Heroes and Giants「小野妹子」
5/26 小野妹子/Japan’s first diplomat
Sometimes the leader of a country wants to talk with the leader of another country.
But they can’t meet.
So the leader sends someone with a message.
That person is called a diplomat.
Japan’s first diplomat was a man called Onono Imoko.
The name Imoko sounds like a woman’s name.
Because it has ko in it.
So many people may remember his name easily.
But Imoko was much more than just a man with an interesting name.
We don’t know when he was born or when he died.
But he worked in the early seventh century.
At that time, Empress Suiko was the leader of the country and Shotoku Taishi supported her.
Imoko came from a rich family and worked for the government.
He was known to be smart and hardworking.
In the year 607, Shotoku Taishi decided to send Imoko to visit Emperor Yang of Sui in old China.
The Empress wanted two countries to help each other.
So Imoko took a letter to Emperor Yang.
In the seventh century, travelling by boat across the sea was very dangerous.
There were no good masts.
The boats were not made for long trips and the sailors often became lost if they could not see land.
A trip to Sui was even more dangerous.
Because you had to go near the powerful kingdom of Baekje.
Today that is part of Korea.
It took Imoko and his people three months to arrive in Sui.
In Sui, Imoko met Emperor Yang and gave him a letter.
The Emperor became angry when he read it.
Emperor Yang thought Japan was weaker than his country.
But the letter sounded like a letter from one powerful leader to an equally powerful leader.
Emperor Yang was angry.
But he did not hurt Imoko.
He sent Imoko and his own messengers back to Japan with a letter for Empress Suiko.
After returning to Japan, Imoko told Empress Suiko.
“The letter from Emperor Yang was stolen”
As a diplomat, this was a terrible mistake.
But Imoko did not lose his job.
Empress Suiko said it was alright.
Imoko even went to Sui again when Emperor Yang’s messengers returned home.
So why didn’t Imoko lose his job?
Some people say that the letter from Emperor Young did not say nice things about Empress Suiko.
hit hid the letter to protect her.
Maybe the Empless and Shotoku Taishi secretly knew about this.
There is not much information about Imoko after his second trip to China.
All we know is that he got a very high level job and that his son also became important.
It was very dangerous for Imoko to travel to China twice.
But he was not only brave.
He was also a quick thinker.
That’s how he got Japan and China to help each other.
Japan was very lucky to have him as its first diplomat.