The Info List - Names Of Japan

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The word _ Japan _ (or _Japon_) is an exonym , and is used (in one form or another) by a large number of languages. The Japanese names for Japan are NIPPON (にっぽん listen (help ·info )) and NIHON (にほん listen (help ·info )). They are both written in Japanese using the kanji 日本.


* 1 History

* 2 Historical

* 2.1 Nifon * 2.2 Jippon

* 3 Nihon and Nippon

* 3.1 Meaning * 3.2 History and evolution * 3.3 Modern conventions

* 4 Jipangu

* 5 Other names

* 5.1 Classical names * 5.2 Other Southeast and East Asian nations\' languages * 5.3 Other non-East and non-Southeast Asian nations\' languages

* 6 See also * 7 Notes * 8 References


Further information: Wa (Japan) Cipangu on the 1453 Fra Mauro map , the first known Western depiction of the island.

Both _Nippon_ and _Nihon_ literally mean "the sun's origin", that is, where the sun originates, and are often translated as the _Land of the Rising Sun_. This nomenclature comes from Imperial correspondence with the Chinese Sui Dynasty and refers to Japan's eastern position relative to China . Before _Nihon_ came into official use, Japan was known as _Wa _ (倭) or _Wakoku_ (倭国). _Wa_ was a name early China used to refer to an ethnic group living in Japan around the time of the Three Kingdoms Period .

Although the etymological origins of "Wa" remain uncertain, Chinese historical texts recorded an ancient people residing in the Japanese archipelago (perhaps Kyūshū), named something like *ʼWâ or *ʼWər 倭. Carr (1992:9–10) surveys prevalent proposals for Wa's etymology ranging from feasible (transcribing Japanese first-person pronouns _waga_ 我が "my; our" and _ware_ 我 "I; oneself; thou") to shameful (writing Japanese _Wa_ as 倭 implying "dwarf"), and summarizes interpretations for *ʼWâ "Japanese" into variations on two etymologies: "behaviorally 'submissive' or physically 'short'." The first "submissive; obedient" explanation began with the (121 CE) _ Shuowen Jiezi _ dictionary. It defines 倭 as _shùnmào_ 順皃 "obedient/submissive/docile appearance", graphically explains the "person; human" radical 亻 with a _wěi_ 委 "bent" phonetic, and quotes the above _ Shijing _ poem. "Conceivably, when Chinese first met Japanese," Carr (1992:9) suggests "they transcribed Wa as *ʼWâ 'bent back' signifying 'compliant' bowing/obeisance. Bowing is noted in early historical references to Japan." Examples include "Respect is shown by squatting" (Hou Han Shu, tr. Tsunoda 1951:2), and "they either squat or kneel, with both hands on the ground. This is the way they show respect." (Wei Zhi, tr. Tsunoda 1951:13). Koji Nakayama interprets _wēi_ 逶 "winding" as "very far away" and euphemistically translates _Wō_ 倭 as "separated from the continent." The second etymology of _wō_ 倭 meaning "dwarf, pygmy" has possible cognates in _ǎi_ 矮 "low, short (of stature)", _wō_ 踒 "strain; sprain; bent legs", and _wò_ 臥 "lie down; crouch; sit (animals and birds)". Early Chinese dynastic histories refer to a _Zhūrúguó_ 侏儒國 "pygmy/dwarf country" located south of Japan, associated with possibly Okinawa Island or the Ryukyu Islands. Carr cites the historical precedence of construing Wa as "submissive people" and the "Country of Dwarfs" legend as evidence that the "little people" etymology was a secondary development.

Chinese, Korean, and Japanese scribes regularly wrote _Wa_ or _Yamato_ "Japan" with the Chinese character 倭 until the 8th century, when the Japanese found fault with it due to its offensive connotation, replacing it with 和 "harmony, peace, balance". Retroactively, this character was adopted in Japan to refer to the country itself, often combined with the character 大, literally meaning "Great", so as to write the preexisting name _Yamato_ (大和) (in a manner similar to _e.g._ 大清帝國 Great Qing Empire , 大英帝國 Greater British Empire ). However, the pronunciation _Yamato_ cannot be formed from the sounds of its constituent characters; it refers to a place in Japan and is speculated to originally mean "Mountain Gate" (山戸). Such words which use certain kanji to name a certain Japanese word solely for the purpose of representing the word's meaning regardless of the given kanji's on\'yomi or kun\'yomi , a.k.a. jukujikun , is not uncommon in Japanese. Other original names in Chinese texts include _Yamatai country _ (邪馬台国), where a Queen Himiko lived. When _hi no moto_, the indigenous Japanese way of saying "sun's origin", was written in kanji , it was given the characters 日本. In time, these characters began to be read using Sino-Japanese readings , first _Nippon_ and later _Nihon,_ although the two names are interchangeable to this day.

_Nippon_ appeared in history only at the end of the 7th century. The Old Book of Tang (舊唐書), one of the Twenty-Four Histories , stated that the Japanese envoy disliked his country's name _ Woguo _ (倭國), and changed it to _Nippon_ (日本), or "Origin of the Sun". Another 8th-century chronicle, True Meaning of Shiji (史記正義), however, states that the Chinese Empress Wu Zetian ordered a Japanese envoy to change the country's name to _Nippon_. The sun plays an important role in Japanese mythology and religion as the emperor is said to be the direct descendent of the sun goddess Amaterasu and the legitimacy of the ruling house rested on this divine appointment and descent from the chief deity of the predominant Shinto religion. The name of the country reflects this central importance of the sun. _ Cipangu_ described on the 1492 Martin Behaim globe .

The English word for Japan came to the West from early trade routes. The early Mandarin Chinese or possibly Wu Chinese word for Japan was recorded by Marco Polo as _Cipangu_. In modern Shanghainese (a language of the Wu Chinese subgroup), the formal pronunciation of the characters 日本 (Japan) is still _Zeppen_ . The colloquial pronunciation of the character 日 is , which is closer to _Nippon_. The Malaysian and Indonesian words _Jepang_, _Jipang_, and _Jepun_ were borrowed from Non- Mandarin Chinese languages, and this Malay word was encountered by Portuguese traders in Malacca in the 16th century. It is thought the Portuguese traders were the first to bring the word to Europe . It was first recorded in English in 1577 spelled _Giapan_.

In English, the modern official title of the country is simply "Japan", one of the few nation-states to have no "long form " name. The official Japanese-language name is _Nippon koku_ or _Nihon koku_ (日本国), literally "_State of Japan_". From the Meiji Restoration until the end of World War II , the full title of Japan was the "Empire of Greater Japan " (大日本帝國 _Dai Nippon Teikoku_). A more poetic rendering of the name of Japan during this period was "Empire of the Sun." The official name of the nation was changed after the adoption of the post-war constitution; the title "State of Japan" is sometimes used as a colloquial modern-day equivalent. As an adjective, the term "Dai-Nippon" remains popular with Japanese governmental, commercial, or social organizations whose reach extend beyond Japan's geographic borders (e.g., Dai Nippon Printing , Dai Nippon Butoku Kai , etc.).

Though _Nippon_ or _Nihon_ are still by far the most popular names for Japan from within the country, recently the foreign words _Japan_ and even _Jipangu_ (from _Cipangu_, see below) have been used in Japanese mostly for the purpose of foreign branding .


Portuguese missionaries arrived in Japan at the end of the 16th century. In the course of learning Japanese , they created several grammars and dictionaries of Middle Japanese . The 1603–1604 dictionary Vocabvlario da Lingoa de Iapam contains two entries for Japan: _nifon_ and _iippon_. The title of the dictionary (_Vocabulary of the Language of Japan_) illustrates that the Portuguese word for Japan was by that time _Iapam_.


Historically, Japanese /h/ has undergone a number of phonological changes. Originally * , this weakened into and eventually became the modern . Note that modern /h/ is still pronounced when followed by /u/.

Middle Japanese _nifon_ becomes Modern Japanese _nihon_ via regular phonological changes.


Before modern styles of romanization , the Portuguese devised their own . In it, /zi/ is written as either _ii_ or _ji_. In modern Hepburn style, _iippon_ would be rendered as _jippon_. There are no historical phonological changes to take into account here.

Etymologically, _jippon_ is similar to _nippon_ in that it is an alternative reading of 日本. The initial character 日 may also be read as /ziti/ or /zitu/. Compounded with -fon (本), this regularly becomes _jippon_.

Unlike the _nihon_/_nippon_ doublet, there is no evidence for a *_jihon_.


The Japanese name for Japan, 日本, can be pronounced either _Nihon_ or _Nippon_. Both readings come from the on\'yomi .


日 (_nichi_) means "sun" or "day"; 本 (_hon_) means "base" or "origin". The compound means "origin of the sun" or "where the sun rises" (from a Chinese point of view, the sun rises from Japan); it is a source for the popular Western description of Japan as the "Land of the Rising Sun".

_Nichi_, in compounds, often loses the final _chi_ and creates a slight pause between the first and second syllables of the compound. When romanised, this pause is represented by a doubling of the first consonant of the second syllable; thus _nichi_ 日 plus _kō_ 光 (light) is written and pronounced _nikkō_, meaning sunlight.


Japanese 日 and 本 were historically pronounced _niti_ (or _jitu_, reflecting a Late Middle Chinese pronunciation ) and _pon_, respectively. In compounds, however, the final voiced vowels(i.e. p, t, k) of the first word were “silent” in Middle Chinese(unlike the silences in French, in Middle Chinese, there were corresponding movement of mouth and tounge for these vowels but they didn’t make sound), and the pronunciation of 日本 was thus _Nippon_ or _Jippon_ (with the adjacent consonants assimilating).

Historical sound change in Japanese has led to the modern pronunciations of the individual characters as _nichi_ and _hon_. The pronunciation _Nihon_ originated, possibly in the Kanto region , as a reintroduction of this independent pronunciation of 本 into the compound. This must have taken place during the Edo period , after another sound change occurred which would have resulted in this form becoming _Niwon_ and later _Nion_.

A Japanese survey showed that 61 percent of Japanese people reads the characters as _Nihon_ while 37 percent reads it as _Nippon_. _Nihon_ is also much more prevalent among younger Japanese people.

Several attempts to decidedly determine an official reading were rejected by the Japanese government, who declared both as being correct.


While both pronunciations are correct, _Nippon_ is frequently preferred for official purposes, including money , stamps , and international sporting events , as well as the _Nippon koku_, literally the "_State of Japan_" (日本国).

Other than this, there seem to be no fixed rules for choosing one pronunciation over the other; in some cases one form is simply more common. For example, Japanese speakers generally call their language _Nihongo _; _Nippongo_, while possible, is rare. In other cases, uses are variable. The name for the Bank of Japan (日本銀行), for example, is given as _NIPPON GINKO_ on banknotes, but often referred to (in the media, for example) as _Nihon Ginkō_.

NIPPON is used always or most often in the following constructions:

* _Nippon Yūbin, Nippon Yūsei_ ( Japan Post Group ) * _Ganbare Nippon!_ (A sporting cheer used at international sporting events, roughly, 'do your best, Japan!') * _Zen Nippon Kūyu Kabushiki-gaisha_ ( All Nippon Airways ) * _ Nipponbashi _ (日本橋) (a shopping district in Osaka ) * _ Nippon Kōgaku Kōgyō Kabushikigaisha_ ( Japan Optical Industries Co. Ltd., (also called Nippon Kōgaku) which is known since 1988 as the Nikon Corporation since the Nikon brand name was used on its camera product line)

NIHON is used always or most often in the following constructions:

* _JR Higashi-Nihon_ (East Japan Railway , JR Group ) * _Nihonbashi _ (日本橋) (a bridge in Tokyo ) * _Nihon Daigaku_ ( Nihon University ) * _Nihon-go_ ( Japanese language ) * _Nihon-jin_ ( Japanese people ) * _Nihon-kai_ (Sea of Japan ) * _Nihon Kōkū_ ( Japan Airlines ) * _ Nihon-shoki _ (an old history book, never _Nippon shoki_)

On June 8, 2016, the IUPAC announced their proposal that Element 113 be named nihonium , so named to honor its discovery in 2004 by Japanese scientists at RIKEN . It is the first element to have been discovered in an Asian country.


Another spelling, "Zipangni" (upper left), was used on a 1561 map by Sebastian Münster .

As mentioned above, the English word _Japan_ has a circuitous derivation; but linguists believe it derives in part from the Portuguese recording of the early Mandarin Chinese or Wu Chinese word for Japan: _Cipan_ (日本), which is rendered in pinyin as _Rìběn_( IPA : ʐʅ˥˩ pən˨˩˦), and literally translates to "sun origin". _Guó_ ( IPA : kuo˨˦) is Chinese for "realm" or "kingdom", so it could alternatively be rendered as _Cipan-guo_. The word was likely introduced to Portuguese through the Malay _Jipang_.

Cipangu was first mentioned in Europe in the accounts of Marco Polo . It appears for the first time on a European map with the Fra Mauro map in 1457, although it appears much earlier on Chinese and Korean maps such as the _ Kangnido _. Following the accounts of Marco Polo, Cipangu was thought to be fabulously rich in silver and gold, which in Medieval times was largely correct, owing to the volcanism of the islands and the possibility to access precious ores without resorting to (unavailable) deep-mining technologies.

The Dutch name, Japan, may be derived from the southern Chinese pronunciation of 日本, Yatbun or Yatpun. The Dutch _J_ is generally pronounced _Y_, hence Ja-Pan.

The modern Shanghainese pronunciation of Japan is _Zeppen_ . In modern Japanese, _Cipangu_ is transliterated as ジパング which in turn can be transliterated into English as _Jipangu_, _Zipangu_, _Jipang_, or _Zipang_. _Jipangu_ (ジパング (_Zipangu_)) as an obfuscated name for Japan has recently come into vogue for Japanese films , anime , video games , etc.



These names were invented after the introduction of Chinese into the language, and they show up in historical texts for prehistoric legendary dates and also in names of gods and Japanese emperors :

* _Ōyashima_ (大八洲) meaning the Great Country of Eight (or Many) Islands, _Awaji _, _Iyo_ (later Shikoku ), _Oki _, _Tsukushi_ (later Kyūshū ), _Iki _, _Tsushima _, _Sado _, and _Yamato_ (later Honshū ); note that Hokkaidō , Chishima , and Okinawa were not part of Japan in ancient times. The eight islands refers to the creation of the main eight islands of Japan by the gods Izanami and Izanagi in Japanese mythology as well as the fact that eight was a synonym for "many". * _Yashima_ (八島), "Eight (or Many) Islands" * _Fusō _ (扶桑) * _Mizuho_ (瑞穂) refers to ears of grain, _e.g._ 瑞穂国 _Mizuho-no-kuni_ "Country of Lush Ears (of Rice)." From Old Japanese _midu_ > Japanese _mizu_ ("water; lushness, freshness, juiciness") + Old Japanese _fo_ > Japanese _ho_ ("ear (of grain, especially rice)"). * _Shikishima_ (敷島) is written with Chinese characters that suggest a meaning "islands that one has spread/laid out," but this name of Japan supposedly originates in the name of an area in Shiki District of Yamato Province in which some emperors of ancient Japan resided. The name of Shikishima (_i.e._ Shiki District) came to be used in Japanese poetry as an epithet for the province of Yamato (_i.e._ the ancient predecessor of Nara Prefecture), and was metonymically extended to refer to the entire island of Yamato (_i.e._ Honshū) and, eventually, to the entire territory of Japan. Note that the word _shima_, though generally meaning only "island" in Japanese , also means "area, zone, territory" in many languages of the Ryūkyū Islands . * _Akitsukuni_ (秋津国), _Akitsushima_ (秋津島), _Toyo-akitsushima_ (豊秋津島). According to the literal meanings of the Chinese characters used to transcribe these names of Japan, _toyo_ means "abundant," _aki_ means "autumn," _tsu_ means "harbor," _shima_ means "island," and _kuni_ means "country, land." In this context, _-tsu_ may be interpreted to be a fossilized genitive case suffix, as in _matsuge_ "eyelash" (< Japanese _me_ "eye" + _-tsu_ + Japanese _ke_ "hair") or _tokitsukaze_ "a timely wind, a favorable wind" (< Japanese _toki_ "time" + _-tsu_ + Japanese _kaze_ "wind"). However, _akitu_ or _akidu_ are also archaic or dialectal Japanese words for "dragonfly ," so "Akitsushima" may be interpreted to mean "Dragonfly Island." Another possible interpretation would take _akitsu-_ to be identical with the _akitsu-_ of _akitsukami_ or _akitsumikami_ ("god incarnate, a manifest deity," often used as an honorific epithet for the Emperor of Japan ), perhaps with the sense of "the present land, the island(s) where we are at present." * _Toyoashihara no mizuho no kuni_ (豊葦原の瑞穂の国). "Country of Lush Ears of Bountiful Reed Plain(s)," _Ashihara no Nakatsukuni _, "Central Land of Reed Plains," "Country Amidst Reed Plain(s)" (葦原中国). * _Hinomoto_ (日の本). Simple kun reading of 日本.

The katakana transcription ジャパン (_Japan_) of the English word _Japan_ is sometimes encountered in Japanese, for example in the names of organizations seeking to project an international image. Examples include ジャパンネット銀行 (_ Japan Netto Ginkō_) ( Japan Net Bank), ジャパンカップ (_ Japan Kappu_) ( Japan Cup), ワイヤレスジャパン (_Waiyaresu Japan_) (Wireless Japan), etc.


_Dōngyáng_ (東洋) and _Dōngyíng_ (東瀛) – both literally, "Eastern Ocean" – are Chinese terms sometimes used to refer to Japan exotically when contrasting it with other countries or regions in eastern Eurasia ; however, these same terms may also be used to refer to all of East Asia when contrasting "the East" with "the West". The first term, _Dōngyáng_, has been considered to be a pejorative term when used to mean "Japan", while the second, _Dōngyíng_, has remained a positive poetic name. They can be contrasted with _Nányáng _ (Southern Ocean), which refers to Southeast Asia , and _Xīyáng_ (Western Ocean), which refers to the Western world . In Japanese and Korean , the Chinese word for "Eastern Ocean" (pronounced as _tōyō_ in Japanese and as _dongyang_ (동양) in Korean) is used only to refer to the Far East (including both East Asia and Southeast Asia) in general, and it is not used in the more specific Chinese sense of "Japan".

In China , Japan is called _Rìběn_, which is the Mandarin pronunciation for the kanji 日本. The Cantonese pronunciation is _Yahtbún_ , the Shanghainese pronunciation is _Zeppen_ , and the Hokkien pronunciation is _Ji̍tpún_. This has influenced the Malaysian name for Japan, _Jepun_, and the Thai word _Yipun_ (ญี่ปุ่น). The terms _Jepang_ and _Jipang_, ultimately derived from Chinese, were previously used in both Malaysian and Indonesian, but are today confined primarily to the Indonesian language . The Japanese introduced _Nippon_ and _Dai Nippon_ into Indonesia during the Japanese Occupation (1942–1945) but the native _Jepang_ remains more common. In Korean, Japan is called _Ilbon_ ( Hangeul : 일본, Hanja : 日本), which is the Korean pronunciation of the Sino-Korean name, and in Sino-Vietnamese , Japan is called _Nhật Bản_ (also rendered as Nhựt Bổn). In Mongolian , Japan is called Yapon (Япон).

_Ue-kok_ (倭國) is recorded for older Hokkien speakers. In the past, Korea also used 倭國, pronounced _Waeguk_ (왜국).



Amharic ጃፓን (_japani_)

Arabic اليابان (_al-yābān_)

Armenian ճապոնիա (_Chaponia_)

Azerbaijani _Yaponiya_

Bangla জাপান (_Jāpāna_)

Basque _Japonia_

Catalan _Japó_

Czech _Japonsko_

Filipino _Hapön_ (Japòn)

Finnish _Japani_

French _Japon_

Galician _Xapón_

Georgian იაპონია (_iaponia_)

German _Japan_

Greek Ιαπωνία (_Iaponía_)

Hawaiian _Iapana_

Hebrew יפן (_Yapan_)

Hindi जापान (_jāpān_)

Hungarian _Japán_

Indonesian _Jepang_

Irish _An tSeapáin_

Italian _Giappone_

Kazakh Жапония (_Japonïa_)

Khmer ជប៉ុន (_japon_)

Kurdish _Japonya_

Malay جيڤون (Jepun)

Maltese _Ġappun_

Persian ژاپن (_žāpan_)

Polish _Japonia_

Portuguese _Japão_

Russian Япония (_Yaponiya_)

Scottish Gaelic _Iapan_

Sinhala ජපානය (_Japanaya_)

Spanish _Japón_

Thai ญี่ปุ่น (_yīpun_)

Turkish _Japonya_

Urdu جاپان (_jāpān_)

Welsh _Siapan_

Xhosa _Japhan_


* Japanese name (names of Japanese people) * Japanese place names * List of country-name etymologies


* ^ Nussbaum, Louis Frédéric _et al._ (2005). "Nihon" in _Japan encyclopedia, p. 707._, p. 707, at Google Books ; n.b., Louis-Frédéric is pseudonym of Louis-Frédéric Nussbaum, _see_ Deutsche Nationalbibliothek Authority File. * ^ Joan, R. Piggott (1997). _The emergence of Japanese kingship_. Stanford University Press. pp. 143–144. ISBN 0-8047-2832-1 . * ^ "Ž×"n‘ä?‘‹ã?B?à". Inoues.net. Retrieved 2011-09-26. * ^ In Japanese, countries whose "long form" does not contain a designation such as _republic_ or _kingdom_ are generally given a name appended by the character 国 ("country" or "nation"): for example, ドミニカ国 (Dominica), バハマ国 (Bahamas), and クウェート国 (Kuwait). * ^ Doi (1980:463) * ^ Doi (1980:363) * ^ Nippon or Nihon? No consensus on Japanese pronunciation of Japan, _ Japan Today _ * ^ Nussbaum, "Nippon" at _p. 709._, p. 709, at Google Books * ^ Nihon Kokugo Daijiten Henshū Iin Kai, Shōgakukan Kokugo Daijiten Henshūbu (2002) . _ Nihon Kokugo Daijiten (2nd edition) _. Shōgakukan. * ^ _A_ _B_ Nussbaum, "Nihon Ginkō" at _p. 708._, p. 708, at