Osaka, the Merchant's Capital of Early Modern Japan

By James L. McClain; Wakita Osamu | Go to book overview

C H A P T E R O N E
Osaka across the Ages

James L. McClain and Wakita Osamu

The first written mention of the Osaka region appears in the Nihon shoki, Japan's oldest historical chronicle and conventionally dated to 720 A.D. As set forth in that account, the legendary Jimmu, great-great-grandson of the Sun Goddess Amaterasu Ōmikami, in the seventh century B.C. left his home in Kyushu on an expedition to bring the Japanese islands under his family's dominion, gradually fought his way up the Inland Sea, and eventually sailed into what later would be named as Osaka Bay, landing his forces on the estuary formed by the Yodo River. 1. The site where Jimmu stepped ashore was known as "swift waves," Nami-haya, a name later rendered as Naniwa and written with a pair of ideographs whose meaning connoted "dangerous waves." Following some initial military setbacks in the Naniwa area, the compilers of the Nihon shoki continued, Jimmu called upon divine assistance to help him and his Yamato clan defeat rival local chieftains.Three years later, in 660 B.C. according to the mythology, Jimmu established his headquarters at nearby Kashiwabara, where he was crowned as Japan's first "emperor," and in subsequent years the Yamato Court extended its hegemony over central Japan.

Archeological evidence details a more complicated sequence of events as leading to the Yamato conquest.The recent unearthing of tools, home sites, and skeletal remains indicates that tribal communities inhabited the Osaka area from the most remote eons of the Jōmon era (ca. 10,000—ca. 300 B.C.). The material record further suggests that several waves of migrants from the Asian mainland reached Japan and the Osaka region between 300 B.C. and 250 A.D. and that elites among the newcomers and indigenous Japanese formed themselves into lineage groups (uji) which vied for power in central Japan between the late third and fifth centuries A.D. The Yamato line was among those contenders.Scholars debate the clan's origins—some see them as emerging first in central Japan whereas others assign them an ancestral home in Kyūshū or

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1.
Kokushi taikei, vol. 1, Nihon shoki ( Tokyo: Keizai Zasshisha, 1906), kan 3, p. 78; for an English translation, see Nihongi: Chronicles of Japan from the Earliest Times to A.D. 697, trans. W. G. Aston ( Rutland, Vt.: Charles E. Tuttle, 1972), sol. 1, bk. 3, pp. 112-13.

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