Japan is known as the "land of the rising sun". Japan is an island nation found in the Pacific Ocean. The country is positioned off the eastern coast of mainland Asia. Japan’s land surface area is about 145,916.9 square miles and consists of 6,852 islands. The nation has a population of approximately 127 million, ranking the country as the world’s the 10th largest country by population with 9 million of them living within range of Tokyo, the country’s capital city.
Japan’s Historic Names
Japan has been recognized as the land of the rising sun for at least 1400 years. The actual name of Japan in Japanese is Nihon which means "sun-origin" which is loosely translated to mean "land of the rising sun". There are various conflicting theories as to how the popular reference came to be. According to Chinese historical records, Japan was initially referred to as Wa(Wo) a name that was also designated to Japanese people. The country was later referred to as Yamato in the 5th century AD due to the dominance of the Yamato clan in Japanese affairs and culture.
Chinese Influence In The Naming Of Japan
In about 600 AD Shotoku, the prince regent of Japan (an admirer of Chinese culture) introduced Chinese influences such as the Confucian models of rank, the Chinese calendar, and Buddhism. Shotoku made the first reference of Japan as the land of the rising sun in the year 607 when he wrote a letter to the Sui emperor referring to himself as the Son of Heaven in the land where the sun rises. The Sui dynasty then used the term Nihon when referring to Japan since the sun appeared to rise from Japan’s direction. According to Japanese historical records, a palace coup was orchestrated in 645 AD that led to the great reform that was known as Taika. The reform led to the placement of land under the centralized government and the use of the terms Nippon (meaning origin of the sun) and Dai Nippon meaning "Great Japan" in all diplomatic documents.
Origin Of The Term Nippon
The origin of the name Nippon differs significantly with Chinese records indicating that the term came into existence at the end of the 7th century. Some records such as the Book of Tang state that the Japanese envoy to China did not favor his country being referred by the name of Wonguo, and hence decided to change the name to Nippon ("Origin of the Sun"). Other records such as the chronicles of The True Meaning of Shiji indicate that it was the Chinese empress named Wu Zetian who instructed the Japanese envoy to change his nations name to Nippon. Other Chinese records of the official Tang dynasty history suggest that the name Nippon was conceived by a visiting Japanese envoy who had arrived to pass a congratulatory message to the Chinese over the conquest of Koguryo. The records state that the envoy did not like the term Wa used to refer to his country and thus decided to call it Nippon because his country was close to where the sun rose.