Okimi (great king) (Yamato sovereignty) (大王 (ヤマト王権))
Okimi is a historical term which generally refers to the chief of the Yamato sovereignty (Japan) from the latter half of the third century to the end of the seventh century which is from the Kofun (tumulus) period to the Asuka period. The title okimi and amenoshitashiroshimesu okimi (the title of the king of Wa) were established at least by the latter half of the fifth century, and it is thought that these titles were used in Japan until the 680s when the compilation of the Asuka Kiyomihara Code began.
The title of king
The title of 'king' was originally used to indicate the monarch who unified China. This was the title in the Zhou dynasty for the single emperor who ruled the world, but when China entered the warring states period (China), the lords who were supposed to be the vassals of the king fought and called themselves 'king,' which led to an upsurge in the number of kings scattered throughout the country. Later, the first Qin Emperor who unified China for the first time (221 BC) used the new title 'emperor' instead of the title of king which lost its value. Afterwards, as the Former Han was established (221 B.C.), the title of king settled as a title (vassal king) which was given to the emperor's vassals.
The first appearance of the title of king related to Japan is the 'Kanno Wano Nano Kokuo' (the King of Japan, Chinese Colony) seen in the gold seal given by the Emperor Guangwu of Han to the king of Nakoku. Following this, in the article of the Record of Emperor An in 107 in the "History of the Later Han Dynasty," the word 'Wakokuo' (the King of Wa) is first seen. As it is written 'the King of Wa Suishora' in the Record of Emperor An, it is possible to think that the King of Wa was not a toparchy of the region, but was a 'King of Wa' as a chief of several regional nations, and this is thought to be the establishment of Wakoku (country of Wa). Also Himiko, who lived in a time slightly after this, was acknowledged by the Wei as a 'Wao' (king of Wa), a unified ruler of Wakoku.
In ancient Japanese this concept was thought to correspond to the word 'kimi,' which became the Japanese reading of the Chinese character.
The establishment of the notation of 'okimi'
In the first part of the article on the enthronement of Osazaki no Sumeramikoto (Emperor Nintoku) in the "Nihonshoki" (Chronicles of Japan) (from the end of the fourth century to the beginning of the fifth century), the words 'Okimi, image...' are seen, but it is unclear whether these words were used from this period. The notation of okimi is first seen in this Ojin section, and is later seen in records such as Ingyo section, Yuryaku section, Kenzo section, and Keitai section.
King Wakatakeru (Emperor Yuryaku), who is often identified as the last wabu of the five kings of Wa, is surmised to have used the title of amenoshitashiroshimesu okimi within Japan. On the inscriptions on an iron sword excavated from the Eta Funayama Tumulus in Kumamoto Prefecture, it says 'amenoshitashiroshimesu okimi,' suggesting that the title amenoshitashiroshimesu okimi had been born at least by this period (the end of the fifth century). However, on an iron sword excavated from Inariyama-kofun Tumulus in Saitama Prefecture, it says 'Wakatakeru okimi,' and it is thought that the title okimi was also used.
On the Suda Hachiman Shrine Mirror owned by Suda Hachiman-gu Shrine in Wakayama Prefecture, the following description is seen.
In the eighth month of a gui-wei year, in the reign of the great king, when the prince Wooto was at the Oshisaka Palace, Shima, wishing for longevity, sent two persons to make this mirror from 200 han of brand-new and fine bronze (Toshio FUKUYAMA). There are theories regarding the interpretation of the year of the Yin Water Sheep, in which the mirror with descriptions of 'okimi' and 'oto no kimi' was made, such as it was the year 383, 443, 503, or 623, but among these, the strongest theory is that it was the year 443 (Emperor Ingyo) or 503 (Emperor Buretsu). If you take the theory of the year 443, the notation of 'okimi' would have been used by the middle of the fifth century, but since there are many letters in which the reading is not determined including the variant characters on inscriptions about counting years, there are various interpretations regarding the contents of the inscriptions, which makes it difficult to determine the precise date in which the 'okimi' notation started being used.
In addition, in the johyobun (memorial to the Emperor) of the first Japanese envoy to Sui Dynasty China in 600 described in 'Volume 80 chapter 46 Dongyi Wakoku' in "Suishu" (the Book of Sui Dynasty), it says 'in the year 600, the king of Wa, the surname Ame, the popular name Tarishihoko, calling himself Okimi' and it is thought that the title of the king of Wa, Tarishihiko, represents 'okimi.'
In the Johyobun (sovereign's message) for the second Japanese envoy to Sui Dynasty China in 607, it says 'hi izuru tokoro no tenshi sho wo hi bossuru tokoro no tenshi ni itasu tsutsuganashiya unnun' (from the sovereign of the land of the rising sun to the sovereign of the land of the setting sun) and externally, the title of 'tenshi' (emperor) is used. However, within Japan, the titles 'okimi' and 'amenoshitashiroshimesu okimi' are said to have been used.
On the inscription on the halo of the statue of Yakushi Nyorai (the Healing Buddha) in the Kon-do (golden hall) of Horyu-ji Temple, erected by Prince Shotoku in the beginning of the seventh century, it says 'Ike no be no omiya amenoshitashiroshimesu tenno' (Emperor Yomei) and 'Owarida no Omiya amenoshitashiroshimesu okimi tenno' (Emperor Suiko), and it can be assumed that the title 'amenoshitashiroshimesu' was used. However, from the fact that on the inscription itself, words such as 'tenno' (emperor) and 'togu' (crown prince), and Japanese expressions such as 'oomimi itazuki tamaishitoki' (the emperor is sick) are used, which are too early to be used for the reign of Empress Suiko, and also from the fact that the writing style had a tenor of the early Tang period; accordingly there are theories that these expressions are from the early Tang period, leaving many questions.
The establishment of the notation of 'tenno'
There are two theories regarding the establishment of the notation of tenno. One is a traditional popular theory that the notation of tenno first appeared in the October 608 article in the Suiko section as 'higashi no tenno tsutsushimite nishi no tenno ni mosu' (the emperor of the east respects the emperor of the west). Another theory holds that, based on the fact that there is the 'Shikishimamiya amenoshitashiroshimesu tenno' (Emperor Kinmei) in the Tenjukoku-shucho (the oldest needlework painting in Japan, a national treasure), and in the preface of "Kaifuso" (Fond Recollections of Poetry) the notation of tenno is used for the emperors after Emperor Jito only, the notation of tenno along with the kogo (empress) was regulated with the Asuka Kiyomihara Code and started to be used since then. Recently, the latter theory is held stronger.
For the notation of 'tenno,' the Japanese reading of the Chinese character is 'sumeramikoto' and 'sumeroki.'
These names are said to signify a person like a god who was born in the Imperial Family.
The adoption of 'tenno' as the official notation of the monarch is said to be most likely during the reign of Emperor Tenmu. Emperor Tenmu is surmised to have adopted the notation of tenno following Empress Sokuten of the Tang who changed her title from 'Kotei' (emperor) to 'Tenno' (emperor) in 674. The 'tenno (great emperor)' is the name of the supreme god of space in ancient China and has a deep relationship with Taoism thoughts, and also during the administration of Emperor Tenmu the Taoism influence was accepted, which supports the theory that the Emperor Tenmu started using the notation of tenno.
Shavings of a mokkan (narrow, long, and thin pieces of wood strung together that were used to write on in ancient times) with words such as 'Otsuo' (Prince Otsu), 'Tsuo' (Prince Tsu) and 'Oji' (prince) were excavated from Asuka-kyo site. These are thought to refer to Tenmu's child, Prince Otsu, and from other excavated mokkan, it is thought that these were from 681. The fact that the notation of oji is used in 681 is thought of as proof that the notation of tenno was used from before this time.