A name that refers in its broadest sense to the country of Japan or to things Japanese, especially in contrast to things Chinese. Specifically, Yamato or Yamato Province is the ancient name of Nara Prefecture. The name is generally thought to have come from yama (mountain) and to (place), but some scholars believe that Yamato is related to Yamatai, the name of a legendary Japanese queendom. Between the 4th and 8th centuries Yamato was the center of early Japanese culture and politics. Historians generally divide the span of Yamato eminence into two periods. The protohistoric Kofun Period (ca 300-710) witnessed the rise of the first unified state in Japan, while the ensuing Nara Period (710-794) saw the adoption of a centralized bureacracy on the Chinese model and the rise of a civilization based on Buddhist ideology. (adapted from Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. Tokyo: Kodansha, 1993)
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