Why Japan is Called Land of Rising Sun?

Which is the Land of Rising Sun? Is Japan called by this name? What does Wa and Nippon mean?
why Japan is called land of rising sun

There is a story behind why Japan is called Land of Rising Sun, and it originated even before the world knew about Japan. While one of the reasons is that it lies on the east side of South China, the other is because of their mythological tales about the Goddess of the Sun.

1. Where is Japan Located?

Japan is an island country located on the Northwest side of the Pacific Ocean. This country is an archipelago of more than 6000 islands. The area covered by these islands is almost 378,000 square kilometers. Among these islands, the country has four main islands, i.e., Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu. Tokyo is the capital and the largest city in Japan. Japan is the 11th most populous country in the world.

2. How did Japan get its Name?

In 111 AD, a Chinese book named the Book of Han was the first to mention Japan as Wa. Although it is said that the Baekje kingdom of Korea brought Buddhism influence to Japan in 552 BC, the development of Japanese Buddhism was generally influenced by China. However, in the year 607, Prince Shotoku from the Asuka period referred to Japan as the land of the rising Sun in his letter to the Sui Emperor in China. He wrote himself as the son of heaven in the land where the sun rises and referred to the Sui Emperor as the son of heaven where the sun sets. (See Why was Napoleon called the Little Corporal?)

3. Why was Wa Replaced?

After and before the 2nd century, China and Korea started using the word Wa to address Japan in their writings. The meaning being distant, dwarf, or submissive. Foreign sources like Penglai or Fu-sang also mention Japan as Wa in their records. However, since the word seemed offensive, the Japanese in the 8th century replaced the Chinese character for Wa with a Japanese word Nippon that meant peace, harmony, and balance. (See Why Japanese people are so disciplined and organized?)

4. What is the Origin of Nippon?

There are many stories about why Japan is called the land of the rising sun and how it changed to Nippon from Wa.

  • During the 7th century, when a Japanese messenger visited China to deliver the congratulatory message to the Chinese over the conquest of Koguryo, he heard people referring to his country as Wa and did not like it. Hence, he decided to put this matter before the emperor, i.e., for the island country to be called Nippon, which means the land where the sun rises.
  • However, another record in the Book of Tang states that the Japanese do not like their country to be referred to as Wonguo, so they changed the name to Nippon, meaning the origin of the sun.
  • While some sources also mention a Chinese Empress Wu Zetian, who ordered the Japanese envoy to get the name of their country changed to Nippon.

Read below to find out why Japan is called land of rising sun.

why Japan is called land of rising sun

5. Why Japan is called Land of Rising Sun?

An Italian explorer, Marco Polo, had mentioned Japan in his records as the land of the rising sun while being in South China. The Chinese people he spoke to mentioned Japan as the land of rising sun, as Japan did not have any official name by then. They considered that there was a land in the east of China where people resided. In their language, the people of South China regarded the country as Ji-pang or Zu- pang, translating to the origin of the sun. This is why Japan is called land of rising sun. (See Why did the Pilgrims leave England?)

6. How does Nihon Shoki influence the idea?

In the book Nihon Shoki, translated as the Chronicles of Japan, there are mentions about the three precious children of Izanagi, the God of Creation. He gave his three children three different worlds to rule and look after. Tsukuyomi– the moon goddess, Susanoo– the god of storm, and Amaterasu– the goddess of the sun, were the names given to his children based on the realm they were bound to rule. Since light is considered the main energy source for all living things to thrive, the Japanese people worshipped Amaterasu the most out of all three deities as she brought light. This is also the reason why Japan is called the land of rising sun. (See 16 Fun Facts About France)

7. What is the History of the Flag of Japan?

Earlier, the flag of Japan had a yellow sun with a red background. Later on, it changed to a crimson-red circle with a white background. The flag is officially called Nisshōki, meaning land of the rising sun. However, in Japan, it is commonly known as Hinomaru, which symbolizes the sun. (Also See Why is the American Flag Red, White, and Blue?)

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