Family name origins & meanings
- Japanese : ‘wisteria plain’; the greatest noble clan of classical Japan. They descend from the statesman Nakatomi no Kamatari (614–669), who was awarded the Fujiwara surname by Emperor Tenji for his part in crushing the powerful Soga family and placing Tenji on the throne. Fujiwara is a common place name in Japan. Kamatari’s birthplace was Fujiwara in Yamato (in present-day Kashihara-shi, Nara prefecture). The surname is listed in the Shinsen shōjiroku, as is the ancestral name, Nakatomi. The family claims descent from Ame no Koyane, a son of the deity Takamimusubi and a companion of the mythical hero Ninigi.
- Two major branches of the clan are the ‘northern’ and ‘southern’ Fujiwara, named for the relative locations of the mansions of their founders, two grandsons of Fujiwara Kamatari: Muchimaro (680–737; northern) and Fusasaki (682–737; southern). The family rose to greatness during the 10th and 11th centuries by marrying daughters to emperors and other important court figures. The name is no longer common in its original form, but local variants such as Satō, Itō, Saitō, and Katō make the Fujiwara the largest clan in Japan. Many variants of the name were created by taking the first syllable of the name of a family head’s residence, or of his official title, and adding to it the suffix -tō, which is the Sino-Japanese reading of the word fuji (‘wisteria’). Thus, for example, the Fujiwara of Sano (Sano no Fujiwara) are called Satō.