Who was Queen Himiko?


Queen Himiko, or Pimiko, was a semi-legendary figure of Japan history. In 3 century CE, she was a ruler of the territory in Ancient Japan, also known as Hsieh-ma-t’ai, or Yamatai.


It is believed that Queen Himiko lived between 183 and 248 CE. However, it is interesting to mention why Queen Himiko was considered semi-legendary for a long time. In fact, there were no verified historical records of her in Japan, but early Chinese chronicles indicate Queen Himiko concerning her diplomatic mission to China. The delegation had a tribute of 10 slaves for the Chinese Emperor Cao Rui. After that, Queen Himiko was granted by him the title of “Queen of Wa” (Japan), “Friendly to Wei” (China). Although Queen Himiko was described in Chinese classic text Records of the Three Kingdoms, neither Kojiki nor Nihon Shoki (two main Japanese chronicles) do not contain any information about her, as said earlier. However, it is recorded in Nihon Shoki that a not named Queen sent a tributary embassy to the kingdom of China in 238 CE.

Queen Himiko is also associated with shaman practices. Some historians identify her with records of one of three shamans described in ancient Japanese chronicles: Yamatototohimomosohime-no-Mikoto, Yamatohime-no-mikoto, and Empress Jingū. All of them are members of the imperial family, although the information about them is not verified. However, the old Chinese book Wei Chih (the part of the Records of the Three Kingdoms) mentions Queen Himiko’s role as a shamaness, who was described as a woman occupied with magic and sorcery. It is also known that she had never been married and lived with one thousand female servants in a fortress guarded with one hundred men. Queen Himiko’s younger brother was known as her political adviser, whereas the Queen was mostly occupied with spiritual practices.

It is still a matter of dispute where Yamatai kingdom of Queen Himiko was exactly located. Nevertheless, the reign of this legendary woman was considered peaceful and prosperous. It is believed that Himiko died in 248 CE and was buried with hundreds of slaves sacrificed in her honor in a great tomb measuring 150 meters. However, the location of her grave was not known for a long time. In 2009, Japanese researchers claimed they had finally found evidence that a 280 meters long burial mound in the town of Sakurai was the tomb of Queen Himiko. The further excavation of the site was forbidden by the Japanese Royal Family as it is believed that the present Emperor is a descendant of Queen Himiko.

Nowadays, Queen Himiko is a popular Japanese historical figure surrounded by many myths. She is often depicted in popular media as a shamaness, although it is not the only image. The other interpretations include a sorceress, a wise ruler, or even a tyrant. Among many other appearances, Queen Himiko is a character in the popular Japanese video game Okami based on Japanese mythology. Anime series The Legend of Himiko is also based on ancient Japanese tales. The other famous appearance of a legendary Queen Himiko occurred in the Tomb Raider game, where she was depicted as the death Queen and a sorceress. In the movie, however, she was not magical at all, but her mummy contained a contagious disease despite being dead for hundreds of years. However, it is only a game fiction, and the real Queen Himiko is not believed to have had any strange death circumstances.

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