Humanities › History & Culture Empress Suiko of Japan The first reigning Empress of Japan in recorded history Share Flipboard Email Print Tosa Mitsuyoshi/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain History & Culture Women's History Important Figures History Of Feminism Key Events Women's Suffrage Women & War Laws & Womens Rights Feminism & Pop Culture Feminist Texts American History African American History African History Ancient History and Culture Asian History European History Genealogy Inventions Latin American History Medieval & Renaissance History Military History The 20th Century View More By Jone Johnson Lewis Women's History Writer B.A., Mundelein College M.Div., Meadville/Lombard Theological School Jone Johnson Lewis is a women's history writer who has been involved with the women's movement since the late 1960s. She is a former faculty member of the Humanist Institute. our editorial process Jone Johnson Lewis Updated March 07, 2019 Empress Suiko is known as the first reigning empress of Japan in recorded history (rather than an empress consort). She is credited with the expansion of Buddhism in Japan, increasing Chinese influence in Japan. She was the daughter of Emperor Kimmei, Empress consort of Emperor Bidatsu, sister of Emperor Sujun (or Sushu). Born in Yamato, she lived from 554 to April 15, 628 C.E., and was empress of from 592 - 628 C.E. She is also known as Toyo-mike Kashikaya-hime, in her youth as Nukada-be, and as empress, Suiko-Tenno. Background Suiko was the daughter of Emperor Kimmei and at 18 became the empress-consort of Emperor Bidatsu, who reigned 572 to 585. After a short rule by the Emperor Yomei, interclan warfare over the succession broke out. Suiko's brother, Emperor Sujun or Sushu, reigned next but was murdered in 592. Her uncle, Soga Umako, a powerful clan leader, who was likely behind Sushu's murder, convinced Suiko to take the throne, with another of Umako's nephews, Shotoku, acting as regent who actually administered government. Suiko reigned as Empress for 30 years. Crown Prince Shotoku was regent or prime minister for 30 years. Death The Empress becoming ill in the spring of 628 C.E., with a total eclipse of the sun corresponding to her serious illness. According to the Chronicles, she died at the end of spring, and there followed several hail storms with large hailstones, before her mourning rites began. She was said to have asked for a simpler interment, with funds instead going to relieve a famine. Contributions Empress Suiko is credited with ordering the promotion of Buddhism beginning in 594. It had been the religion of her family, the Soga. During her reign, Buddhism became firmly established; the second article of the 17 article constitution instituted under her reign promoted Buddhist worship, and she sponsored Buddhist temples and monasteries. It was also during Suiko's reign that China first diplomatically recognized Japan, and Chinese influence increased, including bringing in the Chinese calendar and the Chinese system of government bureaucracy. Chinese monks, artists, and scholars also were brought into Japan in her reign. The power of the emperor also became stronger under her rule. Buddhism had entered Japan through Korea, and Buddhism's growing influence furthered the influence of Korea on art and culture during this period. In writing during her reign, previous Japanese emperors were given Buddhist names with Korean pronunciation. There is a general consensus that the 17 article constitution was not actually written in its present form until after the death of Prince Shotoku, though the reforms it describes were undoubtedly established beginning under the reign of Empress Suiko and the administration of Prince Shotoku. Controversy There are scholars who contend that the history of the Empress Suiko is an invented history to justify the rulership of Shotoku and that his writing of the constitution is also invented history, the constitution a later forgery.