Emily B. Simpson

Emily B. Simpson

Specialization: Premodern Japanese Religion, Folklore, and Gender Studies


Research Focus

I study 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 pay particular attention to the medieval reinterpretations of Jingū’s legend and their subsequent impact on the formation of women’s cults centered on Empress Jingū. My dissertation, entitled “The Making of a Goddess: Divinization and Womanhood in Narratives of Empress Jingū” explores how association with Empress Jingū shifted from a focus on her martial and shamanic deeds to reimagine her as a goddess of childbirth.

Academic History

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


  • Dr. Fabio Rambelli, EALCS
  • Dr. Katherine Saltzman-Li, EALCS
  • Dr. Sabine Frühstück, EALCS

Teaching Experience

  • Writing Program, Writing 2, Academic Year 2015-2016, Spring 2018
  • Masterpieces of Japanese Literature, Spring 2014
  • Introduction to Asian Religious Traditions, Winter 2014
  • Introduction to Buddhism, Fall 2012 & Fall 2013
  • East Asian Traditions: Modern, Spring 2013, Summer 2016 as co-instructor
  • East Asian Traditions: Premodern, Winter 2013
  • Reader for Japanese Folklore (Fall 2014) and Japanese Theater (Spring 2018)
  • Extensive experience teaching English as a Second Language


  • “An Empress at Sea: Sea Deities and Divine Union in the Legend of Empress Jingū.” In The Sea and the Sacred in Japan: Aspects of Maritime Religiosity, ed. Fabio Rambelli. London: Bloomsbury, Shinto Studies Series, July 2018.
  • “Sacred Mother Bodhisattva, Buddha and Cakravartin: Recasting Empress Jingū as a Buddhist Figure in the Hachiman gudōkun.” Journal of Religion in Japan. Volume 6, Issue 2-3. Leiden: Brill, Dec 2017.

Selected Conference Papers

  • 2018 神功皇后の神格化:神になる過程を考え直す [Divinizing Jingū: Reconsidering the Procession of
    Deification in Premodern Japan] (Feb 16, 2018) at the annual USC Meiji University Japanese Research Exchange, 2/16
  • 2017 “The Empress Divine: Jingū’s Status as a Deity in Jisha engi” at 15th Conference of the European Association for Japanese Studies, 8/31
  • 2016 “Mother Before Warrior: The Hachiman gudōkun and Empress Jingū’s Place in Early Modern Women’s Cults” at Networks and Negotiations: Graduate Student Conference on Premodern Japan. UCSB, 2/13
  • 2015 “In the Line of Emperors: Empress Jingū in Medieval Explorations of Dynasty” at New York Conference on Asian Studies (NYCAS), 10/17
  • 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


  • 2016-2017 Fulbright IIE Graduate Research Fellowship
  • 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