Himiko (Japanese Queen)

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In Japanese history women tend to take not so much a backseat role as ride in the boot of the car. This is not to say there haven't been powerful women in Japanese history. There have. For example MASAKO HOJO and YODOGIMI. But usually these potent females exercised power as the widows of strong men or the mothers of weak ones. To find a woman who exercised power in her own name, you have to go back to the 3rd century and the half-historical half-legendary figure of HIMIKO, Queen of YAMATAI.

According to the Chinese Wei chronicles, around 170 AD the WA people, as the Japanese were then called, started fighting among themselves. Population pressures were starting to transform a tribal society wasteful of land into a more integrated and agriculturally-efficient, class-based society dominated by an aristocracy. Into this period of tribal butchery, Himiko grew up. While men exercised their strength on the battlefield or showed their wits in the forest ambush, women, driven to frenzy by deaths of loved ones, revealed their power through primordial shamanistic rites then held in great reverence. Himiko became famous for her mastery of a kind of shamanism called "THE WAY OF THE DRAGON" that was supposed to protect warriors in battle and bring victory. Elements of the Wa people, wearied with the internecine warfare, started to unite around this teenager, just as the FRENCH later did around JEAN D'ARC, leading to the rise of a unified state with Himiko at its centre.

Her power was perceived to be connected to her feminity and probably her virginity. This was why she was forced to lead a secluded life with 1000 female attendants in palace surrounded by a wooden palisade, protected night and day by armed guards. Her link to the outer world was a younger brother who ruled the country at her direction and in her name.

In 240, the WEI CHINESE who had recently conquered KOREA, received an embassy from Himiko. The Wei bestowed on her the title 'Wa Ruler Friendly to Wei', as well as gold and purple seals, textiles, bronze mirrors, and other knick knacks and baubles sure to impress the primitive Japanese. But Himiko had other reasons to contact the Wei. A rival Japanese state, KONA, was growing stronger and attacking YAMATAI. The war was going badly, casting doubt on her magical prowess. Her envoys started to ask for military assistance from the Chinese, but all that was sent were some yellow banners supposed to bring victory in the same way that Himiko once had through magic.

Accepting such help was as much as admitting that her power was gone. She may also have broken the strict taboos that surrounded her, possibly by having a lover. Whatever the circumstances, people lost faith in her potency, and in 245 she died, possibly killed by her chieftains in an attempt to send her as a messenger or a sacrifice to the Gods. Himiko is a prototype of the popular Japanese idea of the AGEMAN, literally 'the vagina that gives', a woman with the mysterious power to bring success to the men she associates with.

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