The Info List - Names Of Japan

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(i) (i) (i) (i)

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)
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
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
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
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 Bowing is noted in early historical references to Japan."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
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
Mandarin Chinese
or possibly Wu Chinese
Wu Chinese
word for Japan
was recorded by Marco Polo
Marco Polo
as Cipangu. In modern Shanghainese (a language of the Wu Chinese
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
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
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
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
Kanto region
, as a reintroduction of this independent pronunciation of 本 into the compound. This must have taken place during the Edo period
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
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
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
JR Group
) * Nihonbashi (日本橋) (a bridge in Tokyo
) * Nihon Daigaku ( Nihon University
Nihon University
) * Nihon-go ( Japanese language
Japanese language
) * Nihon-jin ( Japanese people
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
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
Mandarin Chinese
or Wu Chinese
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
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
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
Southeast Asia
, and Xīyáng (Western Ocean), which refers to the Western world
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
Far East
(including both East Asia
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
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
Japanese name
(names of Japanese people) * Japanese place names * List of country-name etymologies
List of country-name etymologies


* ^ Nussbaum, Louis Frédéric et al. (2005). "Nihon" in Japan encyclopedia, p. 707., p. 707, at Google Books
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
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 Google Books * ^ Nussbaum, "Nippon" passim at pp. 717., p. 717, at Google Books
Google Books
* ^ Nussbaum, "Nihon" passim at pp. 707–711., p. 707, at Google Books * ^ Nussbaum, " Nihon University
Nihon University
(Nihon Daigaku)" at pp. 710–711., p. 710, at Google Books
Google Books
* ^ Nussbaum, "Nihonjin" at pp. 708–709., p. 708, at Google Books

* ^ Nussbaum, "Nihon shoki" at p. 710., p. 710, at Google Books
Google Books
* ^ Richard Gonzales (2016-06-10). "Hello, Nihonium. Scientists Name 4 New Elements on the Periodic Table". Ww2.kqed.org. Retrieved 2016-07-05. * ^ Forbes JD (2007). The American Discovery of Europe. University of Illinois Press. p. 21. ISBN 9780252091254 . * ^ " Japan
Omnibus - General - Facts and Figures". Japan-zone.com. Retrieved 2016-07-05. * ^ Nussbaum, "Ō-ya-shima no Kuni" at p. 768., p. 768, at Google Books * ^ Nussbaum, "Akitsushima" at p. 20., p. 20, at Google Books
Google Books
* ^ "www.chineselanguage.org message board". Chinalanguage.com. Retrieved 2011-09-26.


* Doi, Tadao (1980) . Hōyaku Nippo Jisho (in Japanese). Tōkyō: Iwanami Shoten . ISBN 4-00-080021-3 . * Nussbaum, Louis Frédéric; Käthe Roth (2005). Japan Encyclopedia. Cambridge: Harvard University Press
Harvard University Press
. ISBN 978-0-674-01753-5 ; OCLC 48943301

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