restricted access Introduction
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Chinese historians, in meeting their obligations to document the activities of their dynasties or the debt they believed they owed to their predecessors, collected and eventually recorded information on their neighbors.This material became a store of useful data for managing political relations, trading guides, and military strategy. Earlier historic events were sometimes used to justify later actions. In the case of Japan, two histories are particularly valuable: the Hou Han shu (History of Later Han; J: Gokansho), recording the period from AD 25 to 220, and a section of the Sanguo zhi (History of theThree Kingdoms;J:Sangokushi) called Wei zhi (Record of Wei;J:Gishi Wajin-den), chronicling their short history of AD 221 to 265.The Three Kingdoms were Wei (221–265),Wu (222–280), and Shu Han (221–264).The people occupying the Japanese islands at that time were known as Wo (J:Wa), and it appears that the Chinese writers did not then distinguish them from the residents of south Korea. Within these accounts,along with descriptions of the political structure of several Wa “kingdoms” (guo/koku) and their environmental features, is an intriguing description of the dominant polity that the Japanese have traditionally called Yamatai.This political unit, perhaps best referred to as a chiefdom, was ruled by a woman known today as Himiko.Through magical means she controlled the people of Yamatai and about thirty other chiefdoms, and in 238 she initiated emissarial exchanges with the Wei court, giving the Chinese writers the primary reason to describe that neighbor. Extant Japanese records, the Kojiki and Nihon shoki, finished in 712 and 720, do not mention the name of Himiko, but the editors of at least the latter were familiar with the Wei zhi and believed that Himiko and the woman who was called the wife of Emperor Chûai, known posthumously as Jingû, were the same individual because they assigned Jingû to the years that Himiko was involved with the Chinese missions . This mistake went unrecognized until the entire question received serious study only two centuries ago. The Chinese text created its own confusion. It was apparently not realized until even later that the directions or distances given for reaching Yamatai were incompatible and that, working from a modern map of east Asia, it would be impossible to reach Yamatai by following both.As a consequence,scholars were faced with the classic twofold riddle:Who was Himiko and where was the Yamatai that she governed? These questions have haunted Japanese scholars for more than two hundred years, yet no common views on the problems have been reached. Progress was slow before World War II, but in the years of intellectual liberation that followed, as the economy improved and commercial and residential building took off, the mandatory archaeology opened up huge new fields. Not only was this the case in archaeology , but the booming economy boosted every academic discipline. Article and xi Introduction book production reached astounding proportions in the 1970s and 1980s as literally hundreds of articles and books poured out on the issue. A complete bibliography cannot exist, but the one in this book will give some idea of the magnitude of the problem—and the impossibility of dealing with every viewpoint and theory so far proposed.Inevitably,one must be selective.Television,newspapers,and popular magazines never let the questions rest. Any “original” view received notice. One supposes that the media would feel greatly deprived of excitement if any “solutions” were to be found to the problems in this untidy jungle. Nevertheless, the divergent differences are now being narrowed, and it seems possible, given the present state of knowledge, to make a convincing case for the location of Yamatai. My own interest in the Yamatai problems started in the early 1960s when I found a copy of John Young’s The Location of Yamatai: A Case Study in Japanese Historiography, 720–1945, although I do not recall even then knowing enough about the problems to have actually looked for the book.1 Young’s study was so thoroughly researched one could begin from the 1945 platform he so carefully constructed. Nevertheless, to help the reader see the broader picture as a coherent and comprehensive whole and to understand how and where the lines were drawn at the end of World War II, I provide a retrospective of those developments. Later, in regard to locating Yamatai, critical landmark arguments of the postwar years will be outlined. When time finally allowed, I had...