Nippon or Nihon? No consensus on Japanese pronunciation of Japan

Nippon or Nihon? No consensus on Japanese pronunciation of Japan

TOKYO —

As any student of Japanese will tell you, its use of Chinese characters known as kanji can be a nightmare at times. And although they can be really useful at deducing the meaning of complex words, they give little in the way of clues as to how one should pronounce them.

Take the kanji for Japan (日本) for example. Even a first grader can tell you what it means, but ask a group of adults how to pronounce it and you might get a mixture of “Nihon” or “Nippon” and maybe even an occasional “Yamato” if one of those people happens to be a smart-ass.

■  Why Japan?
Before getting into the Nihon/Nippon issue, let’s figure out why English speakers completely ignore the original name and call the country “Japan,” a name that would mean “Well, bread!” in its native language.

It would seem the culprit behind this variation of the name is Marco Polo during his reported visits to Northern China during the Yuan Dynasty. Although he never actually made it to Japan he heard of the place from those he met in China. At that time the name for Japan was established as the kanji (日本), which in Chinese reads as Rìběn.

However, due to the dialect of that area and time it came out sounding like “Jipen” which was transcribed as “Zipangu” in The Travels of Marco Polo. From there it spread through the linguistic stew of Europe and became the modern “Japan” in English today.

■  “Nippon” came first
A long time ago Japan used to be known as “Wa” or “Yamato” and used the kanji 倭. Time passed and the official kanji was changed to 日本 in 640. However, the name Yamato was still used for some time. Around the latter half of the 7th century the official reading of 日本 changed to either “Nippon” or “Jippon.”

It’s believed that the pronunciation of “Nihon” came as a nickname in the Kanto region during the Edo period. People associate that story with the differences between 日本橋 (Nipponbashi) in Osaka and 日本橋 (Nihonbashi) in Tokyo.

■  “Nihon” came out on top
Knowing that, it would seem the obvious answer is that “Nippon” is the correct way to pronounce 日本 simply because it was here first. However, a recent survey showed that 61 percent of Japanese people read it as “Nihon” while only 37 percent said “Nippon.“ The results also showed that “Nihon” was much more prevalent among younger people too. So while it would seem “Nippon” has seniority, “Nihon” has the popular vote.

Naming the country would certainly seem like an appropriate job for the government, wouldn’t it? Unfortunately there is no official document defining the pronunciation of 日本 or 日本国. However, an attempt was made by the Ministry of Education in 1934. They were conducting a major investigation into the national language, a part of which recommended that the country officially be pronounced “Nippon” once and for all. However, the government simply ignored their request.

In 2009, a Member of the Lower House made a slightly more liberal move and submitted a request asking that the national government decide on a unified pronunciation, whether it be “Nippon” or “Nihon.” The government replied that both terms were in wide usage and it saw no reason to take an official side on the matter.

■  日本 = ?
You could either applaud the government’s indecision as a way of saying that they had bigger issues to deal with, or you could criticize their “Don’t worry man, it’s cool” attitude. Either way, one thing is certain. The name of this country is simply two or three pictograms that legally could be verbally interpreted any way you want, be it Nihon, Nippon, Jippon, Japan, Hinomoto, Yamato, Wa, or Zipangu. 

Sources: NHK, Kotoba Zatsuki, Gigazine via Naver Matome

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  • 1

    avigator

    If it is thought of as Nichi-Moto, then it is ok to say Nippon, or maybe Bihon.

  • -3

    paulinusa

    It might be Nippon or Nihon in Japan but I've never heard a Japanese person OUTSIDE of Japan refer to it as anything other than "Japan".

  • 2

    titaniumdioxide

    When I started studying kanji, my comprehension was Himoto.

  • 1

    JeffLee

    I've always assumed "Nippon" is emphatic and often used in nationalistic situations. Like when Japanese athletes are cheered, the NHK announcers always scream "Nippon!!!!"

  • 9

    genjuro

    Interesting that the article didn't mention that the 10,000 yen note has "Nippon Ginko" written on it.

  • 2

    Saiaku

    I've heard from my senseis that nihon is what people usually call it, but in official cases like sports, politics etc they use nippon.

  • -3

    Edumund Fitzgerald

    Just another reason why I despise Japanese mangled use of Chinese characters. Things are way more complicated than they ever had to be.

  • 0

    House Atreides

    Just pronounce it the way it was originally pronounced: Hinomoto.

  • -5

    wtfjapan

    yes this is a great example of decision making in Japan, cant even decide on what to call your country!? make a decision and stick to it , not something in between trying to please everybody.

  • -1

    Aizo Yurei

    I thought "nippon" was used in nationalistic situations.

  • -2

    GalapagosnoGairaishu

    Seeing as how both Korean and Chinese labialize the initial consonant of the second syllable (ilbun, riben) without strongly strongly aspirating it, the most natural way to pronounce those two characters would be Nipon, not Nippon.

  • 2

    tonttu2012

    Call it "Nippon" in English, but "Nihon" in Japanese. For example, "nippongo," "nipponshoku," etc. sound bizarre and "nipponjin", "nippon bunka," etc. nationalist in Japanese. Romaji is not here for us native speakers of Japanese, but there for non-speakers of Japanese, so "Nippon Ginko" is OK.

  • -12

    Knox Harrington

    Just another reason why I despise Japanese mangled use of Chinese characters. Things are way more complicated than they ever had to be.

    Which, coincidentally, goes for most things Japanese.

    Japan would do well to simplify their language quite a bit, and go with hiragana only. Most Japanese tell you that would be impossible since the deeper meanings of kanji disappears but if we take a look at Korea, they manage pretty well with hangul. Also, Vietnam used to be a kanji country but they seem to survive well with roman letters only. This Nippon/Nihon business is archetypical of how Japan seemingly have lost the skill of simplification.

  • 4

    smithinjapan

    I gave a lecture to adults at a small conference once and talked about some of the histories of Canada as well as relations past and present with Japan. When the group broke up into smaller groups for a kind of workshop (I went around the groups for some Q&A), one rather nationalistic woman insisted that I call the country 'Nippon', even in English. She said it infuriated her and her husband that Japan is the 'only' (her words) nation in the world with different names in different language. I explained WHY the names were different, and calmy said Japan is certainly NOT the only country with different names, citing Germany as a prime example.

    Anyway, one of those reasons, as the author pointed out, is because when it spread through Europe the name different slightly. It first appeared in English as 'Giappan' in the 1600s or something. I like the detailed history, although I had heard the name Japan originated from a kind of Cantonese dialect ("Jat Bang") from traders on the island of Malacca when they were asked where they got such beautiful silk.

    Anyway, I hear of course hear a whole lot more 'Nihon' than 'Nippon', but I when I hear the latter it is usually older people saying it, or like I said, nationalists. I can say that it is a lot more fun to shout at sports (the exception when the majority use Nippon, I'd say), and stronger phonetically, than "Nihon".

  • 7

    Strangerland

    She said it infuriated her and her husband that Japan is the 'only' (her words) nation in the world with different names in different language.

    And yet they call The United States of America just 'America' in Japanese.

  • 3

    Pukey2

    smith:

    one rather nationalistic woman insisted that I call the country 'Nippon', even in English. She said it infuriated her and her husband that Japan is the 'only' (her words) nation in the world with different names in different language.

    Sounds like a nutcase to me. I hope she realizes that Igirisu sounds nothing like United Kingdom, and that the word Nippon would never have existed had the Japanese not adopted Chinese characters. Japan would still be called Wa or Yamato, or are we allowed to write the country's name in roman letters?

  • 4

    smithinjapan

    Pukey2: I knew she was a bit of a nutbag. Igirisu is of course meant to be 'England', but she meant more complete changes in name like "Nippon/Nihon" to Japan. And again, I mentioned German to her, which is known as Deutchland in Germany, Allemande in France, etc. and lest we forget Holland/The Netherlands. The America/US brought up by Stangerland is a bit of a separate argument.

  • 4

    GalapagosnoGairaishu

    Allemande in France,

    Allemagne

  • -1

    Pukey2

    smith:

    Igirisu is of course meant to be 'England'

    Strictly speaking, I think Igirisu is supposed to mean UK (although I have a sneaky feeling that they got it confused with England). If the Americans don't know the difference between UK and England, I can't expect the Japanese to know either. In football, you see England being called Ingurando in Japanese.

    Yes, the Germans must also be fuming that the Russians call them Nimietski.

  • 1

    Laguna

    Some very interesting points here. I studied Chinese in college remember well that devilishly difficult "re-" sound, halfway between a J and an R. Considering the touchy relationship between the two countries, the Sinocentric origin of 日本 is rather ironic.

    I'd also postulate that the difference in pronunciation between "Nippon" and "Nihon" is related not to nationalism but to the sense of refinement generally attributed to soft consonants in the Japanese language - e.g., the subtle difference between "wakarimasen" and "wakarimahen." The former is standard and\or provides emphasis, while the latter implies the reservation so treasured in Japan.

  • 6

    Raymond Chuang

    I think in the end, it comes down to this: the original pronunciation--Nippon--came from older dialects of Japanese from the Kyoto area, while the more modern pronunciation--Nihon--came from the Edo dialects dating from the 1700's. And both pronunciations are still commonly used even now, even with the many dialects spoken around Japan. It appeared that the Ministry of Education almost settled this argument in 1934, but the objections of the people in the Kanto Plain region (e.g, a huge fraction of the Japanese population!) who were used to using Nihon ended that idea.

  • 2

    gaihonjin

    Regardless of how you think it should be used, I've found that the way that it's actually used is pretty interesting. Basically, anytime there is an element of patriotism, nationalism or jingoism that is expressed in the statement, whether it's implicit or explicit, then you'll hear the "Nippon" version. When the country is being named in a more ambivalent or neutral tone or being used to speak generally about things related to the nation or its government, then you'll hear "Nihon."

    The name change can even be as fluid as to use "Nippon" when "Nihon" would otherwise have been used, when the context is one that is tinged with national chauvinism. This isn't something I was taught, but it is something that I learned.

  • 2

    gokai_wo_maneku

    I can only say that to young people, Nippon sounds out of date or old fashion.

  • 3

    cleo

    Then again, what makes Brits choose to say the UK, the United Kingdom, Britain, Great Britain, etc?

    When do Americans say America, and when do they choose to say The United States of America, the states, the US, USA, etc? (eg the president always says Gawd bless America, never Gawd bless the USA or Gawd bless the states)

    The government replied that both terms were in wide usage and it saw no reason to take an official side on the matter. It's cool.

  • 7

    ThonTaddeo

    Smith and Raymond, you guys are on the right track -- certainly ahead of the author of this article. In ancient times, words that are today pronounced with [h] in certain positions (particularly at the beginning of a word) had [p] there. A flower was a pana; you mother was your papa. The legendary empress of the 2nd or 3rd century AD answered to "Pimiko".

    This sound went to /f/ in the Heian period, and then later to [h] before every vowel but [u]. This should be familiar to Westerners -- the Greek phi once really was a "p+h" sound, and now it's an [f].

    If you Google for images of the Portuguese dictionaries produced in the early 1600s, you'll actually see this intermediate stage of the language right in the title, which is Nifon no Cotoba. (Similarly, the legendary Heike Monogatari was called "Feiqe" back then.)

    Once you get used to the Portuguese-based romanization, you'll see the letter F everywhere, and at one point João Rodrigues even describes the [f] sound and how it's slightly different from his; people say it with their lips almost touching, rather than using their upper teeth and lower lip as Europeans do. He mentions that some people (today, all people when the following vowel is anything other than [u]) use [h] there.

    And today that ancient [p] survives when it's in the middle of a word, leaving pairs of matching words where the [p] has changed to [h] at the beginning but not as a double consonant in the middle, like hare : appare and futatsu : mapputatsu. Another big one is the verb hanasu which retains its [p] in the large family of words like shippanashi, tsukeppanashi, ireppanashi and the like.

    So Nippon is perfectly logical; it's the Nihon version that's irregular. Or are we going to start hearing people say tsuke-hanashi? Will a beautiful girl be a be-hin instead of a beppin? I wonder.

  • 2

    Ah_so

    @Thon Taddeo: Thank you - really interesting post.

    I had always imagined that using "h" in the middle of the word instead of "pp" was how the word was shortened in speech. I would suppose that an "f" sound would also play that role as effectively.

  • 0

    lucabrasi

    Agree absolutely with gaihonjin. "Nippon" rears it's ugly head whenever nationalists are involved, or the silly pseudo-nationalist television reporters covering the Olympics.

    "Nihon" is so much more civilised.

  • 1

    evian1

    To avoid confusion, Japan being proud of their history, they can / should revert more beautiful word like Mizuho / 穗, or the myth of "Fu So" / 扶桑。I think Fuso reflect modern day Nippon / 日本。

    Wonder why Japan change its name "Wa" 倭 during China's Sui Dynasty? According to Chinese analects; when a mission from Wa /倭国 was introduced to the then Sui emperor, the minister pronounced the then official language as "Ue-Kok" /倭国, alas of the Min 闽 language, the Sui emperor had a good laugh, because of the 5-foot or less Japanese males at that time. The Ue / 倭 = 婑 tone which means "shortie" in the then language. Since then to this day, both Korea and China always refer them as 倭寇/ Wuo-Kou as derogatory term as "shortie pirate" for they have ransacked China Korea coastal villages as far as history can tell.

  • 2

    ThonTaddeo

    Evian, my pet theory regarding wa as the name of the country is that it originally had nothing to do with the people's height, but rather than when the Chinese explorers first met the tribes of Japan 1800 years ago, in their attempts at communication, the locals were just saying "us" or "our land".

    The word wa in wagakuni 我が国 isn't used for very much else now, but words related to wa were used to mean "me, myself, us, etc." in ancient times and are still the regular words in many Okinawan languages. The Japanese didn't yet have writing then, so the Chinese were free to pick a character that sounded right, and they picked 倭. Maybe they were influenced by the people's short stature, maybe not. I'm inclined to think that the phonetic value was more important.

  • 0

    GG2141

    If the Japanese don't want to spend even more time explaining to foreigners that, NO, they don't speak Chinese in Japan, and , NO, mud-men don't live in Japan, they should NOT change the name of their country to Zippy Zippy Zippangu.

    It is what it is. Japan.

  • 0

    smithinjapan

    Pukey: "In football, you see England being called Ingurando in Japanese."

    True enough, but you really can't factor in sports or modern tech except if you're trying to teach Japanese their mistakes in English. Sports adopted from Western countries are literally a NIGHTMARE in terms of misuse of English (officially they are Japanese, but loan-words from other languages) in particular. I won't get into it beyond saying that an effective tool in teaching Japanese to stop saying, "Nice shoot!" in soccer or basketball is to ask them what they say in golf: the lightbulb clicks on and they say, "Naruhodo... 'nice shot'". Then there's the whole measurement system that's in disarray. My neighbour told me he bought a new 42-inch flat screen a few weeks back. Just for fun I asked him how many centimeters it was. He chuckled and said he had no idea. Then I asked how many inches tall he was, and again, same thing. The language here is adopting and abusing WAY to much from other languages that the people here have no idea where it's from or how to use it in other languages, not to mention the damage to the native tongue it is doing. If I hear about another 'gerende' from a person talking to me in English about skiing...

    More directly back to the Nihon/Nippon thing, thanks for the post, Thorn. Very insightful. It might be interesting to note that in the Korean language, you still have softer consonants like 'b', 'g', and others that retain a hard pronunciation when at the beginning of a word. "Busan" is pronounced "Pusan" (and written that way on many Western maps), as "Jeju" is pronounced more like "Cheju", "Gimpo" airport being pronounced like "Kimpo", and who can forget "Gangnam Style" sounding like "Kangnam Style". I believe this is why earlier pronunciations of the consonants you mentioned at the beginning of words differed from the present, like with the current 'h' sound being once 'p' (at the beginning of the word... still is in the middle in many cases, as you pointed out). This likely changed over time with Japan being isolated as an island nation.

  • 2

    FightingViking

    @genjuro

    Interesting that the article didn't mention that the 10,000 yen note has "Nippon Ginko" written on it.

    Since I haven't seen one of those in a looooooong time, I'll take your word for it !

  • 1

    smithinjapan

    genjuro: "Interesting that the article didn't mention that the 10,000 yen note has "Nippon Ginko" written on it."

    Not really. I mean, if it wanted to list every instance of when things are written in Romaji as either Nippon or Nihon, the article would be never-ending. It gave some examples, but clearly not all, as listing all is not necessary.

  • 3

    zippy321

    Being Canadian, I find this very interesting and amusing. A society thousands of years old still not sure of the origin of their country's name. Where the name "Canada" came from is also debatable.

  • -1

    kurisupisu

    Much ado about zilch.........

  • 1

    genjuro

    Not really. I mean, if it wanted to list every instance of when things are written in Romaji as either Nippon or Nihon, the article would be never-ending. It gave some examples, but clearly not all, as listing all is not necessary.

    Yes really, since the 10,000 yen note is a common currency note in use. And obviously you can't have an infinite length article; that's just common sense. You might not find it interesting that it's not in the article, but I and those who liked my post do.

    Since I haven't seen one of those in a looooooong time, I'll take your word for it !

    FightingViking, here's when google images come handy:

    http://www.banknotes.com/jp106.htm

  • 0

    Yogizuna

    I find it fascinating that the commentators above who suggested that Japan simplify it's written language received a lot of thumbs down! Why, is this not obvious?

  • 1

    FightingViking

    @genjuro

    Thank you ! I hope to get to see a real one in the not too distant future ! I shall certainly "check it out" !

  • 0

    SerhiyS

    Pukey2:

    Yes, the Germans must also be fuming that the Russians call them Nimietski.

    Russians call Germans "N'emtsy" while Germany - Germania (G as in good).

  • -2

    Pukey2

    SerhiyS:

    Russians call Germans "N'emtsy" while Germany - Germania (G as in good).

    спасибо. I must have been thinking of the adjective.

    zippy:

    Being Canadian, I find this very interesting and amusing. A society thousands of years old still not sure of the origin of their country's name. Where the name "Canada" came from is also debatable.

    Add that to the fact that it's not that common for a Japanese person to be unsure of the pronunciation of another Japanese person's name when written in kanji without furigana. In fact I've been told that when choosing a baby's name, some people just pick a kanji or two and allocate any old pronunciation to them.

    BTW, from wikipedia: The name Canada comes from the St. Lawrence Iroquoian word kanata, meaning "village" or "settlement".

  • 3

    Strangerland

    In fact I've been told that when choosing a baby's name, some people just pick a kanji or two and allocate any old pronunciation to them.

    That's not exactly correct. It is true that non-standard readings can be applied to Kanji. This is called ateji (当て字). So for example you could have a child named Raito, the Japanese pronunciation of 'light', with the kanji 光 which means 'light', even though that kanji is usually pronounced 'Hikari' when used as a name. But it's not like people just grab some random characters and/or a random reading, they generally will think this out with as much thought as anyone puts into the name of their child, which is to say, a lot.

  • 0

    Nenad Jovanović

    @Knox Harrington

    Japan would do well to simplify their language quite a bit, and go with hiragana only. Most Japanese tell you that would be impossible since the deeper meanings of kanji disappears but if we take a look at Korea, they manage pretty well with hangul. Also, Vietnam used to be a kanji country but they seem to survive well with roman letters only. This Nippon/Nihon business is archetypical of how Japan seemingly have lost the skill of simplification.

    I love Japan, love Kanji, Hiragana and Katagana and idea of simplifying their language is insult .

  • -4

    Strangerland

    Just because something is insulting, doesn't mean it's wrong.

    When you consider the sheer number of hours that kids have to spend to learn Japanese - 3 or more hours a week - you have to also consider that they aren't spending that time learning something else. If they were focusing that time on something else, it could produce results.

    Not that I ever see it happening though.

  • 2

    akoppa

    This is one of the best articles I have read in JAPANTODAY and aside from some minor mistakes even most comments are really good. BTW, guys and gals at NHK's government TV say Nippon when reading news. http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x174oyfnhk-ohayo-nippon-2012news

  • 3

    technosphere

    @Pukey :

    "in football, you see England being called Ingurando in Japanese"

    So what? In Russian language, Japan is called "Yaponiya" and China is called "Kitai". When Japanese call England as "Ingurando" it is quite normal.

  • 0

    Pukey2

    strangerland:

    When you consider the sheer number of hours that kids have to spend to learn Japanese - 3 or more hours a week - you have to also consider that they aren't spending that time learning something else

    That is nothing when you consider that the Chinese have to learn double the number of Chinese characters, and in places like Hong Kong, kids have to learn English on top of two Chinese languages. I certainly don't see their education suffering anymore than the Japanese.

    As for Japanese names, I've seen 温 as a boy's name being read ゆたか. Regardless of whether it's ateji or not, or whether the parents put a lot of thought to it, the average Japanese person is going to look at this name and not have a damn clue as to how to pronounce it. Even names like 裕史 - should that be Yuji or Hirofumi? You don't know until you ask the person. Give me an English name (or a Chinese name plus any old dictionary) and I can guarantee you 99% of the time I can read the name.

  • 3

    lucabrasi

    I see nothing strange in studying one's own language for three hours a week in order to become proficient.

    I reckon I studied English language and literature for at least eight hours a week in junior high school.....

  • -1

    Nenad Jovanović

    @Pukey2

    When you consider the sheer number of hours that kids have to spend to learn Japanese - 3 or more hours a week - you have to also consider that they aren't spending that time learning something else. If they were focusing that time on something else, it could produce results.

    I am shocked, so, people should abandon their language just because they could spend more hours on studying something else ? You showing total disrespect toward Japan culture , their language is part of them , and no mater how many hours they need to spend on that, thats well spended hours, they learn writing and reading something that for thousand of years people of Japan used.

  • 0

    akoppa

    Sorry, for some reason the link I posted above omitted an underscore. Should read:

    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x174oyf_nhk-ohayo-nippon-2012news

  • -2

    Nenad Jovanović

    Sorry @ Pukey2 for putting your name as source of quote, I readed your nice response to @Strangerland , so accidentally i putted your name instead of his .

  • 1

    evian1

    @ThonTaddeo

    You may find that in old Japanese writing, it's mainly written in Kanji until the introduction of the Kana writing system. Nihon-go in its "previous life" had shared the many archaic Chinese tonals with those of Min and Wu languages. "Wa" is commonly used in both these languages. and you'll also find that there's no consonant of //f// in most archaic Chinese & Nihon-go, instead substituting the consonant of //b// or //ph//, the study of Sinitic languages tonals are included Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese, particularly the Japanese Kanji who "registered" many tonals during the old Southern Dynasties circa 6th century before China fragmentation. The "Go-onyomi" has been one of the many pronounciations modern Japanese retained. Nihon-go with its deeply-rooted Chinese characters forms an inseparable language continuum to those of Min and Wu languages.

  • 0

    ka_chan

    It's just another problem of Japan "borrowing" Kanji from China. The language would have been much better served it this did not happen. Hiragana and Katagana would have been 51 or more characters and sounds. There probably would be less homonyms too. But then that would be saying what would English be like with the Norman conquests.

  • -1

    Strangerland

    I reckon I studied English language and literature for at least eight hours a week in junior high school.....

    You studied language and literature that much. Japanese kids spend 3+ hours per week learning to read, and that doesn't even count homework. This isn't the same as studying literature, it is like spending 12 years learning the alphabet. They are not equivalent.

    That is nothing when you consider that the Chinese have to learn double the number of Chinese characters, and in places like Hong Kong, kids have to learn English on top of two Chinese languages. I certainly don't see their education suffering anymore than the Japanese.

    See my above comments. I don't disagree that the kids in these countries don't face similar challenges, but when comparing them to languages that can be learned in a year, they have to sacrifice in other areas to be able to cover the same range of subjects as kids in other countries.

    I am shocked, so, people should abandon their language just because they could spend more hours on studying something else ?

    No, they can do whatever they want. It's not like they are going to suddenly listen to my opinion and drop kanji. But considering they essentially spend 12 years learning their alphabet, while English speaking countries can do it in 1 year, it's a huge time commitment to learn kanji. And as there are only 24 hours a day, 168 hours in a week, by spending so much time on learning kanji, they don't have as much time to spend on other topics. It's simple logic.

    You showing total disrespect toward Japan culture , their language is part of them , and no mater how many hours they need to spend on that, thats well spended hours, they learn writing and reading something that for thousand of years people of Japan used.

    Don't give me this 'showing disrespect to Japan'. I've dedicated 15 years of my life to this country, and I actually read kanji and speak Japanese. 'Showing respect to Japan' doesn't equal blindly agreeing with anything they may say and do. You have put the country on a pedestal, but just like every country, they have their strengths, weaknesses and areas in which they could improve.

  • 1

    cleo

    It's just another problem of Japan "borrowing" Kanji from China. The language would have been much better served it this did not happen. Hiragana and Katagana would have been 51 or more characters and sounds

    Without the borrowing of kanji from China there would be no hiragana or katakana, since they were developed from kanji.

    It's easy to say people spend too much time learning how to read so they should just get rid of kanji. In one generation the population would be cut off from anything and everything written before the 'improvement'. A thousand years of history, literature and culture, gone in a stroke. Not a good idea, imho.

  • 0

    Strangerland

    A thousand years of history, literature and culture, gone in a stroke. Not a good idea, imho.

    The same could be said of the fact that people don't study Latin anymore. And the Koreans have shown that writing systems can be changed and that the people will be ok.

  • 2

    technosphere

    @ka_chan :

    it's just another problem of Japan "borrowing" Kanji from China.

    Don't be lame and learn the language.

  • 0

    toshiko

    Here are how we call foreigh country. USA - Amerika, England - Igirisu or Eikoku, Canada - Kanada, Germany - Do-itsu. France - Furansu, Italy - Itariya, Mexico -Mekishiko, Austraria - Ohsutoraria, Holand - Oranda, India - Indo. There are more but you can see we use katakana pronounciation.

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