The Null Device

Japanese Culture SAQs

Seldom-asked questions about Japanese culture; from why office workers make exaggerated jogging movements when moving about through the office to why green traffic lights are said to be blue in Japanese; from Western cartoon characters having fifth fingers added for the Japanese market (to avoid looking like yakuza or untouchables), to why the country is called "Japan" in English whilst being called "Nihon" or "Nippon" in Japanese; with plenty of colourful anecdotes. (via Found)

There are 10 comments on "Japanese Culture SAQs":

Posted by: Akira http:// Mon Dec 8 23:35:03 2003

Hello All, the following post was taken from:

There are several Japanese SAQ threads here. Enjoy!

Q. I have long wondered why Japan is called 'Japan' in English. A. The word Japan probably comes from Portuguese or Dutch. Sailors, traders and missionaries from Portugal were the first westerners to visit Japan and they were already calling the country 'Zipangu' or "Jipangu" because they had heard the country called 'Jihpenkuo' in northern China. Another theory is that the word comes from the Dutch word "Japan", which is taken from "Yatpun", the name for Japan which is used in southern China. ...

Q. What is the difference between Japan's two names, "Nippon" and "Nihon"? A. "Nihon" and "Nippon" are just different pronunciations of the same word, which means "the place from which the sun rises". The name was given to the country by the famous Prince Shotoku in the early seventh century.

Yes, but Jihpen(kuo), Yatpun, and Nihon/Nippon are all the same word, wri

Posted by: Ben-Gurion Jacarutu Tue Dec 9 01:45:16 2003

English is strange and fairly unique in that the English (for some reason) give names to other countries and cities which the people in those countries don't use themselves.

Posted by: mitch http:// Tue Dec 9 02:33:34 2003

The French call Deutschland "Allemagne"... I don't think this is unusual or particular to the English.

Posted by: Julius Irving http:// Tue Dec 9 04:38:39 2003

I think english is worse. Apart from France and maybe Italy, I can't immediately think of any non-English speaking countries which call themselves the english equivalent.

Posted by: mark Tue Dec 9 04:52:25 2003

I believe Indonesia calls itself "Indonesia" (and they call "Australia" "Australi").

Posted by: acb Tue Dec 9 05:49:49 2003

The Polish word for "German" translates literally as "dumb" (as in "unable to speak"); this is presumably because of the linguistic difference between German and Polish and its Slavic neighbours.

Posted by: Graham Tue Dec 9 07:58:23 2003

For what it's worth, Australia is "An Astrail" in Gaelic.

Posted by: Alex Tue Dec 9 11:00:38 2003

Frequently Unanswered Questions?

Mmm, FUQs.

Posted by: Ben Tue Dec 9 11:13:03 2003

But don't forget, Indonesia is a modern creation. The locals there probably think of themselves equally as Javanese etc. as Indonesian.

Posted by: dima Sat Dec 13 00:33:09 2003

Japan (Yapan, if transcribing Dutch for English speakers) is most probably coming from Dutch (Dutch were the only Europeans who were allowed to enter Japan when it was closed for I don't remember how many centuries) The word itself is probably borrowed from Chinese...

And regarding calling other countries in English, that's English phonetics/spelling that makes things hard. E.g. Netherlands and Belgium are "Nederland" and "Belgie" in Dutch/Flemish. (Belgium is just Latin, I think)