Omi no Mifune (淡海三船)

OMI no Mifune (722 - July 30, 785) was a literary man in the late Nara period. He was a great-grandson of Emperor Kobun who was Emperor Tenji's Imperial Prince. His father was Kadono no Okimi's son, Ikebe no Okimi. He was called Mifune no Okimi at first. He called himself Genkai after entering the Buddhist priesthood in the Tenpyo era (729-749). In 751, he returned to the secular life under the imperial order, and received the kabane title of OMI no Mahito. His children were Hamanari and Takanushi.


When the Emperor bestowed a ranked title of 'Mahito' on about thirty princes on January 27, 751, Mifune no Okimi received the kabane title of OMI no Mahito.
As his official profile given posthumously says that he seemed to be intelligent and sharp, read through many books, and like to write very much, ISONOKAMI no Yakatsugu's one describes them as 'top literary men.'

In May 756, he was put into prison with OTOMO no Koshibi for defaming the Imperial Court by the Imperial Guards. Because he was in Omi Province as a Zochishi (envoy responsible for building ponds and embankments) by chance when EMI no Oshikatsu War was occurred in September, 764, he burned down Seta-bashi bridge to prevent Oshikatsu from crossing the bridge. As a reward for his service during the war, he was promoted from the Imperial Court Rank of Jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade) to Shogoinojo (Senior Fifth Rank, Upper Grade), awarded the Third Order of Merit, and became Omi no suke (an assistant governor of Omi Province). After that, he became Nakatsukasa no taifu (Senior Assistant Minister of the Ministry of Central Affairs) and Jiju (Chamberlain), and he was appointed as Junsatsu-shi (Inspector) on Tosan-do Road in September, 766. However, he was removed from his post in June, 767, because he was '検括酷苛' against the Attorney of Shimotsuke Province. After experiencing Dazai no shoni (Junior Assistant Governor-General of Dazai-fu offices) and Gyobu no taifu (Senior Assistant Minister of Justice), he became Daigaku no kami (a Director of an Academy) and Monjo hakase (a doctor of letters) in April, 772. When he died in July, 785, he was Gyobukyo (Ministry of Justice), Jushiinoge (Junior Fourth Rank, Lower Grade), and Inaba no kami (Governor of Inaba Province). He was sixty-four years old.

He was excellent in Apocrypha and Chinese poetry because he had been a Buddhist monk in his youth. His five Chinese poems were appeared on 'Keikoku-shu' (Anthology of Chinese poems) and he took part in editing the first half of 'Shoku Nihongi' (Chronicle of Japan Continued). Some say that he was an anthologist of 'Kaifuso' (Fond Recollections of Poetry) which is the oldest existing collection of Chinese poetry. Also, according to 'Shiki' in "Shaku Nihongi" (an annotated text of the Nihon Shoki), Mifune selected 漢風諡 of all emperors from Emperor Jimmu to Empress Gensho (except Emperor Kobun and Emperor Mommu). He wrote Jianzhen's biography 'Todaiwajo Toseiden' (Eastern Expedition of the Great Tang Monk) in 779, which is recognized as one of the most valuable historical materials.

OMI Koji-den' (a biography of layman OMI) of 'Enryaku Soroku' (a record of Enryaku-ji Temple monks) is partly left in 'Nihon Kosoden Yobunsho' (a biography of high ranking monks).

[Original Japanese]