Beyond Japan Ep. #33: The First Empress Jingū – Powerful Women in Ancient Japan with Professor Chizuko Allen

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As museums across Japan celebrate the 1,400th anniversary of the death of Prince Shōtoku Taishi, the legendary figure who brought Buddhism to Japan, the Sainsbury Institute together with the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts at the University of East Anglia is currently collaborating with major universities and museums in Japan to create a special exhibit commemorating the event. This Shōtoku Intervention will display the Sainsbury Centre’s collection of Japanese Buddhist and Shinto artefacts centred around a rare 13th century Kamakura period statue of a female Shinto deity. To better explain the significance of Shōtoku Taishi, Beyond Japan will be exploring over three episodes the religious, political and historical context of this dynamic period of East Asian history. We hope you enjoy our Shōtoku miniseries.

Our second Shōtoku interviewee is Chizuko Allen, Professor of Asian Pacific American Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and researcher of Korea-Japan relations in ancient times, who will discuss the hidden history of the powerful women of Japan’s distant past through the First Empress of Japan, Empress Jingū. Through Jingū and other examples we can see how empresses played a key role in engaging the Japanese state with continental kingdoms and even lead military campaigns, their record superseding that of their husbands in the ancient records of the Kojiki and the Nihon Shoki. We also discuss how this legacy was appropriated by expansionists in the 16th and 19th century before being buried in the post-war period through modern interpretations (or misinterpretations) of these texts.

Chizuko’s research profile

Read Empress Jingū: a shamaness ruler in early Japan


Image credits

[L] Empress Jingu In Korea by Glaurung_Quena is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

[R] Empress Jingu and Takenouchi no Sukune Fishing at Chikuzen LACMA M.84.31.260 by is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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