Speidel, Michael P.; Fukushima, Tomoko

Dawn of Japan

Emperor Jimmu with his Gods and Warriors on Third-Century Bronze Mirrors

19.0 x 29.0 cm, 152 p., 30 illustrations b/w, 39 illustrations color, hardback
59,00 €

ISBN: 9783895008016
Table of Contents

Short Description

In a richly illustrated study, the authors trace Jimmu Tenno, Japan’s legendary first emperor, on bronze mirrors of his own time.The mirrors, while steeped in mythology, tell the emperor’s historic deeds almost exactly as do the eighth-century legends in the “Kojiki” and “Nihon shoki”, thereby revealing the founder of Japan and its ruling dynasty as a truly historical figure who lived - and worshipped the sun-goddess Amaterasu - in the third century of our era. These discoveries will have a major impact on the history of Japan.


Images of war dancers enliven the third-century Shuryo-mon kyo bronze mirror in the Tokyo National Museum.The dancers are celebrating the great “Eastern Campaign” of Jimmu Tenno, Japan’s legendary first emperor, according to the authors’ detailed analysis and archaeological documentation. The mirror’s images match, point by point, Jimmu’s victorious campaign as described in the eighth-century accounts of the Kojiki and Nihon shoki. It follows that, contrary to the prevailing view, the written legend too goes back to the actual historical events, and that Jimmu Tenno, the founder of Japan as a country and of its ruling dynasty, was a historical figure who lived in the later third century of our era.
Other mirrors, paintings, and rock-carvings of the Kofun Period (250-600) also depict Jimmu’s deeds and myths: The Goroyama paintings record Jimmu’s victory at Tomi, the Takaida drawings his Yamato campaign, and the “Sea-Dance” mirrors reflect the help he got from the sea gods. Works of art of this period even portray Amaterasu as Jimmu’s main goddess, they show Jimmu’s journey as Hikohohodemi to the palace of the sea god, his woman-shaman Sarume, his Wani sea steed, and the monkey god Sarutahiko. Some hitherto missing parts of ancient Japanese myth are thereby recovered and for the first time early Shinto religion is richly illustrated. As for military history, these works of art offer wealth of information and illustration about Japanese warfare from a time long before that of the Samurai.
Altogether, this study (120 pages, 47 figures in the text, 16 color plates) greatly contributes to our knowledge of Japanese history, art, and religion by revealing that the previously nebulous, legendary beginnings of Japan, are historical events, firmly set in time and place, and colorfully recorded by images from those times.
Published by the German Archaeological Institute, this is a scholarly, archaeological work. It deliberately sidesteps the political issue, that nevertheless will arise: Jimmu Tenno is the idol of Japan’s rightwingers. His rule was a point of faith until 1945, when he was “massacred.”

Biographical Note

Michael P. Speidel
born 1937, received his PhD in ancient history at the University of Freiburg/Germany. Since 1968 he teaches ancient history at the University of Hawaii. A Corresponding Member of the German Archaeological Institute with more than a dozen books to his credit, he researches warrior elites of archaic societies.

Tomoko Fukushima
received her Bachelor’s degree in Japanese literature at Showa Women’s University, Tokyo, and her Master’s degree in ancient history at the University of Hawaii. She currently works toward her PhD in ancient history at the University of Hawaii.


3rd century, c 200 to c 299 (38) || Archaeology (527) || Archaeology by period / region (444) || Außereuropäische Archäologie (7) || Bronzekunst (2) || East Asia, Far East (40) || Fine arts: treatments & subjects (401) || Geography (512) || History of art (240) || Human figures depicted in art (11) || Japan (3) || Ostasien. Japan || c 1 CE to c 500 CE (153)