Japan;Linguists believe the name Japan derives from the attempts of Marco Polo pronouncing the early Mandarin Chinese word for Japan which is 日本国 pronounced in pinyin as 'Rìběnguó', and literally means 'Country of the Sun origin'. Marco Polo's attempts resulted in 'Jipangu'. Also many people believe that the word originated from Malaysia. The Malay word for Japan, 'Jepang' also came from the Chinese language. This word was encountered by Portuguese traders in Malacca and it is believed that the traders were the first to bring the word to Europe.
にほん or にっぽん ?
The Japanese name for Japan can be read as 'nihon' or 'nippon' (onyomi) and are both written with the same kanji;日本 ,日 ‘nichi’ means sun or day and本 ‘hon’ means base or origin. Put them together and you get ‘ base of the sun’ . You might also have read ‘base of the sunrise’ somewhere which comes from the Chinese point of view. From China, the sun rises from the side of Japan. This is also the source of the popular Western term ‘ land of the rising sun’.
When combined, ‘nichi’ often loses the final -chi sound and creates a small pause between the first and second syllable of the compound. When we want to romanize this, the pause is often represented by doubling the first consonant of the second syllable. Compounds with ‘hon’ often change into -bon or -pon. Therefore there are two possible ways to pronounce 日本. While both are correct (and also frequently used) ‘nippon’ is often preferred for official purposes like money, stamps and international matters. 'nippon' is also used for a longer period of time then 'nihon' which is said to have derived from the Kanto accent.
Although 'nippon' is the more obvious way name to pronounce 日本, a recent survey showed that 61 percent of Japanese people read it as 'nihon', also it is a lot more popular with the younger generation.
In Japan there is no official document defining the pronunciation of 日本 . An attempt was made by the Ministry of Education in 1934, when they started a major investigation in the national language including their recommendation of naming the country 'nippon' for once and all. However the government simply ignored their request.
Another move was made more recently in 2009, when a member of the Lower house made a more liberal move and submitted a request asking the government to decide on an unified pronunciation, whether it be 'nippon' or 'nihon'. The government replied that they saw no reason to take official steps, since both terms are in wide usage nowadays. You can either applaud their indecision as a way of saying they had some bigger issues to deal with, or you criticize them for their laid back attitude.
What do you think of the governments decision? Do you use 'nihon' or 'nippon'?