The Hata Clan (秦氏)

The Hata clan had existed since ancient times. Similar to the Yamatonoaya clan, it was a distinguished family of immigrants from the continent. The Hata clan claimed to be a descendant of the first Qin Emperor, but it is not clear if this was true.

According to the Chronicles of Japan, the Hata clan originated with Yuzuki no kimi (described as Yuzuo in "Shinsen Shojiroku" (Newly compiled Register of Clan Names and Titles of Nobility)) who in 284 led people from 120 districts of Paekche in the Korean Peninsula to settle in Japan. Another explanation is that they came from Kara (Kaya) or Silla (there is a legend stating that Silla, formerly called Shinkan, was where survivors of the Qin dynasty settled). A further theory is that the royal family or nobility of the Former Qin dynasty founded by the Fu clan of the Di ethnic group during the Period of Sixteen Kingdoms finally reached Japan in the midst of war by way of the Korean Peninsula. While this theory is not inconsistent with the record stating that Yuzuki no kimi was the grandchild of the fifth generation of the first Qin Emperor, nor with the belief that those who were associated with Qin (秦) began using the name "Hata" (秦)of their own accord on coming to Japan, there is little supporting evidence and further investigation is needed.

There are various theories about why the Chinese character "秦" is read as "Hata" (formerly "Hada"), one of which is that the reading derives from "Pada" meaning ocean in Korean, others being that it derives from the word for "loom" in Japanese, or from "Hatan," a place in Silla (ancient Korea).

The families then settled not only in Yamato Province but in various regions, including Kadono County in Yamashiro Province (present-day Uzumasa, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto City), Kii County in the same Province (present-day Fukakusa, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto City), and Sasara County in Kawachi Province (present-day Uzumasa, Neyagawa City); and flourished by putting to work their technical skills in civil engineering, silk worm cultivation, and weaving. The group of families from Yamashiro Province expanded their territory into Kuwata County in Tanba Province (present-day Kameoka City, Kyoto Prefecture) and carried out projects such as wetland reclamation. In the reign of Emperor Yuryaku, HATA no Sakenokimi became the leader of Hatanobe and Hatahito (families and followers of the Hata clan). In the reign of Emperor Kinmei, HATA no Otsuchi became Tomo no miyatsuko (the chief of various departments of the Yamato Court) and was appointed Okura no jo (a financial official), and the heads of family seem to have served as financial officials of the Yamato Court.

Uzumasa in Kadono County in Yamashiro Province was known as the home of the Hata clan, but there was also a territory of the same name in Sasara County in Kawachi Province. A fortified hilltop settlement dating from the middle of the Yayoi period was found in the Uzumasa in Kawachi Province (the Uzumasa site), and artifacts of the fifth to sixth centuries relating to Toraijin (the Chinese and Koreans who settled in Japan in the fourth to seventh centuries), have been excavated (from a cluster of nearby burial mounds). The Hata clan are thought to have helped construct the Manda Levee as flood prevention works for the present-day Yodo-gawa River, and it has also been shown that the present-day Atsuta-jinja Shrine was built on the site of Kawachi Hata-dera Temple (now ruined) whose written records are preserved in Koryu-ji Temple. The grave reputed to be that of HATA no Kawakatsu is located on this site. In addition, Koryu-ji Temple, built by HATA no Kawakatsu, was located in the Uzumasa in Yamashiro Province, and burial mounds on this site do not date back further than to about the sixth century. It is estimated, from timing of the construction by the Hata clan of Kadono oi (the Kadono dam) as part of irrigation works for the present-day Katsura-gawa River (the Yodo-gawa River system), that the Uzumasa in Yamashiro Province has its origins around the sixth century. Thus, while Uzumasa in Kawachi province was initially an important base for the family, around the sixth century, the family probably moved to Uzumasa in Yamashiro Province.

In Yamashiro Province, the family that ruled the middle reach of the Katsura-gawa River and the lower reach of the Kamo-gawa River (the Yodo-gawa River system) greatly contributed to the improvement of these regions. The family was closely connected with the Kamo clan based at the upper-reaches of the Kamo-gawa River in Atago County in Yamashiro Province (present-day Sakyo Ward and Kita Ward, Kyoto City). The Hata clan worshipped its gods at Matsuo-taisha and the Fushimiinari-taisha Shrines, which, along with Kamo-jinja Shrine founded by the Kamo clan, are the earliest-established shrines in Yamashiro Province. The descendants of the Hata clan became Shake (families of Shinto priests serving the respective shrines on a hereditary basis).

The most famous figure in the Hata clan is HATA no Kawakatsu. He is well known for serving Prince Shotoku and establishing the Hoko-ji Temple (the Koryu-ji Temple) at Uzumasa. HATA no Kuma is also known for making Tenjukoku shucho (the oldest needlework painting in Japan) in the Chugu-ji Temple in approximately the same period.

The territory known as the Hata Kingdom (in the coastal regions of the Seto Inland Sea) whose customs and manners were similar to those of China is introduced in "Zuisho" (a history of Sui), and so there is a further theory that this place had something to do with the Hata clan. In January 1908, Yoshiro SAEKI advanced a new theory in his article titled, "A Discussion about Uzumasa" printed in "Chiri Rekishi" (Geography and History) No. 100 (edited by Sadakichi KIDA), this being that the Hata families were Jews who embraced "Keikyo" (Nestorianism). There are some people who believe that the family came from ancient Israel or was deeply involved in establishing the belief in Yawata no kami (the Shinto god of war), but these are no more than popular stories based on the similarity in the pronunciation of a character.

The family was granted the title of Imiki of Yasuka no Kabane (the eight honorary titles), and later, certain branches of the family were granted the titles of Kimi or Sukune.

Some say that the economic power and the technical skills of the Hata clan in Kadono County were important in the transfer of the national capital to Kyoto. Although the majority of the Hata clan branches called themselves the Koremune clan in the Heian period, there remained a number of branches, including the Togi family of Gaku ke (a family which served the Emperor as court musicians), which claimed descent from the Hata clan. The To family and the Nan family were Shake (family of Shinto priests serving a shrine on a hereditary basis) of Matsuo-taisha Shrine, and Nishioji family and the Onishi family were Shake of Fushimiinari-taisha Shrine. There is a view that the Hakura family and the Kada family which became Shake of Fushimiinari-taisha Shrine were also descended from the Hata clan.

Many priests, including some high-ranking ones, came from the Hata clan.

Chief shrines and temples established by the Hata clan
Matsuo-taisha Shrine
Fushimiinari-taisha Shrine
Konoshimanimasu amateru mitama-jinja Shrine ("Kaiko no yashiro" (shrine of silkworms))
Osake-jinja Shrine
Koryu-ji Temple

[Original Japanese]