Names of Countries Which Use Kanji

Proper Noun Trivia

*This series explains the meanings of proper names, including names of places, companies, people, brands and others.
Name 日本 (Japan)
Romaji
Hiragana
Nihon / Nippon
にほん / にっぽん
Kanji meaning sun (day) / origin (book)
Japan is often called “the land of the rising sun.” “Hon” also means “root.” Books are the root (foundation) of wisdom. Both “Nihon” and “Nippon” are the officially recognized names for the nation.

 

Name 韓国 (Korea)
Romaji
Hiragana
Kankoku
かんこく
Kanji meaning dried leather / country
Dried leather denotes “strength.” When writing the names of foreign nations, Japanese generally use katakana, but kanji is used for Korea. “Nikkan” (日韓 / Japan – Korea).

 

Name 中国 (China)
Romaji
Hiragana
Chuugoku
ちゅうごく
Kanji meaning center / country
“Chugoku” literally means central country. When writing the names of foreign nations, Japanese generally use katakana, but kanji is used for China. “Nicchuu” (日中 / Japan – China).

 

Name 台湾 (Taiwan)
Romaji
Hiragana
Taiwan
たいわん
Kanji meaning stand / bay
“Tai” is also a counter for machines and vehicles. When writing the names of foreign nations Japanese generally use katakana, kanji is used for Taiwan. “Nittai” (日台/ Japan – Taiwan).

 

Name 米国 (USA)
Romaji
Hiragana
Beikoku
べいこく
Kanji meaning rice / country
Japanese used to use the kanji (亜米利加) for America. 米 (me or bei) has been used as a shortened version of the word. The media often write about “Nichibei” (日米 Japan – America). Generally katakana is used to spell out Amerika.

 

Name 英国 (Britain)
Romaji
Hiragana
Eikoku
えいこく
Kanji meaning excellent (flower) / country
Japanese usually write Igirisu (Britain) in katakana, but it used to be that kanji was used (英吉利). Even now Eikoku (Britain), or ei as “Nichiei” (日英 / Japan – Britain) is often used. Nowadays “Ei” (英) also refers to English (Eigo).

[From Hiragana Times article]

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