Kurikuma no Okimi (栗隈王)

The Kurikuma no Okimi (year of birth unknown - July, 676) was a member of the Japanese Imperial Family in the Asuka period. His name is written two ways in Kanji characters; 栗隈王 or 栗前王. 栗隈王 and 栗前王 are both pronounced 'Kurikuma no Ohokimi' in old Japanese syllabary characters. He was the grandson (or the great-grandson) of the Emperor Bidatsu, the son (or the grandson) of the Prince Naniwa and the father of Minu no Okimi. Kurikuma no Okimi was the founder of the Tachibana clan. Kurikuma no Okimi, as Tsukushi no Sotsu (Tsukushi no Omikotomochi no Tsukasa; the head of Dazai-fu [local government office in Kyushu region]), welcomed and entertained the envoys from Tang (ancient Chinese dynasty) and Shiragi (Silla, ancient kingdom in Korea). He took a neutral stance as giving the priority to the maintenance of the defense system in Dazai-fu when Jinshin War broke out in 672. He was appointed to Heiseikan Cho (Minister of War) in 675. The Junii (Junior Second Rank) was posthumously conferred on Kurikuma no Okimi.

Tsukushi no Omikotomochi no Tsukasa, Tsukushi no Kami, or Tsukushi no Sotsu

According to "Nihonshoki" (Chronicles of Japan), Kurikuma no Okimi (栗前王) was appointed to Tsukushi no Kami in August 668, SOGA no Akae to the same rank in February 669, and Kurikuma no Okimi (栗隈王) to Tsukushi no Sotsu in June 671. 栗前王 and 栗隈王 are considered to be the same person. There is a view that the articles regarding the appointment in 668 and 671 are the same, but the second one was written again in another year. He had been serving as Tsukushi no Omikotomochi no Tsukasa in Tsukushi when the Jinshin War broke out. 筑紫率 (Tsukushi no kami), 筑紫帥 (Tsukushi no Sotsu), and 筑紫大宰 (Tsukushi no Omikotomochi no Tsukasa) all refer to the same governmental post written in different Japanese Kanji characters.

Japan, at that time, abandoned its ambition to invade Korean Peninsula after the loss of the Battle of Hakusukinoe. However, Shiragi and Tang (Dynasty) were still at war in the Peninsula. After the coalition troops of Tang and Shiragi conquered Kudara (Baekje) and Kokuri (Goguryeo) which were ancient kingdoms in Korea, Tang supported the restoration movement of Kudara which was then ruled by Shiragi, and Shiragi supported the movement in Tang-ruling Kokuri. Each ruler sent its envoy to Japan to establish diplomatic relations. Therefore, the Tsukushi no Sotsu played a significant role in military affairs and diplomacy.

In July 671, Shiragi started the preliminary research to build diplomatic relations with Japan, the Tang envoy Rishushin and the Kudara envoy returned to their countries in August, and the Shiragi envoy, Komumanmotsu restarted his research in November, leaving Japan on January 24, 672. In December, the envoys of Tang, Kakumuso and Kudara, Sonto announced their will to visit Japan with 2,000-member diplomatic mission, through the Japanese bureau in Tsushima. After the demise of the Emperor Tenchi on January 10, 672, the Crown Prince, the Prince Otomo (the Emperor Kobun) led the Imperial Court. On May 3, 672, the Kokuri envoy, Fukaben carried out their research, while Kakumuso left Japan on May 5. These dates were presumably recorded by Omi no miya, then Japanese central government, so there should be some discrepancies between the historical record and what Kurikuma no Okimi experienced in Tsukushi, far away from Omi no miya. At that time, the mutual visits of those envoys between Japan and foreign countries were much more frequent compared to other periods.

Jinshin War

Jinshin War continued for one month from June to July. After the outbreak of Jinshin War, the Imperial Court in Omi no miya ordered Tsukushi no Omikotomochi no Tsukasa to send troops through an emissary. The Prince Otomo (the Emperor Kobun) told the emissary to kill Kurikuma no Okimi if he showed any signs of refusal, because the prince was skeptical about Kurikuma no Okimi's loyalty as he used to serve the Prince Oama (the Emperor Tenmu), the enemy of the prince.

Kurikuma no Okimi declined the dispatch of troops as to maintain the defense system against foreign countries when he received Fu (mandate) from the emissary.
The modern translation of Nihonshoki (Chronicles of Japan) contains the words of Kurikuma no Okimi as follows:
Tsukushi Province has always been prepared for the rebels around the border.'
We are serving as coast guards with tall ramparts and deep trenches, but not to deal with the internal insurgence.'
If we followed the order respectfully and dispatch troops now, the province would be defenseless in security.'
Under such circumstances, an outbreak of any revolts could lead the country to immediate crisis.'
After that, how can I find any meanings in killing retainers again and again?'
I do not intend to disobey.'
This is the reason why I do not send my troops.'

Saeki no Otoko, the emissary, followed the Prince Otomo's order and tried to take step forward to kill Kurikuma no Okimi with his sword. However, Minu no Okimi and Takeie no Okimi, the two sons of Kurikuma no Okimi were standing close to their father with their swords ready to fight back, so Saeki gave up his plot for fear of being defeated.

Appointment of Heiseikan Cho and the death of Kurikuma no Okimi

On April 19, 675, Kurikuma no Okimi, Shoo Shii (princes without imperial proclamation but had Forth Court Rank), was appointed to Heiseikan Cho, and OTOMO no Miyuki to Taifu (vice-minister).

He died of illness in July 676, his rank being Shii (Forth Court Rank). According to "Shoku Nihongi"(Chronicle of Japan Continued) and "Shinsen Shojiroku" (Newly Compiled Register of Clan Names and Titles of Nobility), he was posthumously conferred Junii (Junior Second Rank). There is an opinion that Kurikuma no Okimi was a prince of the Prince Naniwa, which is based on the description in "Shinsen Shojiroku" (New Selection and Record of Hereditary Titles and Family Names), but considering the long gap (about 80 years) between their active periods, some are dubious about their relation as a father and a son. In this case, 'Omata no Miko' can be added as one generation between the Prince Naniwa and Kurikuma no Okimi according to the descriptions in "Kugyobunin" (directory of court nobles) and "Sonpibunmyaku" (a text compiled in the fourteenth century that records the lineages of the aristocracy).

Legend etc.

In Nagasaki Prefecture, there is a folk tale that Kappa (water imps) adore Shinto priests who are the descendants of Kurikuma no Okimi, as Kurikuma no Okimi was thought to be the chief of creatures living in the water in Japan.


A novelist Motohiko IZAWA explains his idea in his book 'Paradox of Japanese History' saying that Kurikuma no Okimi was an accomplice in the assassination of the Emperor Tenchi which was mainly plotted by the Emperor Tenmu, but he has not received any academic approval.

[Original Japanese]