Ono no Imoko

Ono no Imoko

Ono no Imoko (小野 妹子?) was a Japanese politician and diplomat in the late 6th and early 7th century, during the Asuka period.[1]

Ono was appointed by Empress Suiko as an official envoy (Kenzuishi) to the Sui court in 607 (Imperial embassies to China), and he delivered the famous letter from Japan's Prince Shōtoku which began "The Son of Heaven where the sun rises (Japan), to the Son of Heaven where the sun sets (China), may good health be with you." Emperor Yang was angered at being addressed in this way, although it is not clear whether he was angered more by the insult of Sui being referred to as the land of the setting sun, or by the use of Son of Heaven to refer both to himself and to the emperor of what China considered to be nothing more than a relatively insignificant barbarian state to the northeast.

Nevertheless, Emperor Yang was probably more interested in obtaining Japan's support in his campaigns against Goguryeo than in matters of decorum, and despite the insult, he sent his own envoy, Pei Shiqing (裴世清), back to Japan with Ono.

Ono was then appointed envoy to Sui for a second time in the fall of 608 and accompanied Pei Shiqing on his return trip to China. Ono returned to Japan from his second mission in 609 and then largely disappeared from the historical record.

Ono no Imoko is often cited as an example of an official who achieved promotion under the new meritorious Twelve Level Cap and Rank System implemented by Prince Shōtoku in 603. When Ono first appeared in the historical record and was appointed envoy to Sui, his rank was listed as Greater Propriety (5th rank), but he was later promoted to the top rank of Greater Virtue, largely due to his successful missions to the Sui court.

Ono no Imoko's family was notable for linguistics and scholarship, and the descendants of the family include Ono no Komachi, beautiful female poet; Ono no Takamura, poet and scholar; and Ono no Michikaze, calligrapher.


  1. ^ Nussbaum, Louis-Frédéric. (2005). "Ono no Imoko" in Japan encyclopedia, p. 755 at Google Books; n.b., Louis-Frédéric is pseudonym of Louis-Frédéric Nussbaum, see Deutsche Nationalbibliothek Authority File.


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