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What’s In A Name? Japan, The Land Of The Rising Sun.
The Japanese don’t call their country Japan, they call it Nihon, or the more formal, Nippon.
Translated directly, the kanji 日本 means “sun origin”, or “Where The Sun Originates”, hence Japan
is also known as the Land of the Rising Sun, and the nation’s flag is that of a rising sun.
Before the name Nihon came into official use, the country was known as Wa, or Wakoku 和国
(Country of Wa). Chinese records first acknowledge Japan as early as the first century AD, when
it was referred to as Wa 倭、meaning “small” and “submissive”. The original kanji used for this
Wa had negative connotations, and so in the eighth century, the Japanese changed the kanji to
the currently used character for Wa, 和 meaning “peace”, “harmony”, or “balance.”
Wakoku, Nippon or Nihon?
The Japanese refer to themselves as Nihonjin, their language is Nihongo, their cars are Nihonsha,
their food is Washoku, clothing is Wafuku, and to distinguish between native and imported, candles
So how did this Wakoku or Nihon become Japan? Originally, it was the Chinese reading of the kanji、
日本, that lead to it’s name. The Italian merchant traveler, Marco Polo recorded talk of a country
called Cipangu from the early Mandarin or Wu Dynasty Chinese, while Zeppen is the modern Shanghai
dialect for the reading of the same kanji. The name Japan, or Giapan as it was spelled, was first
recorded in English in 1565. The word was brought to Europe by the Portuguese traders who had heard
it in Malacca. They had heard the name as Jepang, believed borrowed from a southern coastal Chinese
It doesn’t mater whether you call the archipelago of 6,852 islands Japan, Wakoku, Nihon, Nippon,
or the Land of the rising Sun, for 126 million people, it has another name. Home.
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