Yamato race (大和民族)

The Yamato race is the race that has been living since ancient times in the Japanese Islands including Japan's mainland (Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu) and the other islands around them. This includes the descendants of those who migrated from Honshu to Ryukyu (now Okinawa Prefecture) and Ezochi (inhabited area of Ainu, now Hokkaido) between the late medieval period and the modern age.


The Yamato race consists of people living in the Japanese archipelago, where the race was formed as the Yamato sovereignty (the ancient Japan sovereignty), composed mainly of people living in the Japanese archipelago since the end of the Jomon Period (Jomon man) and people from the Eurasian Continent (Yayoi people) between the late Jomon period and the Yayoi period, controlling various groups of people which had spread across the Japanese archipelago and assimilating them. However, the process of the establishment of Yamato sovereignty, which is thought to be a coalition government of Yamato tribes, is not clear and there are many mysteries remaining.

It is also called the Japanese race or Wajin (a Japanese: a person whose origin is the Japanese mainland). It was also called Tenson minzoku before the war. In daily conversation, the term "Japanese" (which has an ambiguous meaning) is used, rather than "Yamato race."

Based on anthropological classification done in the Meiji period, Shogoro TSUBOI asserted that the Yamato race was an aggregation which did not include the Korobokkuru, which was prehistorical aborigines, the Ainu tribe (and Sakhalin Ainu), Ryukyu people, Korean people, the Han race of Taiwan, the aborigines in Taiwan and others. However, that theory was refuted by hired foreign scholars (specialists hired for their knowledge) who revealed the classifications of the Choshu lineage and Sasshu lineage. This generated the multiple structure theory of the Yamato race.

According to recent mitochondrial DNA research, both the Jomon people and Yayoi people have DNA resembling that of the people of North East Asia (China, Siberia, Buryat and Korean), casting doubt on the multiple structure theory of Kazuro HANIWARA, which purported the Jomon people to be a southern lineage and Yayoi people a northern lineage, though it confirms the multiple structure theory of the Japanese race itself. On the other hand, the research findings concluded that the Japanese race is comparatively genetically unified, having little variation from Hokkaido to Okinawa.

The original meaning came from the Yamato sovereignty (the ancient Japan sovereignty), which was formed mainly by powerful clans in the Kinki region in the Kofun period (tumulus period). This is because the uniformity as a race came via political integration by Yamato sovereignty. In general, political integration is not a result of racial homogeneity but a cause.

The opinion was put forth by folklorist Tsuneichi MIYAMOTO and historian Yoshihiko AMINO that the races of eastern Japan and of western Japan are different, emphasizing cultural contrasts; however, this is not the conventional opinion because the people of the two regions are rarely thought to be different races in the modern age. The Yamato race is classified as an agricultural people or a maritime people, as they live in an island country.


The Yamato race is the major race in Japan, living mainly in the Japanese archipelago which forms the country.

They also live as immigrants of Japanese descent in countries around the world such as Latin America including Brazil, Asia, Europe and the United States; however, Japanese immigrants are relatively few in number compared to neighboring races such as the Han race and Korean race. They currently live in their respective countries as minority races such as Japanese Brazilians and Japanese Americans.

In the Imperial Japanese period, they occupied Taiwan and the Korean Peninsula, moving into the countries of Asia and the South Seas, expanding their range of distribution and establishing a standardized social foundation; however, they returned to Japan's mainland as Japan's sovereign power was lost when the Pacific War (The Greater East Asian War) ended.

However, there were people who didn't return and remained where they were, regardless of their own wishes, due to the chaos of the end of the war. Some of them became Japanese left behind in China, while others joined the Indonesian war of independence, though most of them are aging now.

There still exist communities of Japanese left behind in the places Japan occupied before the war, such as the Republic of Palau, in which the South Pacific Mandate was built, and Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk (former Toyohara) in Sakhalin.


They have spoken Japanese since the Nara era. Almost all people of the Yamato race speak Japanese or Japanese sign language as their mother tongue. As speaking only Japanese presents no inconvenience to people who live in Japan, there are few people who speak foreign languages.

Chinese had a great effect on the Japanese language in terms of vocabulary, as many words were taken from Chinese. Though not to the extent it had on vocabulary, it also had considerable effects in terms of phonology, such as contracted sounds or palatised sounds, the sound of the words beginning with r, the voicing of initial consonants, and allowance of hiatus (consecutive) vowels.

As for dialects, due to the geographical constraints of the Japanese archipelago, which stretches east to west (consisting mainly of Honshu, Kyushu, Shikoku and nearby islands), there were enough differences that those who lived in the east and the west had difficulty communicating before modern times, though the differences were only in phonemes and vocabulary; there was not much difference grammatically. Those who speak in different dialects have no trouble communicating today, thanks to the popularization of the standard dialect.

As for the orthographic system of Japanese, the original characters used before the arrival of kanji (Chinese characters) have not yet been discovered. The theory has it that there were ancient Japanese characters before the influx of kanji (Chinese characters), though there is no evidence for this. There was a case in which earthware with a pattern engraved on it which could be pictographic was found; however, there is not enough regularity to call it a character due to the lack of other excavated examples.

After the introduction of kanji (Chinese characters), it was used for writing, while hiragana (Japanese syllabary characters) and katakana (another Japanese syllabary), which are two sets of phonograms based on kanji, were established later. This made it possible to write Japanese, which had hitherto been written only in kanji (Chinese characters) or Manyo-gana (a form of syllabary used in the Manyo-shu or Collection of Myriad Leaves), as it actually was, leading to the emergence and evolution of Japanese literature. In medieval times, a mixture of Japanese and Chinese writing, which became the basis of today's written Japanese language, was established, giving Japanese flexible powers of expression with its mix of kango (words of Chinese origin) and Wago (words of Japanese origin).

Japanese has a complicated orthographic system, though the literacy rate of the Japanese people is very high in modern times. In modern times, the Yamato race has such a high literacy rate on a global basis that a foreigner who came to Japan in the Edo period reported that he was surprised that the Yamato people were able to read regardless of their status or sex.

In the present day, latin characters are often used as abbreviations for the names of companies or words other than kanji (Chinese characters) and kana (the Japanese syllabary). Arabic numerals as well as Chinese characters are used to write numbers.


In ancient times, conventional Koshinto (as practiced prior to the introduction of Confucianism and Buddhism to Japan) was followed, with the Shinto religion, which is a developed form of Koshinto, becoming the main religion later. In many cases, Japanese Buddhism is also practiced at the same time, and Ju-kyo (Confucianism) has a great influence as well. A standardized system of folk culture was built around a combination of both traditions. The style of their religion is not based on monotheistic theories of salvation but instead on moderate custom, and there are many people who don't regard themselves as 'devotees'. However, original beliefs which differ from those of other religions are seen in a broader sense in ceremonial occasions and annual events. Their difficulty of accepting organ transplantation is sometimes claimed to be representative of their peculiar culture, however, many countries actually struggled to introduce organ transplantation for bioethical reasons. This is merely a prejudice based on the ignorance of different cultures such as Christian nations and Islamic nations.


The Yamato race assimilated the cultures of other races and developed them based on their original culture.

The nearby nation of China, prominent from ancient to modern times, had a particularly great effect on literature, language and religion, many aspects of which came from Chinese culture. The Yamato race learned the advanced arts and culture of the Chinese continent by dispatching Japanese envoys to Sui Dynasty and Tang Dynasty China. They also accepted many toraijin (settlers) who came by sea from the continent. On the other hand, the Yamato race could originally afford to assimilate foreign cultures (especially that of China), having had no experience of being controlled directly by China unlike other nations under the Chinese sphere of influence, such as the Korean Peninsula and Vietnam. Japanese culture began to be created as foreign cultures and Japanese original culture merged.

After the Meiji period, there was assimilation of Western Civilization, being influenced by powerful countries in Europe and America. Various western customs came into Japan due to the Meiji restoration, but this civilization and enlightenment developed in its own way, having changed by assimilating with Japanese custom, like Chinese culture had in the past. The idea of Japanese culture being old-fashioned was born due to the theory of Europeanization, jeopardizing Japanese traditional culture. It was not only worship of foreign countries but also an agonizing decision to raise Japan's international status, which was extremely low at that time. For example, the reasoning and process behind the construction of the Rokumeikan (Deer-cry Hall) shows the complicated emotions of the Japanese in relation to European and American civilization. Moreover, there were people who kept Japanese traditional culture alive while Europeanization went on; some people wore both kimono and Western clothes and others only kimono. It was also unusual for Japanese women to wear Western clothes.

Japanese culture succeeded in modernizing first among the nations not included in the European and American bloc (the Western bloc), solidifying its status as a powerful country and attracting the attention of Europe and America. Traditional Ukiyoe (Japanese woodblock prints) and Japanese architecture built with artisans' sophisticated skills made a deep impression on many authorities in the fields in Europe and America, creating a kind of boom called Japonism. Uniquely Japanese culture and cuisine are still highly appreciated today.

After the war, not only traditional culture but also modern cultural industries such as animation, Japanese Manga (cartoons) and otaku ("nerd" culture) are increasingly popular in the West and various parts of Asia.



Tools made of stone used when the Japanese archipelago was still connected to the Eurasian Continent by land were unearthed, indicating human beings were present 30,000 years ago. Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis are among the human beings from that era. However, human fossils from that era have not yet been discovered because the Japanese archipelago is covered with volcanic ash and has acidic soil due to its many volcanoes, which makes fossils difficult to retain.

Based on the results of DNA studies on the bones of Jomon man, it is known today that Jomon man resembled the indigenous people of north Siberia. This is because north Siberia, Sakhalin, Hokkaido and Honshu were connected in the glacial age due to the low seawater level. In the late Jomon period and Yayoi period, people came into the Japanese archipelago by sea, assimilating with the native people there.

Recorded history

As no written characters before the introduction of kanji (Chinese characters) have been discovered, the first written history is a document about people living in the Japanese archipelago which appeared in Sengaikyo (oldest topography of China). The process which established the Yamato sovereignty (the ancient Japan sovereignty), which is likely to be a coalition government of the Yamato race, has yet to be revealed.

Expanding range of domination and setbacks

It appears Yamato sovereignty (the ancient Japan sovereignty) had dominated the region reaching the current northern part of Kyushu until around 330. However, it might not be appropriate to think that the range of the Yamato sovereignty's domain and the distribution of the Yamato race at that time were equal because the Yamato sovereignty appeared to be a coalition government of various tribes which had their own sovereignty. According to"Nihonshoki" (Chronicles of Japan), agricultural productivity and national power grew until the 5th century, at which time armies were sent to the Korean Peninsula, occupying a part of it for a while (the theory of Mimana). However, Japan's hold on the Korean Peninsula had already decreased through the late 5th to the 6th century and the Yamato sovereignty also lost their interest in the Korean Peninsula due to the Iwai War, increasing its power only within the Japanese archipelago.

There were different races such as the Hayato (an ancient tribe in Kyushu) in the south of Kyushu and the Ezo (northerners) in the north of the Japanese archipelago; however, the former was subjugated in the 8th century and the latter in the 12th century thanks to the suppression of the uprising of the Hayato people and the achievements of SAKANOUE no Tamuramaro, Seii taishogun (literally, "great general who subdues the barbarians"). Therefore, the Yamato race came to rule over an area from what is currently the Tohoku region to southern Kyushu.

During this time, there were people who came from the Eurasian Continent or the Korean Peninsula by sea, such as the Paekche people in exile due to the collapse of Kudara (Paekche) and Buddhist monks, however, they were minorities and assimilated with the Yamato race, having no effect on the predominance of the Yamato race. There were battles against foreign countries, such as the Silla invasion, soldiers of Goryeo, the Toi invasion, Mongol invasion attempts against Japan, the foreign invasion in the Oei Era and the Battle of Hakusukinoe; however, those battles also had no effect on the Yamato race's influence because in those battles they neither occupied Yamato territories nor were their territories occupied.

After the 13th century, throughout the Kamakura period, the period of the Northern and Southern Courts (Japan) and the Muromachi Period, the distribution range of the Yamato race was set back in expansion, only settling in Oshima Peninsula in Hokkaido (refer to Watari-to). However, the peculiar culture blossomed into Kokufu Bunka (indigenous Japanese culture) and many aspects of Japanese culture which still exist now come from it.

Foreign relations

In the Sengoku period, the situation changed temporarily as the Yamato race began trading with foreign countries as Japanese, being exposed to something different from their traditional values. Christianity was introduced, gathering devotees, and the newest technology, such as guns, spread around the country instantly.

They also immigrated away from Japan, building societies with a standardized basis, such as Ayutaya Japanese town in Southeast Asia. And there were people who went as far as Europe like Tsunenaga HASEKURA, however, the expansion movement to foreign countries began to decline due to the seclusion policy of Edo bakufu.

Edo period

In the Edo period, Japan was in a state of what is called national isolation, ending cultural exchanges with foreign countries except for China (Ming, Qing) and the Netherlands, establishing peace which continued for 250 years instead. During this time, society was put under the great power of Bakufu; however, a stable society was established, the economy was stimulated, the common people rose in stature, and mercantile culture bloomed.

Genroku culture and Kasei cultures were developed and most of the aspects of culture which are now appreciated as popular Japanese products abroad as well as nationally came into being. The subjugation of the Ryukyu Kingdom by Satsuma Province also took place, putting it under the virtual control of the shogunate system. The Yamato race's power also increased in Ezochi (inhabited area of Ainu), turning the southern Oshima Peninsula into part of the inland, and the whole area of Hokkaido came under the power of the Yamato race (refer to Ainu tribe and others).

To the modern state

After entering a new era with the Meiji Restoration, Japan ended its national isolation and began the era of opening the country to the world, in which Japan began relations with foreign countries positively. The Empire of Japan was established as a modern state. The empire was expanding both economically and militarily in order to oppose powerful Western countries. Meanwhile, externally, the possession of islands, such as the Ryukyu Islands, Ogasawara Islands (Bonin Islands), Kurile Islands and Sakhalin was established, nearly settling the present territory of Japan. Moreover, the empire encouraged emigration to foreign countries as a national policy, sending many immigrants to Brazil, the United States of America, Peru, Canada, Hawaii, Mexico, Argentina, Paraguay and other countries.

Japan won the Japanese-Sino War, Japanese-Russo War and the First World War, fighting against powerful countries around the world. As a result, Japan became a multiracial nation due to a rapidly expanded range of settlement over various regions of Asia and Oceania, possessing Korea, annexing the Korean Empire, building Manchukuo, and putting the South Sea Islands under mandate. Japan built the bases of a society, steadily cementing its grip while dealing with various levels of conflicts with local residents or sometimes being rebelled against. Its international status rose, obtaining a permanent seat in the League of Nations.

During this time, other races came into the Japanese archipelago from Taiwan and Korea. In World War II, Japan proposed the action of the Great East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere, marched into Southeast Asia which was the colony of powerful countries such as England and the Netherlands, cast out the Occupation Forces of Europe and America and took their places, occupying or putting under their influence almost the whole area. This situation ended when Japan was defeated in World War II. Japanese people who had migrated to various places returned to Japan as repatriates since Japan lost sovereign power in countries around the archipelago.

After the war

After World War II, Japan started out as a peaceful country and achieved economic development (Jimmu Boom and others), assimilating foreign cultures rapidly (mainly American culture) under the military protection of the U.S.A. These days, migration to foreign countries is not conducted as national policy and so is a group migration, since Japanese has become one of the world's top countries having great national powers. However, in recent years, there is a rising insistence to accept immigrants due to its aging society.