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Yamato people (大和民族 Yamato-minzoku?) is a name for the dominant native ethnic group of Japan.

It is a term that came to be used around the late 19th century to distinguish the residents of the mainland Japan from other minority ethnic groups who have resided in the peripheral areas of Japan such as Ainu, Ryukyuans, Nivkhs, Ulta, as well as Koreans, Taiwanese, and Taiwanese aborigines who were incorporated into the Empire of Japan in the early 20th century.

The name "Yamato" comes from the Yamato Court that existed in Japan in the 4th century. It was originally the name of the region where the Yamato people first settled in Nara Prefecture.

In the 6th century, the Yamato people - one of many tribes, of various origins, who had colonized Japan in prehistory - founded a state modeled on the Chinese states of Sui and Tang, the center of Asian political influence at the time. As the Yamato influence expanded, their Old Japanese language became the common spoken language. Ryukyuan, the languages of the Ryukyu Islands, split from Old Japanese somewhere between the 3rd and 5th centuries.

There is however a controversy on whether to include the Ryukyuans in the Yamato, or identify them as an independent ethnic group, or as a sub-group that constitutes Japanese ethnicity together with the Yamato because of close similarities suggested by genetics and linguistics. Shinobu Orikuchi (折口信夫 Orikuchi Shinobu?) argues Ryukyuans are the "proto-Japanese" (原日本人 gen nippon jin?), whereas Kunio Yanagita suggests they were a sub-group who settled in the Ryukyu Islands while the main migratory wave moved north to settle the Japanese archipelago and became the Yamato people.

The concept of "pure blood" as a criterion for the uniqueness of the Yamato minzoku began circulating around 1880 in Japan, around the time some Japanese scientists began investigations into eugenics (yuuseigaku).[1]

In present day Japan, the term Yamato-minzoku may be seen as antiquated for connoting racial notions that have been discarded in many circles since Japan's defeat in World War II.[2] "Japanese people" or even "Japanese-Japanese" are often used instead, although these terms also have complications owing to their ambiguous blending of notions of ethnicity and nationality.[3] Professor Mark Levin suggests adopting into general use the term "wajin" / 和人, already used in discourse to distinguish non-Ainu Japanese people from Ainu people, as a suitable global term for ethnic Japanese people in Japan today.[4]

See also

  • Ethnic issues in Japan
  • Yamato
  • Yamato-damashii - 'the Japanese spirit'
  • Japanese people
  • Nihonjinron
  • Ryukyuan people
  • Ainu people
  • Emishi people
  • Yamato period
  • Yamato Province
  • Japanese battleship Yamato
  • An Investigation of Global Policy with the Yamato Race as Nucleus


  2. Weiner, Michael, Introduction to Japan's Minorities: The Illusion of Homogeneity, xi, xii-xiii (1997).
  3. Levin, Mark, The Wajin’s Whiteness: Law and Race Privilege in Japan (February 1, 2008). Horitsu Jiho, Vol. 80, No. 2, 2008. Available at SSRN: at p. 6.
  4. Levin, Mark, The Wajin’s Whiteness: Law and Race Privilege in Japan (February 1, 2008). Horitsu Jiho, Vol. 80, No. 2, 2008. Available at SSRN: at p. 7.

ko:야마토 민족 id:Suku Yamato he:ימאטו pt:Yamato (povo) tl:Taong Yamato ta:யமாத்தோ இனக்குழு tr:Yamatolar uk:Яматосці zh:大和族