Land of the...

Thu, Mar 22, 2018

I’m learning Japanese, starting with two of their three writing systems, hirigana and katakana. The third writing system that I haven’t started with yet is the Chinese character inspired kanji, though I did learn a little traditional Chinese script a few years ago. Here’s a fun thing I’ve only just discovered.

The kanji for 'Japan' (Nihon/Nippon)

The kanji for 'Japan' (Nihon/Nippon)

So the issue of the correct name for Japan isn’t simple. You’ll usually hear the kanji, above, pronounced either ‘Nihon’ or ‘Nippon’. Nihon and Nippon are valid sound readings of the two charcters, 日本. There is government advice on which is to be used, when. Nippon is often used for official purposes these days; Nihon is the older of the two.

But that’s not the interesting thing. The interesting thing is this:

The first character, , is the Chinese character for ‘sun’. The second character, , is the Chinese character for, among other things, ‘root’, ‘base’, or ‘origin’.*.

So… the two characters together mean ‘the origin (root) of the sun’. That is, the land of the rising sun. Neat, eh? And isn’t that an interesting nuance - that Japan isn’t only the land of the rising sun but is the very origin of the sun.

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