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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Tribute bearing envoys arrived at intervals from Koma


Things

remained thus for nine years. Tribute-bearing envoys arrived at intervals from Koma, but with Shiragi there was no communication. At last, in 571, an official was sent to demand from Shiragi an explanation of the reasons for the destruction of Mimana. The intention may have been to follow up this formality with the despatch of an effective force, but within a month the Emperor Kimmei died. On his death-bed he is said to have taken the Prince Imperial--Bidatsu--by the hand and said: "That which comes after devolves on thee. Thou must make war on Shiragi and establish Mimana as a feudal dependency, renewing a relationship like that of husband and wife, just as it was in former days. If this be done, in my grave I shall rest content."

Twelve years passed before Bidatsu took any step to comply with this dying injunction. During that long interval there were repeated envoys from Koma, now a comparatively feeble principality, and Shiragi made three unsuccessful overtures to renew amicable relations. At length, in 583, the Emperor announced his intention of carrying out the last testament of his predecessor. To that end his Majesty desired to consult with a Japanese, Nichira, who had served for many years at the Kudara Court and was thoroughly familiar with the conditions existing in Korea. Nichira came to Japan, but the annals indicate that his counsels were directed wholly against Kudara, which was ostensibly on the friendliest terms with Japan, and

not at all against Shiragi, whose punishment was alone in question. Besides, instead of advising an appeal to arms, he urged the necessity of developing Japan's material resources, so that her neighbours might learn to count her formidable and her people might acquire ardour in her cause. Whether the wisdom of this advice appealed to Bidatsu, or whether the disputes consequent upon the introduction of Buddhism paralyzed his capacity for oversea enterprise, he made no further attempt to resolve the Korean problem.

In the year 591, the ill-fated Emperor Sushun conceived the idea of sending a large army to re-establish his country's prestige in the peninsula, but his own assassination intervened, and for the space of nine years the subject was not publicly revived. Then, in 600, the Empress Suiko being on the throne, a unique opportunity presented itself. War broke out between Shiragi and Mimana. The Yamato Court at once despatched a force of ten thousand men to Mimana's aid, and Shiragi, having suffered a signal defeat, made act of abject submission, restoring to Mimana six of its original provinces and promising solemnly to abstain from future hostilities. The Japanese committed the error of crediting Shiragi's sincerity. They withdrew their forces, but no sooner had their ships passed below the horizon than Shiragi once more invaded Mimana. It seemed at this juncture as though the stars in their courses fought against Japan. Something, indeed, must be ascribed to her own methods of warfare which appear to have been overmerciful for the age. Thus, with the bitter experience of Shiragi's treachery fresh in her recollection, she did not execute a Shiragi spy seized in Tsushima, but merely banished him to the province of Kozuke. Still, she must be said to have been the victim of special ill-fortune when an army of twenty-five thousand men, assembled in Tsukushi for the invasion of Shiragi, was twice prevented from sailing by unforseeable causes, one being the death of Prince Kume, its commander-in-chief; the other, the death of the consort of his successor, Prince Taema.*

*Early Japanese history furnishes several examples showing that wives often accompanied their husbands on campaigns.

These things happened in the year 603, and for the next five years all relations with Korea seem to have been severed. Then (608) a brief paragraph in the Chronicles records that "many persons from Shiragi came to settle in Japan." It is certainly eloquent of the Yamato Court's magnanimity that it should have welcomed immigrants from a country with which it was virtually at war. Two years later (610), Shiragi and Mimana, acting in concert, sent envoys who were received with all the pomp and ceremony prescribed by Shotoku Taishi's code of decorum. Apparently this embassy was allowed to serve as a renewal of friendly relations, but it is not on record that the subject of former dispute was alluded to in any way, nor was the old-time habit of annual tribute-bearing envoys revived. Visitors from Korea were, indeed, few and far-between, as when, in 616, Shiragi sent a golden image of Buddha, two feet high, whose effulgence worked wonders; or in 618, when an envoy from Korea conveyed the important tidings that the invasion of the peninsula by the Sui sovereign, Yang, at the head of three hundred thousand men, had been beaten back. This envoy carried to Yamato presents in the form of two captive Chinese, a camel, and a number of flutes, cross-bows, and catapults (of which instruments of war mention is thus made for the first time in Japanese history).


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