|Why Japan is Japan ?|
How Japan became Japan ?
Japanese call Japan as "Nihon or Nippon". "Nippon" is the official pronunciation. On bank notes and postal stamps, "Nippon" is printed. But most of japanese like to use "Nihon" (70 % of japanese use Nihon based on a survey). But I suppose foreigners have more chance of hearing "Nippon" than hearing "Nihon". "Nihon" is prefered because of its soft tone. But in case of cheering at sports games, "Nippon" has more impact and easy to make rhythm. So, when you watch TV program of sports games, naturally no "Nihon" will be heard.
The kanji for Japan is . means the "sun" and means "origin". So the meaning of Japan is "origin of the sun". Another meaning of is "day". Days revolve with the movement of the sun. The usual meaning of is a "book". A book is the origin of knowledges. Why japanese came to the idea of "origin of the sun" ? Going back to 617. The prince "Shohtoku taishi" (then on duty of the regency) sent a letter to the emperor of China (called "Zui" at that time) saying "Here I the emperor of the country where the sun rises send a letter to the emperor of the country where the sun sets. How are you." It states the geographical fact. This letter is said the origin of the country name for .
Another pronunciation for is "hinomoto" though very rarely used. "Nippon" is the pronunciation based on what japanese think chinese-wise pronunciation for . Each Kanji has at least two pronunciations in Japan, one is the chinese-wise pronunciation (we call it "on-yomi" meaning sound-wise pronunciation for the kanji. Kanji means chinese letter.), and the other is japanese-wise pronunciation (we call it "kun-yomi" meaning "meaning-wise pronunciation for corresponding traditional japanese word for kanji.). "Hinomoto" is the translation of in japanese. Kanji is written as . It means Chinese letter. is the country name of ancient China and is "letter".
Thus the pronunciation for is "nichi" or "jitsu" by "on-yomi" and "hi" by "kun-yomi". Similarly is pronounced "hon" or "pon" by "on-yomi" and "moto" by "kun-yomi".
How became "Japan" ?
The famous Marco Polo wrote about Japan in his book "Il Milione" (The travels of Marco Polo) wrote about Japan as "Zipangu" according to the then chinese pronunciation: "Jih-pen" for . His book was translated in many languages. Thus became "Japan" in english, dutch, german and swedish (though pronunciations are different), "Japon" in french, "Japón" in spanish, "Japão" in portuguese, "Giappone" in Italian. Korean pronunciate as "il bon" that is korean way of chinese-wise pronunciation.
What was the name of Japan before 617 ?
It is believed ancient japanese called their country as "Yamato" though the place of "Yamato" is a target of discussion. There are so many places that has the name of "Yamato" with some variations of kanji expression typically . The latter can be read as "Yamato". can be read as "yama" or "san" meaning "mountain". can be read as "to" or "mon" meaning "gate (can be gate of mountain or fort). In japanese mountainous geography, there are a lot of such a places. Moreover, can not be read as "Yamato" in regular reading rule. It should be originally mountain related name.
According to a historiography in China, in 239, "Himiko" the queen of "Yamatai" country sent a delegate to the country of "Gi". The "kanji"s used for "Himiko" and "Yamatai" are sound-wise expression. Therefore those kanji's are thought meaningless. But there is one thing peculiar to those kanji's. The meaning of is mean or pissant or like. The meaning of is evil. Ancient chinese used bad meaning kanji for expressing other nations. Hun who invaded Europe including Hungary and Finland was expressed as meaning ferocious slave. Nowadays they express America as "beauty country" and Germany as "virtue country". Hungary is still expressed as though the meaning of is dissipated nowadays.
Back to the Historiography, Japan was expressed as "Wa". It was the Chinese way of calling japanese. "Yamatai" is the name which Chinese thought what japanese call themselves. After then japanese people called themselves . The meaning of was something like obedient ugly and small. At that time japanese did not know the meaning and used it as the name of their country. But when japnese people know the meaning of they changed the country name to . is pronounced as "wa" equally as . Japanese added to meaning "large wa". And they gave the pronunciation "Yamato" the original japanese country name.
is one of the most favored words of japanese people. It means "peace and harmony". Japanese people like to be in peace and harmony with other people rather than "Freedom and Competition". Japanese are basically agricultural people and live in fixed place. They do not like to be a "Winner" living nearby the "Looser" as neighbor in contrast to American people.
Nowadays, the people in the world live fixed to the only one globe and the spirit of is becoming more important rather than the one of "Freedom and Competition".
Other names for Japan
There are several other names.
- "Hi no moto" : This is the translation of "Nihon" into traditional japanese language.
- "Hi izuru kuni" . It means "the country where the sun rise (appear).
- "Oh ya shima" : It means large eight islands. The oldest ancient couple of gods created or born eight large island to form Japan.
- "Toyo ashi hara nakatsu kuni" : It means "the country in midst of rich reeds field". Probably ancient Japan was full of reeds.
- "Toyo ashi hara mizu ho no kuni" : It means "the country of rich reeds field and rice".