Currently, it takes some time to respond to comments because I have some other things I have to prioritize.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Japan? Nihon? Nippon?

Japan's official name is 日本国.
日 means "sun," 本 "means where it comes from" and 国 means "country."
So, 日本国 means "country where the son rises." Japan has such an honorable meaning in its name that Japan made China, who saw Japan as a tributary state, furious when a Japanese diplomat submitted a letter to the Chinese emperor (Many people believe it's the case).

Actually the mention to the meaning of Japan didn't outrage Emperor Yang of Sui (The letter said "The Son of Heaven where the sun rises, to the Son of Heaven where the son sets, may good health be with you").
According to the majority of Japanese historians, what mattered was "The Son of Heaven." In the letter both the Japanese and Chinese leaders were called "The Son of Heaven." Since the Chinese emperor didn't consider the Japanese emperor equal to himself, the letter triggered the anger.

Let me return back to the main discussion.
Currently, Japanese people call the national name either Nippon or Nihon.
On June 30th in 2009, it was questioned during the Diet (national assembly).
A representative regarded both Nippon and Nihon as acceptable because both names are used daily.
Although "Nippon" seems to more formal than Nihon since it's used by the United Nations and also written on the national currency, the representative couldn't decide an unitary name because both are so prevalent.

I can see a glimpse of Japanese culture in the decision.
The ambiguity and tolerance, things I can't separate from the Japanese.

When we cheer up Japanese national teams, we use "Nippon" because it makes a good rhythm.

Which one of  these names sounds the best to you; Japan, Nihon or Nippon?


  1. I've always wonder about that, i have heard Japan called several names and i've always wondered if it was the equivalent of "United States" and "America" where one was formal, and the other was more casual.

    [(The letter said "The Son of Heaven where the sun rises, to the Son of Heaven where the son sets, may good health be with you").]

    Oh! That explains alot! (and now that joke in the Hetalia anime makes sense. :P) I had always thought the Chinese emperor got angry because he believed Japan had insulted them by saying 'Japan was first, China was last'. That never quite made sense to me, because Japan has always struck me as a very well mannered country and had a very polite culture, and it seemed very unlike Japan to have said such a thing.

    What you said makes a lot more sense, and now i think i have a much better understanding. Japan wasn't being rude it was the Chinese emperor that had thought himself so much better than everyone else.

    [Which one of these names sounds the best to you; Japan, Nihon or Nippon?]

    Hmm... I think they all sound really nice, 'Japan' is both causal and formal for the country here, and 'Nippon' sounds very much like it, while 'Nihon' sounds like 'Nihongo' which makes me think of the Japanese people and language, more than the country itself.

    I'm not sure i can decide, they all sound very nice to me, but Nippon's meaning sounds very mystic and wonderful, so i think that sounds the best to me.

    I do wonder though, how did 'Japan' become to be known as 'Japan' in English- when it's name was "Nippon"? I've noticed that many countries in English are called somthing different than what that country calls itself (Germany-Deutschland is another.)

    What would you prefer?

  2. Hey, I was wondering if you could tell me something about Japanese media. I have an assignment in which I have to compare Japanese media with that of another country. Just general stuff. And what better way to find out about a country if not from its own people? I will also add you to skype. Im studying English Journalism, so my English is good enough. Although its not my mother tongue. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks. :)

  3. As is often the case with a Japanese, I can't choose one out of the three choices.
    If I had to choose one, I would choose Nippon because of it's vivid sound.

    [Any help would be appreciated.]
    Sorry, all I could say was general staff.
    I'm already 22, but every day I feel that I still have a lot more to learn(different from a adult I dreamed of). Good luck with your exam.

  4. Hey... I really enjoyed the history of the name with the Chinese emperor. Thank you.

    I always wondered why the currency and sports crowds said Nippon. Personally I prefer Nihon... it sounds better... and looks less like nipple.

  5. [Hey... I really enjoyed the history of the name with the Chinese emperor. Thank you.]
    I'm delighted to hear that.

    Yeah, "nipple" and "nippon" do look and sound similar and I didn't notice that. Thanks for the insightful comment.