The hereditary lands of the Yamato clan are on a peninsula on the southwest coast of Ise Bay. This bay is located on the main island of Honshu, southwest of modern Tokyo.
Prior to the late seventh century CE, there was no permanent capital of Japan. Each ruler governed from their own palace, which was usually abandoned following their death. As the Yamato began to adopt the Chinese system of governmental bureaucracy and organization, the need for a permanent seat of government arose. The first capital was founded at Fujiwara in 694 CE and served three emperors before being abandoned in 710. The second capital of this period was built at Heijo (west of modern Nara) and occupied from 710 to 784.
rise to power
Chinese documents from the second century CE refer to 100 countries existing in Wa, the Chinese name for Japan. By the third century the Chinese refer to a queen of Wa, probably of the Yamato clan, who had consolidated 30 countries under her rule. During this period, the Yamato clan consolidated its control over most of Japan with a combination of military conquest, intermarriage, and diplomacy.
religion and culture
During the Yamato period, tribal states of various sizes and power were brought together gradually by a dynasty of Yamato clan rulers. The leader of the Yamato in the second half of this period was known as the Daiõ, or Great King. The power of the Yamato was expanded and strengthened through blood ties within the clan, their apparent military supremacy, diplomacy, and manipulation of the sun myth that bestowed divinity on their ancestry. The different tribal groups or clans were the nobility or uji class. Serving the uji was an occupational/professional class called the be, who worked as farmers, scribes, traders, and manufacturers. The lowest class was slaves. Immigrants fit in among both the uji and be, depending on their skills and wealth. In the seventh century, the Yamato transformed the government of Japan based on influences from China. The Yamato sovereign became an imperial ruler supported by court and administrative officials. The uji class was stripped of land and military power, but given official posts and stipends. This political system remained in effect until around 1200 CE.
Based on the large numbers of warrior figures, weapons, and pieces of armor found in burial tombs from this era, warfare was apparently a common feature of Yamato culture. Despite the existence of a dominant ruler, clan groups found reason for conflict. All adult men were available for military service and were required to serve for at least one year. The uji class provided the elite troops and officers for armies. Warrior figures from tombs are shown wearing full body armor and helmets fitted with visors. The most commonly found weapons are swords, spears, and bow quivers. Horse figures are also found in abundance, suggesting the existence of cavalry. The sudden appearance of horses in burial goods around the fifth century CE has led to the hypothesis that a cavalry army invaded Japan at that time. It is more probable that the horse was an import that became a status symbol for the elite who were most likely to receive a ceremonial burial. The elite uji class made up the cavalry of the period because they could afford the horse and equipment.