Emm Simpson

Premodern Japanese Religion

Research Focus:

I am examining the legend of Empress Jingū, a third century shaman, empress and conquerer appearing in early Japanese myth and historical chronicles. While the legend has gone through myriad permutations for well over a thousand years, I am most interested in exploring the medieval reinterpretations of Jingū’s legend and their subsequent impact on the formation of women’s cults incorporating Jingū and popularizing her image.

Additional Information:

While her primary research centers on this particular empress, Emm is also interested in Japanese shamanism in general, women in Japanese religion, and Asian folklore.
In her spare time, she enjoys writing fiction, hiking, and spending time with dogs and cats.

Academic History

    • B.A. Asian Studies, Vassar College
    • M.A. UCSB

M.A. Thesis: Sovereign, Shaman and Bodhisattva: A Medieval Reinterpretation of Empress Jingū in the Hachiman gudōkun

Senior Thesis: The Miko’s Gift: Shaman Queens of Ancient Japan

Other Studies: Beijing Language and Cultural University, Chinese Summer Intensive Program, Summer 2012 and 2013; Kansai Gaidai University, Hirakata, Japan, Spring 2006 Semester Abroad


  • Dr. Fabio Rambelli, EALCS
  • Dr. Katherine Saltzman-Li, EALCS
  • Dr. Luke Roberts, Department of History
  • Sabine Fruhstuck

Teaching Experience

  • F15, W&S16 Writing Program
  • S14 Masterpieces of Japanese Literature, Saltzman-Li
  • W14 Introduction to Asian Religious Traditions, Hillis
  • F13, F12 Introduction to Buddhism, Wallace
  • S13 East Asian Traditions: Modern, Nathan and Zheng
  • W13 East Asian Traditions: Premodern, Rambellie and Li
  • F14 Japanese Folklore (Reader), Saltzman-Li
  • Extensive experience teaching English as a Second Language, including 1 year as an Assistant Language Teacher on the JET Program in Shikoku, Japan
Over 2 years experience as English teacher in Japan.


  • 2016 Book Review of Quinter, David. From Outcasts to Emperors: Shingon Ritsu and the Mañjuśrī Cult in Medieval Japan. Brill 2015 in Journal of Religion in Japan, forthcoming

Conference Papers

  • 2015 “In the Line of Emperors: Empress Jingū in Medieval Explorations of Dynasty” at New York Conference on Asian Studies (NYCAS), 10/17
  • 2015 Panel Chair, “Siting Memories of the Dead,” at UCSB War and Remembrance: Cultural Imprints of Japan’s Samurai Age, 5/8
  • 2014 “The Jewel of the Tide: Empress Jingū and Maritime Religiosity in Medieval Japan” at 14th Conference of the European Association for Japanese Studies, 8/28
  • 2014 “Sacred Mother Bodhisattva, Buddha and Cakravartin: Recasting Empress Jingū as a Buddhist Figure,” at New Directions in Buddhist Studies Graduate Student Conference, 3/9
  • 2013 “The Power of Precedent: Referencing Chinese and Buddhist Traditions in the Hachiman gūdokun,” at Texas Asia Conference: Tradition and Transition, 11/3


  • 2011-2015 UCSB Regents Fellowship
  • 2007 Sophia H. Chen Zen Prize for the Best Thesis in Asian Studies, Vassar College
  • 2007 Phi Beta Kappa Induction