When tomb raiding isn’t an option.

Arial view of what is thought to be Queen Himiko's tomb.
Arial view of what is thought to be Queen Himiko’s tomb.

Queen Himiko. Until recently I’d never given her much thought, but now, I’m very interested. Reining in the third century over the Yamatai kingdom in Japan, Himiko has a surprising amount of drama and intrigue surrounding her. For instance, she supposedly had 1,000 women in attendance and only one man (some sources say two), and never really went into public places. She ascended to the throne because previously the men had been making a mess of things, and there had been confusion and warfare for the last 80 or so years. When she died, over a hundred men and women attendants were sacrificed and put into her grave (is it just me or are you also wondering where these male attendants came from if she supposedly only had one or two). She is often thought of as a shaman queen, and in the Records of Three Kingdoms, a third century Chinese classic text, she is said to have “occupied herself with magic and sorcery, bewitching the people.” Cool.

It seems that in 2009 artifacts from a key-hole shaped burial mound, about 280 meters across, called Hashihaka, were dated from between 240-260 C.E. As Himiko is said to have died about 250 C.E., this would fit perfectly. Also, it is larger than other tombs before or during that time period, indicating its importance and further lining it up with Queen Himiko’s high status. Of course, this doesn’t guarantee that it is Himiko’s tomb, others still think it is in the southwestern region of Kyushu, and only excavation can really prove it conclusively.

Alright then, let’s open her up and take a look! Well, not so fast peeps. It turns out that the Japanese Imperial Household Agency guards it’s tombs rather jealously – to the point of stopping all excavation. Why? Well, it’s an imperial tomb of course! But then, even this is debated. Japanese history during this early time period is better documented by ancient Chinese historians than by Japanese historians, and one of the reasons is that Japanese tombs are so tightly closed off. Perhaps there are more detailed records in there, but we won’t know it. Also, the Imperial Household Agency supposedly still maintains that the current imperial line has been unbroken and is directly descended from Queen Himiko (Himiko is made up of ancient Japanese characters which, by the way, mean “sun child” or “sun daughter”) and the Sun Goddess Amaterasu, and learning otherwise is not an option. Of course, sometimes it is hard to decipher what is really going on, and what is internet hearsay. Especially because I can’t read Japanese.

Is she the all powerful queen that some people ascribe her to be? Or was she more of a puppet priestess figure held hostage by the “male attendant” who relayed her “orders” to the public? Did she really occupy herself with “magic and sorcery?” Did she bring peace to Yamatai? Did she have large feet? I WANT TO KNOW!!!!!!!!

So I went to the library. My local public library? Nothing. San Francisco public library? Well, all the titles that had anything to do with Himiko were in Japanese. :( So for now, this search is on hold.

Finally, I did find one last bit of information that was pretty cool. Even though they weren’t allowed to take any samples, or do any excavation, in February of this year news said that researchers were allowed to make an on-site survey of the burial mound at Hashihaka. Perhaps this could lead to more conclusive evidence about Queen Himiko and Japanese ancient history, but so far it’s silent on that front too.

For those of you who would like to see the articles I read and used as reference during researching Queen Himiko, they are listed below. And for those who were wondering how I got interested in this subject, yes, my boyfriend is playing the latest Tomb Raider.

C., Chiara. “Archeologists Discover Tomb of Legendary Japanese Queen Himiko.” The Royal Forums: 15. June. 2009. <http://www.theroyalforums.com/8300-archeologists-discover-tomb-of-legendary-japanese-queen-himiko/>

“Could the Hashihaka burial mound in Sakurai, Nara be Queen Himiko’s?” Heritage of Japan: 28. May. 2009. <http://heritageofjapan.wordpress.com/yayoi-era-yields-up-rice/the-advent-of-agriculture-and-the-rice-revolution/who-was-queen-himiko/the-yamatai-puzzle-where-was-himikos-headquarters/could-the-hashihaka-burial-mound-in-sakurai-nara-be-queen-himikos/>

D., John. “The Mystery of Himiko.” Green Shinto: 12. Aug. 2011. <http://www.greenshinto.com/wp/2011/08/12/the-mystery-of-himiko/>

“Himiko” Kongming’s Archives. <http://kongming.net/encyclopedia/Queen-Himiko>

“Himiko.” Encyclopedia Britannica. <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/266115/Himiko>

“Japan Times: Dig in Nara, not Kyushu, yields palatial ruins possibly of Himiko.” Japan Times: 12. Nov. 2009. <http://heritageofjapan.wordpress.com/yayoi-era-yields-up-rice/the-advent-of-agriculture-and-the-rice-revolution/who-was-queen-himiko/the-yamatai-puzzle-where-was-himikos-headquarters/japan-times-dig-in-nara-not-kyushu-yields-palatial-ruins-possibly-of-himiko/>

“Queen Himiko and the mystery of Yamatai-koku.” The Heritage of Japan. <http://heritageofjapan.wordpress.com/yayoi-era-yields-up-rice/the-advent-of-agriculture-and-the-rice-revolution/who-was-queen-himiko/>

Ryall, Julian. “Tomb of legendary Japanese Queen Himiko found.” The Telegraph: 1. June. 2009. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/japan/5419986/Tomb-of-legendary-Japanese-Queen-Himiko-found.html>

“Researchers Investigate Hashihaka Ancient Tomb.” Heritage of Japan: 25. Feb. 2012. <http://heritageofjapan.wordpress.com/tag/hashihaka-kofun/>

Torres, Ida. “Researchers allowed first on-site survey of ancient tomb in Nara.” Japan Daily Press: 21. Feb. 2013. <http://japandailypress.com/researchers-allowed-first-on-site-survey-of-ancient-tomb-in-nara-2123788/>

Yamatosaxon. “The shaman queen of Yamatai.” The Daily Beagle: 6. March. 2013. <http://thedailybeagle.net/2013/03/06/the-shaman-queen-of-yamatai/>

Also, pictured borrowed from here: http://www.ablogabouthistory.com/tag/queen-himiko/

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