Things Japanese/Japan

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Japan. Our word "Japan," and the Japanese Nihon or Nippon, are alike corruptions of Jih-pén, the Chinese pronunciation of the characters 日本 literally "sun-origin," that is, "the place the sun comes from," a name given to Japan by the Chinese on account of the position of the archipelago to the east of their own country. Marco Polo's Zipangu and the poets Cipango are from the same Chinese compound, with the addition of the word kuo (Jap. koku), 國 which means "country."

The name Nihon ("Japan") seems to have been first officially employed by the Japanese government in A.D. 670. Before that time, the usual native designation of the country was Yamato, properly the name of one of the central provinces. Yamato and Ō-mi-kuni, that is, "the Great August Country," are the names still preferred in poetry and belles-lettres. Japan has other ancient names, some of which are of learned length and thundering sound, for instance, Toyo-ashi-wara-no-chi-aki-no-naga-i-ho-aki-no-nizu-ho-no-kuni, that is, "the-Luxuriant-Reed-Plains-the-Land-of-Fresh-Rice-Ears-of-a-Thousand-Autumns-of-Long-Five-Hundred-Autumns." But we shall not detain the reader with an enumeration of them. Any further curiosity on this head may be satisfied by consulting the pages of the "Kojiki" (see "Asiatic Transactions, Vol. X., Supplement).