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Where does the name Japan come from?

The name of the country in Japanese is Nihon or Nippon, written in Chinese

characters. The characters mean "the origin of the sun". This comes from the
position of Japan to the east of China. However, neither "Nihon" nor "Nippon"
sounds much like "Japan", so the origin of the word Japan is mysterious. Marco
Polo never visited Japan, only China, but in a book he mentions the island of
Chipangu. Some people say that this is the origin of "Japan". Others claim that
"Japan" came from Malaysian 'Jih-pun' or something similar, which came from a
southern Chinese dialect reading of Nippon.
Others say that when Marco Polo visited China, Chinese pronunciation was close
enough to modern Mandarin that the character for "day/sun" ( ) was a retroflex
fricative, something like the "Z" in "Zsa Zsa Gabor", or "j" and "r" pronounced
simultaneously and held for a syllable. The character for "origin/root/book/scroll"
() was read something like "pun" (as in modern Mandarin, though it sounds more
like the English word "bun" to English speakers), so Marco Polo did the best he could
in Italian with what sounded to him like "jrjrrrpun". The weakest part of this account
is the attribution to Marco Polo; perhaps it was somebody who came along later?
Japan National Flag - Information
The national fl ag of Japan, offi cially called Nisshki ( ), is a white
rectangular fl ag with a stylized sun as a red disk in the center
Japan Flag - Colors - meaning and symbolism
Red Sun Disk represents sun goddess 'Amaterasu', founder of Japan and ancestor of
its emperors. It symbolizes bright future for Japan
White represents honesty, integrity and purity of Japanese people
The national flag of Japan is officially called Nisshki ( ) which means "sunmark flag" in Japanese language
Japan flag is commonly known as Hinomaru ( ) which means "Sun Disk" in
Japanese language
Japan flag is traditionally hoisted on a rough natural bamboo
According to tradition, the Sun Goddess Amaterasu founded Japan about 2700 years
ago. Sun Goddess Amaterasu is also believed to be the ancestor of Jimmu, the first
emperor of Japan. So, the emperor is known as the Son of the Sun and Japan is
called the Land of the Rising Sun. The ancient history Shoku Nihongi says that
Emperor Mommu used a flag representing the sun in his court in 701, and this is the
first recorded use of a sun-motif flag in Japan. The sun-disc flag was adopted as the
national flag for merchant ships under Proclamation issued on February 27, 1870.
The Nisshki flag is designated as the national flag in the Law Regarding the
National Flag and National Anthem, which was promulgated and became effective
on August 13, 1999.
The Writing System
The Scripts
Japanese consists of two scripts (referred to as kana) called Hiragana and Katakana,
which are two versions of the same set of sounds in the language. Hiragana and
Katakana consist of a little less than 50 "letters", which are actually simplified
Chinese characters adopted to form a phonetic script.

Chinese characters, called Kanji in Japanese, are also heavily used in the Japanese
writing. Most of the words in the Japanese written language are written in Kanji
(nouns, verbs, adjectives). There exists over 40,000 Kanji where about 2,000
represent over 95% of characters actually used in written text. There are no spaces
in Japanese so Kanji is necessary in distinguishing between separate words within a
sentence. Kanji is also useful for discriminating between homophones, which occurs
quite often given the limited number of distinct sounds in Japanese.
Hiragana is used mainly for grammatical purposes. We will see this as we learn
about particles. Words with extremely difficult or rare Kanji, colloquial expressions,
and onomatopoeias are also written in Hiragana. It's also often used for beginning
Japanese students and children in place of Kanji they don't know.
While Katakana represents the same sounds as Hiragana, it is mainly used to
represent newer words imported from western countries (since there are no Kanji
associated with words based on the roman alphabet). The next three sections will
cover Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji.
Manners, customs and the Japanese way
Manners and customs are an important part of many facets of Japanese life.
Japanese people grow up picking up the subtleties of this unique culture as they go
through life, respecting the invisible and varied societal rules. There are many
aspects of this seemingly complicated culture that as a foreign visitor you will not
be expected to know, but there are some things that will be easier to grasp than
One of the most obvious social conventions is the bow. Everyone bows when they
say hello, goodbye, thank you or sorry. Bowing is a term of respect, remorse,
gratitude and greeting.
If you meet someone in Japan you may wish to give them a little bow, but you do
not necessarily need to bow to everyone who bows to you. Entering a shop or
restaurant for example, you will be greeted by shouts of irrashaimase (welcome)
and a bow from the staff as a sign of respect to you as the customer.
As the customer, you will not be expected to bow back as you could be facing a long
bow-off as the staff will feel it necessary to bow back to you. You may prefer to
adopt the casual head-nod version of the bow as a sign of acknowledgement when
thanked for your purchase at the end of your shopping experience. Many Japanese
people use the head-nod in more casual everyday situations.
There are several forms of bowing, such as the 45-degree saikeirei bow used for
moments for sincere apology or to show the highest of respect, or the 30-degree
keirei bow, which is also used to show respect to superiors. As a visitor to Japan you
will probably have no use for either of these.
The eshaku 15-degree bow is semi-formal and used for greetings when meeting
people for the first time. You may have more use for this bow during your time in
Japan, but you will not be expected to use it and Japanese these days are more than
familiar with shaking hands.
Taking off footwear
This is something that confuses many visitors to Japan, but is so easy to
understand. It is customary in Japan to take off your shoes when entering a

traditional ryokan (guesthouse), a home, temple or the occasional restaurant for

Traditionally, the Japanese took off their shoes when entering homes as people
would sleep, sit and eat on the tatami-mat floors and footwear worn outside would
spread dirt across their living area. Today people still take off their footwear, partly
to keep the inside of the building clean, but also as a sign of respect.
As a visitor to Japan, you may not find yourself entering too many private homes
but you will probably find yourself in a traditional ryokan or minshuku guesthouse or
entering a temple building. In these cases you will be expected to take off your
As you enter the building you will usually find yourself in the genkan (entrance hall),
which will most often be on a slightly different level to the rest of the floor. You may
see a sign asking you to take of shoes, you may see lots of shoes sitting neatly or
you may see an area or lockers to place your footwear. All of these are signs that
you should take off your shoes.
Most Japanese will glide effortlessly in and out of their footwear from genkan to
tatami floor in one swift move. As soon as you step out of your shoes, step up
straight onto the main floor and to be polite, you might like to turn around and
reposition your shoes neatly or put them in the appropriate place. Although you
may not have mastered taking off your shoes as well as the Japanese, it is a simple
concept that is considered vey important in Japan.
Other social tips
The suffix "san" is often used when you refer to someone else and is a term of
respect. If referring to Mr/Mrs Suzuki, you would say, "Suzuki-san". However, you
would never refer to yourself as "-san" and would only use your name on its own.
Before eating a meal, the Japanese put their hands together and use the term
"Itadakimasu" (I humbly receive). After the meal, it is polite to say "Gochiso sama
deshita" (thank you for the meal).
Japanese people will understand if visitors do not have proficient use of chopsticks,
but there are some rules you should try and follow:
Do not stick your chopsticks into your bowl of rice or pass food around with them.
As well as being slightly uncouth, these actions have relevance to the Japanese
funeral ceremony.
It is also advisable not to douse your rice in soy sauce. The Japanese are very proud
of their rice and this seemingly innocent action may surprise and even offend some
ryokan/restaurant owners.
It is not common practice to walk and eat in public and is considered bad manners.
You may sit down in a public place and eat or stand at tachi-gui restaurant/shops,
but walking and eating is not polite.
There is no tipping in Japanese restaurants or other places that many westerners
will expect to tip. The Japanese will always give the best service they can and do
their jobs proudly. A waiter or chef would certainly not accept a tip for doing their
jobs and if you tried to leave one, they would awkwardly return your money, so
don't tip.