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Yamato: More Than Just a Colony

by Reiko Nishioka, Director of Education

Have you ever thought about how towns or roads are named? When you travel across the country from Florida to Maine, you must find many unusual names. Yamato Road is one of them.

I was thrilled and very moved to find a Japanese word when I moved to Florida. Because I knew what Yamato meant being Japanese, and living far from own country, I got emotional. Why?

Yamato was originally the area around Nara Prefecture, Japan. When I was in elementary school, I lived in Nara prefecture so I can recall the name “Yamato” in Nara. The train station is named Yamato Kōriyama, there’s the Yamato Basin, and Yamato tumulus.  

From the earliest history of Japan till the year 794 when the Japanese capital was moved to Kyoto, the Yamato basin was the center of political, agricultural, and cultural activities.  Therefore, the terms of “Yamato” was used as the name of a province and also as an ancient name for Japan.

Even today the word Yamato symbolizes Japan. For example, Yamato-damashii means the nationalistic Japanese spirit and Yamato Nadeshiko is the ideology of the perfect Japanese woman and the word was used as propaganda in WWII.  In the arts field, Yamato-e is used to describe classical Japanese painting.

Now you know why I got emotional the first time I saw the road named Yamato in Boca Raton, Florida. It takes its name from a small group of Japanese people who established a Japanese owned farming colony in the area in the early 1900s. They named it Yamato. It was East of I-95 near the current Yamato Road.  They could not name the area Japan so the area became Yamato thus leaving their footsteps and story in Florida.

Two Japanese words have been known in South Florida for a long time. The words are Morikami and Yamato.

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