Some of the many theories of what the place was named after include the bird common crossbill, or isuka in Japanese, or local geological features, e.g. 洲処 (suka, meaning sandbar, sandbank or delta) or 崩地 (asu) + 処 (ka)[clarification needed]. Or it may have been named in honor of Asuka (or Ashuku) Nyorai, the Japanese equivalent of Akshobhya, one of the Five Buddhas of Wisdom, who is still worshiped in Asuka-dera (Asuka Temple), the Asuka-niimasu-jinja (the shrine for his manifestation as a Shinto god), and several other structures from those days.
Archaeology projects continue to uncover relics from these ruins. Recent discoveries in the area include Wado coins, believed to be some of the oldest coins in Japan, and paintings in the Kitora and Takamatsuzuka Kofun, or tombs.
The Ishibutai Kofun is also located in Asuka. On March 12, 2004, the discovery of the remains of a residence's main building adjacent to the kofun was announced. It is likely that the residence belonged to Soga no Umako, who is believed to have been entombed in the kofun.
In the Asuka period, various palaces were constructed for each monarch. As soon as one emperor died, the whole court moved to a newly constructed palace, since it was considered dangerous to remain in a place where a deceased monarch's spirit might reside. Sometimes even during a single emperor's reign, palaces were changed multiple times due to destruction by fire or ill omens. Since these palaces were entirely constructed from wood, none of them have survived, although some archaeological work in modern times has uncovered such remains as stone bases for pillars.
Sakurai was briefly the capital of Japan during the reign of Emperor Ingyō. The life of the Imperial court was centered at the Palace of Tohotsu where the emperor lived in 457–479. Other emperors also built palaces at Asuka, including
In 640–642, the Imperial court briefly moved to the Kudara Palace in Kōryō, Nara; then the emperor returned to Asuka where he lived at
In 661–667, the court moved to the Tachibana no Hironiwa Palace (661–67) in Asakura, Fukuoka. Then the court moved again to the Ōmi Palace or Ōtsu Palace (667–72) in Ōmi-kyō (today Ōtsu, Shiga). Once more, the court moved back to Asuka at