BYU Asian Studies Journal


Adam Wheeler


BYU Asian Studies, Jinno Shotoki, Japan, Shinkoku


It is widely held by Japanese and non-Japanese historians alike that Japan has enjoyed an uninterrupted reign by a single royal family for at least the last 1,500 years, if not longer. This unprecedented system of government has given rise to much investigation as to how such a feat could have been accomplished and has also given rise to the belief that Japan is Shinkoku, or “divine land.” Theories on the longevity of the Japanese imperial family have been based on the relationship between them and surrounding families of influence, as well as the tenuous relationship that existed between the Imperial family and the shogunate (hereditary commander of the Japanese army who exercised absolute rule under the nominal leadership of the emperor) of the warring states period. Most, if not all, examinations take for granted that Japanese genealogies and documents bestow an equivalent sum of power, prestige, and respect that less enduring dynasties and monarchs in other countries possessed. This assumption gives unwarranted acknowledgment and credit to the Japanese imperial line that, while unique in its organization and its perpetuation, does not translate to the same significance of other countries’ ruling families if they had lasted as long.