Kenzuishi (Japanese Envoy to Sui Dynasty China) (遣隋使)

The term "Kenzuishi" refers to Japanese tributary envoys dispatched to the Sui rulers in China during the reign of Empress Suiko. Kenzuishi were dispatched over five times in the 18 years between 600 and 618.

Use of the name "Nihon" (Japan) began in the kentoshi period (Japanese envoys to Tang Dynasty China).

The kenzuishi and his staff would depart from Suminoetsu Port near Sumiyoshi-taisha Shrine in Osaka, heading to Osaka Bay via Sumiyoshi-no-Hosoe (present-day Hosoe River and Hosoigawa Station), and then leave Naniwa-no-Tsu (Naniwa Port) and go across the Seto Inland Sea to the Genkai-nada Sea in the Kyushu region.

The dispatch of envoys to China was resumed one century after the tributary envoys to the Southern Dynasty sent by the five kings of Wa (Japan), with the primary purpose of learning about Sui culture, as they were a key and leading country in East Asia, but also with the intention of maintaining Japanese influence over the Korean Peninsula. These diplomatic policies remained in place when the next envoy system, called kentoshi, began.

The first dispatch (600)
Nihonshoki (Chronicles of Japan) does not mention this first kenzuishi dispatched in 600. The section called 'the Record of Eastern Barbarians, the Record of Wakoku (Japan)' in "Suishu" (the Book of the Sui Dynasty) includes a scene between Emperor Wen, who was the founder of the dynasty, and an envoy.

There came a king of Wa whose last name was Ame, azana (nickname) was Tarashihiko, and go (pseudonym) was Okimi in 600. He sent an envoy to the Imperial palace. The emperor asked the envoy about the culture of Wa through his servant. The envoy said that the king of Wa regarded the heaven as his elder brother and the sun as his younger brother. He got up before daybreak and attended to government affairs, sitting with his legs crossed on the floor. Once the sun came high, he stopped his work and told his younger brother to take over him. The emperor said that it totally lacked justice. The emperor tried to dissuade the king from doing this.'

In 600, there was a king of Wa whose last name was Ame, azana (nickname) was Tarashihiko, and go (pseudonym) was Okimi. He sent an envoy to the Imperial palace. Through his servant, the emperor asked the envoy about the culture of Wa. The envoy said that the king of Wa regarded the heavens as his elder brother and the sun as his younger brother. He got up before daybreak and attended to government affairs, sitting with his legs crossed on the floor. Once the sun had risen high, he stopped his work and told his younger brother to take over for him. The emperor said that this totally lacked justice. The emperor tried to dissuade the king from doing this.

The name of the king of Wa (written as 俀 in Japanese, but it is generally said that the Chinese character of 俀 should actually be 倭), whose last name was Ame, was Tarashihiko (written as 多利思北孤 in Japanese, but it is generally thought that the character 北 had been originally 比 and his name should be written as 多利思比孤), and it is thought that his full name, Ametarashibiko, meant a noble man who was originally from heaven. Okimi, written as 阿輩雞弥 in Japanese, is said to mean a great king.

The year 600 is equivalent to Suikotenno (Japanese era name) 8. The emperor asked the envoy dispatched that year about the customs of Wakoku through his servant. The envoy said that the last name of the king of Wa was Ame, his azana was Tarashihiko, and his go was Okimi. However, the emperor did not accept the political system of Wakoku due to his personal values, and moreover, it seemed unreasonable to him. That was why the emperor told the king to change their political system.

The second dispatch (607)
Nohonshoki mentions the second dispatch, and it says ONO no Imoko was sent to Great Tang with the sovereign's message in 607.

According to the section of 'the Record of Eastern Barbarians, the Record of Wakoku (Japan)' in "Suishu" (the Book of the Sui Dynasty), the beginning of the official message of the king of Wa written to Yang Guang, the emperor of Sui, was as follows.
The emperor of the Land of the Rising Sun is writing to the emperor of the Land of the Setting Sun, and I hope you are doing well.'
This message made Yang Guang angry, and it is said that he told a foreign service officer whose position was called korokei (the chief of the office which was in charge of the entertainment of foreign envoys or ambassadors) not to talk about this country because the message was rude. In other words, he told the officer never to present him again with such rude letters from barbarians.

Yang Guang became angry because the king of Wa called himself 'the emperor,' not because of the use of the terms 'the Land of the Rising Sun' and 'the Land of the Setting Sun.'
The terms 'the Land of the Rising Sun' and 'the Land of the Setting Sun' are simply Buddhist terms which refer to the east and the west, as "Daichidoron" (Commentary on the Great Wisdom Sutra), an annotated edition of "Makahannyaharamitashingyo" (The Great Treatise on Perfection of Wisdom), says that the land of the rising sun is the east, and the land of the setting sun is the west. At the same time, it is also thought that they used the Buddhist terms to announce their secession from the Chinese tributary system.

Afterwards, ONO no Imoko left for Japan with a reply from Yang Guang. According to "Nihonshoki," Imoko said he did not have the reply because a person from Baekje stole it, when he returned to Japan with Hai Seisei, a vassal of Yang Guang. It is thought that Imoko destroyed the reply from Yang Guang because Yang Guang regarded Wakoku to be a subject of the Sui, and he was afraid that the letter might make the king angry.

Nihonshoki mentions a letter that is said to have been brought by Hai Seisei.

I want to ask the king of Wa about the following.'
I want to obey Heaven's will, reign over the whole country, and spread my power to command love and respect to have a good effect on all people.'
The distance between us does not affect the desire to raise people lovingly.'
I realize that the king of Wa rules people appropriately beyond the sea, and additionally, that his people live in ease and comfort and their customs and manners are moderate.'
I am pleased that you came here with kind-heartedness and utmost sincerity.'

In this description, the king of Wa is referred to as the emperor of Wa, and he does not regard him as his vassal. According to "Nihonshoki," the reply to this letter starts with the phrase '東天皇敬白西皇帝' (the emperor of the east respectfully writes to the emperor of the west). Some believe that people began to use the title of Tenno (Emperor) at that time.

Dispatches of Tributary Envoys
The following is a chronological table of kenzuishi dispatches.

600: The first kenzuishi dispatch
At that time, Wakoku was not familiar with diplomatic etiquette, and the envoy went to Sui without the sovereign's message.
("Suishu" the Record of Wakoku)

607-608: ONO no Imoko was sent as the second kenzuishi. He brought the sovereign's message as "the Emperor of the Rising Sun." ONO no Imoko returned to Japan, arriving at Suminoetsu Port with Hai Seisei.
("Nihonshoki" and "Suishu" the Record of Wakoku)

608 - unknown ("Suishu" the Record of Yang Guang)
608 - 609: ONO no Imoko and KISHI no Onari were sent as the third kenzuishi. Eight people went to Sui for study, including students such as YAMATOAYA no Ataifukuin, NARA no Osaemyo, TAKAMUKU no Ayahitokuromaro, IMAKI no Ayahitodaikoku and priests-in-training such as IMAKI no Ayahito Nichimon (who later became Somin) and MINABUCHI no Shoan. Hai Seisei, an envoy from Sui, returned to his country.
("Nihonshoki" and "Suishu" the Record of Wakoku)

610 - unknown: The fourth kenzuishi was dispatched.
("Suishu" the Record of Yang Guang)

614 - 615: INUKAMI no Mitasuki and YATABE no Miyatsuko were sent as the fifth kenzuishi. An envoy from Baekje came to Japan with INUGAMI no Mitasuki.
("Nihonshoki")

618: the Sui Dynasty fell.

The major differences of the envoy descriptions in the "Nihonshoki" and "Suishu" are as follows. "Nihonshoki" does not have a description about the first kenzuishi, although "Suishu" does.

In this article, the first envoy is described as the first kenzuishi in accordance with Chinese history, but "Nishonshoki" says the envoy was dispatched to 'Great Tang' instead of Sui.

Although Hai Seisei appears in "Nihonshoki," he is referred to as Hai Sei in "Suishu" because this book was compiled in the reign of Tang Tai Zong and the book avoids his imina (real name), Seimin.

Nishonshoki mentions the story that ONO no Imoko lost the sovereign's reply, but "Suishu" does not ("Suishu" does not even mention ONO no Imoko).

Suishu mentions the country names of Tsukushi and Shino, but no country name referring to Yamato.
However, it is thought that its capital was 'Yamato,' written as 邪靡堆, from the description '都於邪靡堆.'