Himiko and Japan's Elusive Chiefdom of Yamatai: Archaeology, History, and Mythology
416pp. March 2007
Himiko and Japan's Elusive Chiefdom of Yamatai: Archaeology, History, and Mythology
Author: Kidder Jr., J. Edward;
A Choice Outstanding Academic Title

"This volume is the most comprehensive treatment in English to date of the problem presented by the Wei zhi. It brings to bear the most recent developments in historical and especially archaeological research in Japan and combines them with a thorough re-interpretation of the early Japanese myths. Given the author’s long and distinguished career in the archaeological study of Japan, a retrospective summary of the archaeology alone is a significant event. Add to this his very thorough examination of textual sources, and the result is a truly unique, multi-faceted study of ancient Japanese society." —Walter Edwards, Tenri University

"Using a balanced combination of archaeology and historical texts, Professor Kidder gives a marvelously rich portrait of life in Yayoi Japan. Although the location of Yamatai has long been one of the major problems in Japanese historiography, this is the first book-length treatment of the topic in English to consider archaeology. The addition of a new translation of the Wei zhi account of Japan is a major contribution and adds considerably to the value of the book. I have no doubt that it will be widely used by scholars and students of Japanese history, art history, and archaeology." —Mark Hudson, University of Tsukuba

The third-century Chinese chronicle Wei zhi (Record of Wei) is responsible for Japan’s most enduring ancient mystery. This early history tells of a group of islands off the China coast that were dominated by a female shaman named Himiko. Himiko ruled for more than half a century as head of the largest chiefdom, traditionally known as Yamatai, until her death in 248. Yet no such person appears in the old Japanese literature. Who was Himiko and where was the Yamatai she governed? In this, the most comprehensive treatment in English to date, a senior scholar of early Japan turns to three sources—historical, archaeological, and mythological—to provide a multifaceted study of Himiko and ancient Japanese society.

45 illus.

"One of the best books in recent years on the ancient history of Japan because of the author’s wide-ranging knowledge and meticulous research; all recent archaeological discoveries are detailed and relevant theories are examined. As the most up-to-date source of academic information on ancient Japan, this book is essential reading for scholars of Japanology." —Religious Studies Review (35:4, December 2009)

"The most comprehensive and persuasive treatment in English to date of the great ancient Japanese mystery that has captured the imagination of the Japanese: the location of Yamatai and the identity of its female shaman leader, Himiko. . . . In what must be the magnum opus and capstone of his illustrious career, Kidder meticulously and thoroughly examines all historical, archaeological, and mythological materials, creating a grand synthesis. . . . Highly recommended." —Choice (4:2, October 2007)

Author: Kidder Jr., J. Edward;
J. Edward Kidder, Jr., is professor emeritus, International Christian University, Tokyo.
Read the introduction (PDF).