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A freestyle, imagined telling of the life of shaman queen Himiko, who falls in love with her half-brother, making her powers weaken thus putting her position to risk.


Masahiro Shinoda
1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Shima Iwashita ... Himiko
Masao Kusakari Masao Kusakari ... Takehiko
Rie Yokoyama ... Adahime
Chôichirô Kawarasaki Chôichirô Kawarasaki ... Mimaki
Kenzô Kawarasaki Kenzô Kawarasaki ... Ikume
Yoshi Katô ... Ohkimi
Jun Hamamura ... Narrator
Tsuchimi Kurata Tsuchimi Kurata
Teishiro Nishijima Teishiro Nishijima
Mitsugu Fujita Mitsugu Fujita
Tadashi Yoshizumi Tadashi Yoshizumi
Mayumi Kyô Mayumi Kyô
Akio Marubayashi Akio Marubayashi
Akemi Harada Akemi Harada
Yôko Shibata Yôko Shibata


A freestyle, imagined telling of the life of shaman queen Himiko, who falls in love with her half-brother, making her powers weaken thus putting her position to risk.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Fantasy | History

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


The film is set in the 3rd century during the late Japanese Yayoi period (1,000 BC - 300) when the legend of Queen Himiko is recorded to have happened. When Takehiko describes a horse to Himiko it is at least a century before horses are believed to have been imported to Japan from China and became common in Japan. Although evidence of horses dating back to the earlier Jomon period (14,000 - 1,000 BC) and the pre-historic Japanese Paleolithic period have been found. See more »

User Reviews

The distant past, seen through a Modernist lens
24 June 2020 | by kurtralskeSee all my reviews

Really excellent film. There's a very rare subgenre of historical films: ones that aim to bring to life ancient times...but not by an "authentic" recreation of the past -- instead, the director uses experimental/modernist cinematic techniques to bring traditional folklore and beliefs firmly into relation with the present. Examples include "Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors" (1965, Paradjanov), "Marketa Lazerova" (1967, Vlacil), "The Night of Counting the Years" (1969, Chadi Abdel Salam). Like these, "Himoko" powerfully reanimates dormant cultural world-views, and is particularly successful at connecting them to our era.

"Himoko" retells an ancient Japanese legend of a shaman-queen. The story is timeless and "universal", yet the world of "Himoko" is a particular Shinto animist world, in which gods of the sun and the land directly control people's lives. The viewer is pulled into the past, by the beautiful unspoiled forest and mountain landscapes, the peoples' costumes and rituals, and most powerfully by the intensity of the performances -- especially Shima Iwashita as Himoko, whose extraordinary performance conveys the fervid complete conviction of shamanistic beliefs. (My new favorite Japanese actress!)

But the viewer is also pushed into the present. The director Shinoda does not try to fool the viewer with an "authentic" past: the indoor scenes are staged in a space resembling a theatrical set or art gallery, with clearly unnatural (but beautifully dramatic) lighting. A troupe of five Butoh dancers perform stunning, horrifying, evocative dance-rituals throughout, acting sometimes as a Greek chorus outside the story-space, at other times directly involved in the action. And the film's coda breaks the fourth wall, making it plain that Shinoda is less interested in the distant past, than the way that ancient things still live within the present.

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Release Date:

23 February 1979 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

卑弥呼 See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

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