Mimana Nihon-fu (Japanese government in Mimana) (任那日本府)

Mimana Nihon-fu or Yamato no Mikotomochi is the governing institution of Wakoku (Japan) which is said to have been located in Mimana in the southern area of the Korean Peninsula in ancient times. There are various theories about its actual status and discussions still continue to this day.


It is almost presumed from historical facts that some sort of group deeply related to Wakoku (such as government officials and military men dispatched by Wakoku or local powerful clans who served Wakoku) possessed certain military clout and economic interest in Gaya region (another name of Mimana); Wakoku's advance to the Korean Peninsula is recorded in history books of China and Korea as well as "Nihonshoki" (Chronicles of Japan); "Gwanggaeto Stele" tells that Wakoku subjugated Silla and Baekje; large keyhole-shaped tomb mounds, which are peculiar to the Japanese archipelago, are starting to be discovered in the Korean Peninsula; a massive amount of Japanese jade magadama (comma-shaped beads) have been excavated in the influence area of Silla, Baekje and Gaya (rare in the former territory of Goguryeo). But there is not yet an unified view whether Wakoku controlled the area by civilian rule.

The name of Mimana Nihon-fu came into use in later years after the country was officially named Nihon (Japan), but when it was actually existed, it was called Wafu (Wakoku government).

Before the World War II

Before the World War II, the study of Goya region in Japan stood on the premise that Mimana Nihon-fu, which appears in "Nihonshoki", was the regional office established by Wakoku (Yamato Administration) to govern the southern area of the Korean Peninsula, which would justify Japan's annexation policy. Japanese archaeological study also failed in the first place to completely get rid of the inclination to rationalize the existence of Mimana Nihon-fu in accordance with such interpretaion, partly because Koreans were prohibited from participating in the study. Such interpretation can be seen in the studies by Michiyo NAKA and Masatomo KAN in the Meiji period, followed by Sokichi TSUDA and it was perfected in "History of the Rise and Fall of Mimana" by Yasukazu SUEMATSU after the war.

The scholars of this period sought the origin of Mimana Nihon-fu in 'miyake' (Imperial-controlled territory) which is recorded in the Jingu section of "Nihonshoki" and believed that Mimana Nihon-fu politically and militarily ruled the Gaya region, which was also called Mimana region. In order to make historical ends meet, the dispatch of troops to the Korean Peninsula, which led to the legend of sankan-seibatsu (the conquest of three countries in old Korea), was said to have taken place in the mid fourth century (presumably in 369, calculated by adding two rounds of the Oriental zodiac [120 years] to the year of 249 as stated in Nihonshoki) and this area was considered as the directly controlled land of the king of Wa (Japan) ever since. In addition, Mimana Nihon-fu was thought to have been created as a mere temporary military base and eventually promoted to a permanent institution. After that, Goguryeo began to invade Silla and the northern part of Baekje, so Baekje praised the great achievement of the official of Mimana Nihon-fu in order to ask Yamato for reinforcement. In 554, Baekje lost to Goguryeo and King Seong was killed and the whole Mimana was seized by Silla, which meant the fall of Mimana Nihon-fu in 562.

After the war

After the World War II, the studies strongly attempted to deny the existence of a regional office of Japan in the Korean Peninsula on the rebound because the above-mentioned theory was thought to have been born under the strong influence of Kokoku Shikan (emperor-centered historiography which is based on state Shinto). Furthermore, due to the influence of nationalism which spread in the Korean Peninsula from the 1960s, researchers, especially those in the Korean Peninsula, insisted that the records in Kiki (Kojiki [A Record of Ancient Matter] and Nihonshoki), which say that Yamato Dynasty directly controlled the Mimana, were exaggerated.

After the 1970s

After the 1970s, the excavation and research of the former Gaya region in the Nakdong River basin made a remarkable progress, and discussions free from politically-biased interpretations came to prosper at the same time as more materials were discovered for the study of Gaya history, which was little documented. The argument and consideration in Japan at the time were led by "Mimana Nihon-fu to Wa" (Japanese Mimana Government and Japan) by Hideo INOUE.

According to Inoue, the name of Mimana Nihon-fu can be found in "History of Baekje," which is quoted in "Nihonshoki," and although the name of 'Wa' (倭) originally meant the various districts in the southern area of the Korean Peninsula as mentioned in the account of Korea in "Records of Wei" ("Sangokushi" [Three Kingdoms Saga]), Baekje in the end of sixth century used the word as if it was related to the government of wajin (倭人, people of Wakoku) in the Japanese archipelago, trying to win their favor and support in order to compete with Goguryeo and Silla, which unintendedly gives the impression that the power of Yamato sovereignty extended to the southern area of the Korean Peninsula early on. And he also says that it can be read from the actual description in "History of Baekje" that Mimana Nihon-fu had nothing to do with the Yamato sovereignty (=> Inoue 2004 pp.106-107.). That is to say that Wa is another name of Gaya. This theory is called fiction theory, which claims that a mere combination of chiefs in the Gaya Province was named Mimana Nihon-fu by the later generations.

In contrast, Akira YOSHIDA claimed that the true status of Mimana Nihon-fu was a committee established to gain access to the advanced culture of the Peninsula and consisted of Kyo (lords) dispatched from Wa, local kings, powerful families and government officials, including Han gie who was the monarch of the countries of Mimana, paramount chiefs of Dae Gaya, sub Han gie of Alla and Tara.

There is also a theory proposed by Yoshitane SAKAMOTO, Yukihisa YAMAO and others, which treated Nihon Mimana-fu as a military institution, because King Bu of Wakoku in the fifth century was awarded by the Chinese dynasty the title of King of Wa, as well as a military rank and position for six countries including Silla, Mimana and Kara, which meant that he was not recognized as a monarch but as a mere military official outside his home, the Japanese archipelago.

Other major theories in the 1970s and 80s regarded Mimana Nihon-fu as just an envoy from Wakoku (Masayuki UKEDA), or as a diplomatic institution for Wakoku established by the combination of chiefs of Gaya region (Hisashi OKUDA), or as a governing institution for Gaya region set up by Baekje, which employed Japanese officials and troops there (Kim Hyun-koo).

Since the 1990s

From the 1990s, the study of Gaya targeted not only the relationship between Wa and Geumgwan Gaya or Mimana Gaya (in Gimhae District) as in the past, but also the history of Gaya itself, which centered Dae Gaya in Goryeong region, inspired by the concept of Dae Gaya confederacy proposed by Toshiaki TANAKA (Korean history) who supported Inoue's theory. And, from the late 1990s, studies of Tokujun (卓淳, in Changwon), Alla (in Haman) and other regions were promoted mainly from the archeological aspect and since the Songhakdong No. 1 tomb in Gyeongsangnam-do (66 meters in length) was announced as a large keyhole-shaped tomb mound in 1983, the same type of tombs have been unearthed one after another in the southwest part of the Korean Peninsula, totaling eleven in South Jeolla Province and two in North Jeolla Province so far. All the large keyhole-shaped tomb mounds found in the Korean Peninsula were built in a very limited period of time between the late fifth century and mid sixth century, only in the area that used to be the westernmost part of Gaya's sphere of influence before Baekje moved to the south, and they are known for containing Japanese relics, such as ento haniwa (cylindrical haniwa), shell products made in south islands, and an rock chamber painted with bengara (iron oxide red pigment).

A series of arguments and considerations admitting the collective habitation of Wajin in certain areas within the spheres of influence of Silla, Baekje and Mimana appeared in light of the Korean media reports and the fact that the massive jade magadama found in the area (rare in the former territory of Goguryeo) had been identified as the products of the neighboring area of Itoi-gawa River.

Takashi YOSHIDA claims that 'Mimana' was a combination of small countries led by Mimana Gaya (Geumgwan Gaya) which cooperated with Baekje and Wa to counter Goguryeo and Silla, and thus a political concept which does not necessarily corresponds to Gaya region, and Mimana, trying to use Wakoku's military power to expand its territory, led Wakoku into establishing a diplomatic institution mainly in charge of military affairs, which was later called 'Mimana Nihon-fu'; the four prefectures of Mimana that Wakoku ceded to Baekje were the area where Wajin had immigrated. According to Yoshida, the military institution was transferred to Alla after the fall of Mimana Gaya (Geumgwan Gaya) in 532, but it lost its base when Dae Gaya collapsed in 562 (=>Yoshida 1997 pp.74-78.). Yoshida acknowledges that Mimana Nihon-fu in the fourth century was a military diplomatic institution though the leadership was held by Geumgwan Gaya, and by admitting this theory once denied, he draws a sharp contrast with other researchers.

Kiyoaki KITO says in "Kaya wa naze horonda ka" (Why Gaya Collapsed) that a ruling family of Alla called itself Wafu and engaged itself considerably in the political decision making of Gaya region and Baekje, but denies its role as an institution to collect contributions or to directly rule the area.

Kimiyuki MORI points out that the followings can be said as far as carefully reading "Nihonshoki" (refer to Mori 1998 pp.66-68.).

No reliable historical materials were created until the sixth century.

It was located in Alla.

Its formal name was Ara ni Haberu Moromoro no Yamato no Maetsukimi (Yamato retainers in Alla).

It consisted of the powerful families from the capital of Wa, the families from rural areas of Wa, including Kibi no omi, and Gaya people who handled the actual management.

It only had a poor relationship with the mainland Wa.

It stood on an equal footing with Gaya countries and pursued diplomatic negotiations in corperation with them.

As above mentioned, the subject of recent discussion on Mimana Nihon-fu is shifting from the presence or absence of the military clout and economic interest of Wajin, to its period of existence and the actual status of the organization. Some South Korean archaeologists now sharply criticize conventional theories by Korean researchers strongly affected by nationalism and they point out that the interaction between the Korean Peninsula and the Japanese archipelago at the time was extremely inseparable.

[Original Japanese]