One of the best Japanese Kanji dictionaries.

Kanji for Japan, the country where the sun rises

Kanji for Japan, the country where the sun rises

No Japanese people call their home country “Japan” in their language. Instead, they call it にほん(Nihon にほん) or にっぽん(Nippon にっぽん), and Kanji characters for both pronunciations are the same – 日本. Besides, there is another Kanji that stands for the adjective “Japanese” or “Japanese language” – 和.

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Take a closer look at 日, 本, and 和

Let’s take a look at these three characters.

In this context,「日」means “the sun,” and 「本」means “beginning,” or “origin.”

As a total, the word「日本」 represents the meaning “a place where the sun rises.”

「和」is pronounced as “Wa” based on the ancient name for Japan called by China, 「倭」(Wa).

「日」 is a pictogram for the sun.

  • Pronounce - OnyomiWhat is Onyomi?
    Reading based on old Chinese pronunciation.
  • Pronounce - KunyomiWhat is Kunyomi?
    Reading based on Japanese to express the meaning of kanji.
    There are some Kanji characters that need to be fed, such as “嬉しい”.
  • Strokes What is Strokes?
    The stroke order is the order of writing kanji.
    Created with the aim of unifying the stroke order as much as possible so as not to cause confusion in learning instruction.
  • Radical What is Radical?
    Radical is a part of a kanji used to classify kanji.
    In radical classification, at least one radical is assigned to all Kanji characters.

The character「本」 comes from putting a mark on a base of a tree and shows the meaning of “root,” “fundamental part,” “beginning,” “foundation,” or “basis.”

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  • Pronounce - OnyomiWhat is Onyomi?
    Reading based on old Chinese pronunciation.
  • Pronounce - KunyomiWhat is Kunyomi?
    Reading based on Japanese to express the meaning of kanji.
    There are some Kanji characters that need to be fed, such as “嬉しい”.
  • Strokes What is Strokes?
    The stroke order is the order of writing kanji.
    Created with the aim of unifying the stroke order as much as possible so as not to cause confusion in learning instruction.
  • Radical What is Radical?
    Radical is a part of a kanji used to classify kanji.
    In radical classification, at least one radical is assigned to all Kanji characters.

「和」 is the combination of two blocks. 口 is for the “mouth,” and 禾 represents the sound. 禾 means “to meet.” As a whole, the shape of 和 represents the harmony of the voices of people.

In the modern Japanese text, it is used for the meaning “to be calm,” “to get along,” “to soften,” “peaceful,” “sum (in Mathematics),” “to respond,” “to mix,” “to adjust,” and“Japanese.”

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A country with two names – Which should you pronounce, Nihon or Nippon?

The Japanese government accepts both Nihon and Nippon as the country’s official name. It considers that there is no need to unify them. However, Japanese people tend to call the name “Nihon” in daily conversation. Also, when combined with other words to describe that something is Japanese, it tends to be pronounced “Nihon.” For example, the Japanese language is「日本語」(Nihongo 日本語), and Japanese people are called 「日本人」(Nihonjin 日本人).

Generally speaking, “Nippon” is used in specific situations or nouns.

Here are some of the examples for the usage of “Nippon”:

  1. The Japanese national team or player in international sport matches or games such as Olympics, Paralympics, World Cups, etc. are called日本代表(Nippon daihyō にっぽんだいひょう). The national team could be simply called 日本(Nippon にっぽん).
  2. The central bank and the group running post offices uses “Nippon” in their names.
    1. Bank of Japan:日本銀行 (Nippon Ginkō 日本銀行)
      To be more exact, the bank says the law does not specify the pronunciation of its name. However, it calls itself “Nippon Ginkō,” as the name is printed as “NIPPON GINKO” on Japanese bills.
    2. The name of the group running post offices: 日本郵政グループ (Nippon Yūsei Gurūpu にっぽん郵政グループ)
  3. “Nippon” tends to be used when talking externally.

    On the front side of the bills, you could see the characters “日本銀行券 [kanji_voice txt='日本銀行券'].”

    On the backside of the bills, you can see the letters “NIPPON GINKO.”

In conclusion, when you want to call the country’s name in Japanese, “Nihon” sounds more natural in most of the cases.

The abbreviation when combined with foreign countries’ names

In this kind of situation, the abbreviation of 日本 is「日」. Foreign countries’ names are abbreviated in one Kanji character as well. In general, 「日」 comes first, and other names will follow.

For example:

  1. U.S – Japan Security Treaty:日米安全保障条約(Nichibei Anzen Hoshō Jōyaku 日米安全保障条約)
    In this context,「米」stands for the U.S.
  2. 2002 FIFA WORLD CUP KOREA JAPAN: Japanese people usually call it 「2002年日韓ワールドカップ 2002年日韓ワールドカップ」 or「2002日韓W杯」. 「年」 means “year” and 「韓」stands for South Korea. “W” is the abbreviation for “World” and「杯」means “cup.”

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The history of the name of Japan

Japan was not called “日本” before the sixth century. Since Japanese people did not have any characters until around the fourth century, we could only know how Japan was called before that from the documents written in ancient China.

Japan used to be called 「倭」(Wa) from China. The very first Chinese document in which Japan appears is from the first to the second century BCE, and Japanese people were called 「倭人」(Wajin わじん).

It is said that Japanese people started to call their country’s name 「日本」 from the late seventh century, and the name became official around the year 701 CE.

The first Chinese official document  that the name「日本」appears is 『旧唐書』(the Old book of Tang, pronounced “Kutōjo くとうじょ” in Japanese and “Jiù Tángshū” in Chinese). It was completed in the mid-tenth century, and nowadays, Japan is still called「日本」from China, pronounced “Rìběn” in Chinese.

A character to represent “Japanese” – 和

「和」 works like the adjective “Japanese” or the noun “the Japanese language” in Kanji compounds.

For example:

  1. 和風(wafū 和風) : The word used when describing that something is in Japanese style. If you say 和風建築(wafū kenchiku), that means that the architecture is in Japanese style.
  2. 和洋折衷(wayō secchū 和洋折衷) : This means the style that Japanese and Western-style are combined. In this context, the Kanji character「洋」stands for something western. It could be used for architecture or meals, etc.
  3. 和服(wafuku 和服), 和装(wasō): Basically, 和服 means Kimono, and 和装 means to wear Kimono.
  4. 和食(washoku 和食) : Japanese dishes
  5. 和訳(wayaku 和訳): Translation into the Japanese language
  6. 和英辞典(waē jiten 和英辞典)・英和辞典(ēwa jiten 英和辞典): 和英辞典 means the Japanese-English dictionary and 英和辞典 means English-Japanese dictionary.

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The reason for the name “the country where the sun rises” – in terms of the International Date Line

As a matter of course, the sun rises in every country. However, when talking about the time zone, you could say that it rises earlier in Japan than most other places on earth, since the country is relatively close to the International Date Line. Japan welcomes a new day earlier than most of the world.

“The country where the sun rises”?  Hmm, it might not be far off in these modern days.