Episode 502 – The Age of Myth and Legend

For part 2 of our Revised Introduction to Japanese History: what do we know about the origins of Japan’s imperial family? And how does that knowledge line up with the mythology built around the family’s rise?


Brown, Delmer M. “The Yamato Kingdom” in The Cambridge History of Japan, Vol 1: Ancient Japan

The Basil Hall Chamberlain Kojiki translation. It’s not the most readable, but it is public domain!

Ooms, Herman. Imperial Politics and Symbolics in Ancient Japan: The Tenmu Dynasty, 650-800.

The Japanese Historical Text Initiative at UC Berkeley holds a complete, searchable copy of Nihon Shoki (among other things).


A medieval manuscript of Kojiki.
Locations and dates of major Kansai area kofun, from Heritage of Japan.
Emperor Jinmu on the battlefield; a Meiji era print by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi.
The Daisenryo kofun in Osaka, purportedly the tomb of Emperor Nintoku. The largest kofun ever built and constructed some time in the 5th century, it is a clear indicator of the growing power of the Yamato state.
Emperor Jinmu, as depicted in an early Meiji print.
Amaterasu exits the cave, by Shunsai Toshimasa, c 1880s.
A replica of the 7 branch sword gifted by the Kingdom of Baekje to Yamato in the late 300s. The original is still preserved in Isonokami shrine, but is not on display.
The Gwanggaeto Stele.