Our post today is about Yamato kuni, an old name for Japan. Even older is the name Tokoyo (Tokoyo-kuni). We may ask what is kuni? Let us think of kuni as “land” in the sense of “the land of Tokoyo,” Tokoyo kuni. Much later, kuni comes to mean “nation.”
Where was Tokoyo? Tokoyo started in the center of the main island of Honshu. Its headquarters was naturally called Naka-kuni (center of the land). Very significantly, its name was Awa or Awa-no-kuni, “the land of cosmos and earth.” This was the area around the largest lake in Japan, Biwako. Biwako is located in today’s Shiga Prefecture which neighbors the prefectures of Kyoto and Nara. Tokoyo spread out to include all of old Japan. And later it came to be called Yamato, even during Wosite days.
The name Yamato is still known today. However, most people have a different notion of Yamato. For example, according to Wikipedia, “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.” This is the impression commonly held today by people who do not know this ancient history of Wosite.
The first kami leader was Tokoyo-kami. He is also known as Kunitokotati (Kunitokotachi), the one who established the kuni. He planted a sacred masakaki tree as a symbol of the natural calendar.
Map of Yamato Kuni (Hinomoto)
Yamato kuni was known as Hinomoto, the essence of the sun.
Now let us study the map of Yamato kuni. Please note that ancient maps have north at the bottom, and the five directions are ki-tu-wo-sa-ne (east-west-center-south-north). This is one of several maps we will present; consequently we have labelled areas mentioned in this post and the several which follow. Woshite World is grateful to S. Sakata for creating this unique map.
Starting at the northern end of Honshu main island, Hitakami is northeastern Honshu now called Tohoku (east-north). X marks the spot of Ketatuho (Ketatsubo), the residence of Toyoke-sama. South of Hitakami on the Japan Sea coast is Kosi, also called Ne (north). The X in Kosi indicates Sirayama (Shirayama mountain, now called Hakusan, both names meaning White Mountain). Titaru (Chitaru) and Sahoko are next along the same coast.
Along the Pacific coast south of Hitakami is Tukuha (Tsukuba) in Koye-kuni. Awa / Naka-kuni is the center of Yamato. There are some unlabelled regions of Honshu which may be taken up later. The island of Shikoku was called Soasa. Tukusi (Tsukushi) is the island of Kyushu.
As an overview, we see that the Kunitokotati family spread out from the Awa area. To the north-east land of Hitakami went the Takamimisuhi, descendants of Ta-no-kunisatuti. Another branch went to Tukusi and Soasa, Kosi, and Titaru. Later, the 7th Amakami pair had their miya built in Tukuha. We will be giving further details about the Amakami family.
Awa, Center of Yamato
Yamato no kuni began at Naka-kuni which became known as Awa. After Isanami and Isanagi had been enthroned as Amakami, they moved their miya from Tukuha to Naka-kuni. They composed the Awa-no-uta and they went around the land teaching the song of cosmos and earth. So it is no wonder that they named the land Awa-kuni.
The original name of the lake was Awa-umi (umi meaning large body of water). Over time, it was pronounced more like Oumi. Later, the province of this area came to be called Oumi, a name which has lasted for a long time. Even now, when visiting Shiga, we often hear of Oumi. Currently, Oumi is written 近江 (Ōmi).
Another old name from the Wosite era is Mio-no-umi which is the land of founding on the west bank of Awa-umi. Archaeologists know that the area around Biwako has been settled for a long, long time. The name Biwako is from the early modern period, and thus quite recent. The lake (ko) is named for its shape which resembles the biwa, a lute-like musical instrument.
In the Wikimedia map below of the Kansai area of Honshu, Lake Biwa is clearly shown in dark blue. This was the original home of Yamato-kuni. This was the land of Awa.
Hitakami and Takamimusuhi
When we apply Wosite analysis to the word hitakami, we obtain the results in the following chart. Hitakami was a place for observing the sun — to see the sun rising in the east, setting in the west. East and west are analogous to left side and right side, to spring and autumn, when energy is gathered and when energy is declining. Hitakami is a place to see and observe, and know that new ideas will be born.
Now consider Takamimusuhi, takami-musuhi. It is commonly written Takamimusubi. First, we note that takami refers to Hitakami, as discussed above. Next, musuhi is a response to takami: balance and harmonious movement are collectively created, achieved and accomplished, and new situations and new ideas appear. The Takamimusuhi leaders were very active and creative, producing new technologies and ideas such as the calendar, not only for their local land of Hitakami but also for the rest of Yamato.