***** Location: Japan
***** Season: Non-seasonal Topic
***** Category: Earth


Yamato (大和)
was originally the area around today's Sakurai City in Nara Prefecture of Japan. Later the term was used as the name of the province and also as an ancient name of Japan. The term was semantically
extended to mean “Japan” or “Japanese” in general,
and carries many of the same connotations as Americana does for the United States.

Yamato Province (大和国, Yamato no Kuni)
was a province of Japan, located in Kinai, corresponding to present-day Nara Prefecture in Honshū.
It was also called Washū (和州). At first, the name was written with one different character (大倭; cf. Names of Japan), and for about ten years after 737, this was revised to use more desirable characters (大養徳). The final revision was made in the second year of the Tenpyō-hōji era (c. 758). It is classified as a great province in the Engishiki.

The name Yamato derives from the Yamato people; the Yamato Period in the history of Japan refers to the late Kofun Period (c. 250–538) and Asuka Period (538–710). Japanese archaeologists and historians emphasize the fact that during the early Kofun Period the Yamato chieftainship was in close contention with other regional powers, such as Kibi Province near present-day Okayama Prefecture. Around the 6th century, the local chieftainship gained national control and established the Imperial court in Yamato Province.

The provincial capital was Wakigami in Katsujō District (modern northeastern Gose), but accompanying the Heijō-kyō capital transfer, it was moved to Takaichi District (Jōroku in modern Kashihara, where the Ōgaru and Ishikawa towns meet, called Karu no Chimata). Where exactly the capital was is guessed at by various sources, but not known for sure. There was no shugo's mansion; the Kōfuku-ji played that role.
The primary shrine was Sakurai’s Ōmiwa Shrine.
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Yamatoni, Yamato-ni 大和煮
simmering meat of wild animals

Worldwide use

Things found on the way


hibari naku toori ni miyuru yamato kana

Yamato looks
just as the skylark
sings it

Tr. Chris Drake

This hokku was written on 2/14 (March 25) in 1804, when Issa was in or near Edo. The hokku does not seem especially patriotic, and there is no hint of nationalism or jingoism in it. Rather, the hokku uses synesthesia to exclaim at how beautiful the Japanese landscape looks on one spring day. A lark, obviously taken with something, has been singing on and on, and Issa says the land looks exactly the way the lark's song sounds.

In the previous year Issa had begun to seriously study the Chinese classics, especially the Book of Poems and the Book of Changes, and he also studied various Japanese classics. Yamato was the ancient name for Japan, but in Issa's time it was first of all the name of the province south of Kyoto in which the old the imperial capital of Nara was located. Among literate people in Issa's time Yamato was also used as an ordinary name for Japan as a whole country. Only later, when used by proponents of emperor-worship, would it become a nationalistic name for Japan. Using the word Yamato is in Issa's time is a bit like Blake writing about Albion.

For Issa Yamato seems to be a slightly idealistic vision from the past of all the Japanese islands as one land, a vision that transcends the real Japan under the shogunate -- a land divided up into a patchwork of many small domains ruled by local daimyo lords loosely subordinate to the shogunate in Edo. The shogunate and its samurai allies wanted to keep Japan divided into numerous semi-feudal domains, while commoners and some farmers and non-establishment samurai were beginning to see visions of a more unified land. This does not mean Issa was a nationalist. He was simply dissatisfied with shogunal and samurai rule that relied on divide-and-conquer tactics, and the lark in his hokku flies and sings freely, ignoring all the laws against free speech and the feudalistic boundaries that have been erected all over the country.

Issa has some hokku on "the emperor's realm" (kimi ga yo), but they mean little more than "Japan at peace," and his few poems about Nippon are not about Japan as a nation superior to other nations. He has a handful of hokku about "great Nippon" (dai-nippon), but he uses "great" either in the sense of having a large land area or in the sense of "How wonderful Japan is" on special occasions, as when the cherries are in full bloom.

Chris Drake

. Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 Issa in Edo .


jaki ga fumu Yamato bonchi no atsusa kana

as if the demons
tread on the Yamado plains -
this heat

Kadokawa Haruki 角川春樹 (1942 - )


kumori nochi sakura chiri-yuku Yamato kana

cloudy and later
cherry blossoms fall ...
Yamato province

Ooya Tatsuji 大屋達治 (1952 - )


tsuyu akete Yamato-Aogaki iribi-doki

end of the rainy season -
during sunset time

Hottta Tomoe 堀田知永

Yamato-Aogaki is a quasi national park
大和青垣国定公園(やまとあおがきこくていこうえん)in Nara prefecture.

Related words

***** Placenames used in haiku



Anonymous said...

Gabi san,
Thank you for your info about Yamato-aogaki.

Gabi Greve - Buson said...

Yosa Buson

yamatoji no miya mo waraya mo tsubame kana

Along Yamato's roads
on shrines and on straw-thatched roofs
the swallows!

about Buson visiting shrines