Japanese chronicles (the Kojiki and Nihonshoki, both seventh century) in order to fill the gap between the real beginning of Japanese history in the fourth century and its fictitious start in 660 bce. Jingō, therefore, is not historical, but rather symbolic. She stands for the establishment of Japanese relations with the Asian mainland (Korea and China) and is representative of the important role of female shamans in early Japanese history and mythology.

The details of Jingō's legendary history are to be found only in the Nihonshoki, which records that she was born in the year 169, the daughter of Prince Okinaga no Sukune and Princess Takanuka of Katsuraki. Immediately after her death she was renamed Okinaga Tarashi hime no Mikoto ("The very witty and well-footed princess"). Almost three centuries later she was given a much shorter, Chinese-style honorary title, Jingō, still in use today. This title, literally "merit of the gods" or "divine merit," implies that she was either divine herself or served to convey divine commands. In this latter capacity she carried out Amaterasu's instructions to have temples erected to her throughout Japan.

In 194 Jingō married the emperor Chūai. In 201 she joined a campaign to subjugate the barbarous tribes of the Kumasō ("land spiders") in Kyushu. During this unsuccessful expedition, she lost her husband, who was probably hit by a Kumasō arrow. After his death, Jingō continued his reign for nearly seventy years.

Upon withdrawing from the campaign in Kyushu, Jingō was advised by the gods to conquer the three Korean states of Bakan, Benkan, and Shinkan, then known as Paekche, Silla, and Koguryō, respectively. Clad in male attire like an emperor, Jingō crossed the straits between Japan and Korea with an enormous army. Upon her arrival in Korea, she established on its south coast the protectorate of Mimana, the Japanese bridgehead from which for centuries to come Korean and Chinese religions and civilizations would spread to Japan. Within two months she had subdued the kingdom of Silla. After this, the kings of Paekche and Koguryō voluntarily agreed to continue yearly tribute to Japan.

Immediately after her return from Korea, Jingō gave birth to a boy, the future emperor Ōjin, whom she named Homuda or Honda. The chronicles of the thirty-ninth year of her reign quote the Chinese chronicles of Wei (composed in 445), in which the Japanese queen Himiko of Wa (in Kyushu) is reported to have paid tribute to the Chinese emperor. It is rather doubtful, however, whether Himiko (the real name of Jingō?) was the same person as Jingō, for the two resided in different regions of Japan. The Nihonshoki reports that Jingō died in the palace called Wakazakura (Fresh Cherries) at the age of one hundred.

See Also

Japanese Religions, article on The Study of Myths.


Aston, W. G., trans. Nihongi: Chronicles of Japan from the Earliest Times to a.d. 697 (1896). 2 vols. in 1. Reprint, Tokyo, 1972.

Florenz, Karl. Die historischen Quellen der Shinto-Religion aus dem Altjapanischen und Chinesischen übersetzt und erklärt. Leipzig, 1919.

Kamstra, J. H. Encounter or Syncretism: The Initial Growth of Japanese Buddhism. Leiden, 1967.

J. H. Kamstra (1987)