Seldomly asked questions

July 7, 2005 Comments Off on Seldomly asked questions

  • Q. I have long wondered why Japan is called ‘Japan’ in English. I know why Korea is called Korea, despite it being Hanguk in Korean, can you enlighten me about the etymology of ‘Japan’–why not ‘Nihon’?–
  • A. The word Japan probably comes from Portuguese or Dutch. Sailors, traders and missionaries from Portugal were the first westerners to visit Japan and they were already calling the country ‘Zipangu’ or “Jipangu” because they had heard the country called ‘Jihpenkuo’ in northern China. Another theory is that the word comes from the Dutch word “Japan”, which is taken from “Yatpun”, the name for Japan which is used in southern China. Because the name was given before the days of political correctness, the Portuguese and Dutch had little interest in using the Japanese words, “Nippon” or “Nihon”.
  • Q. Why do hinged doors in Japanese houses usually open outwards instead of inwards?
  • A. Because doors that open inwards would hit the shoes left in the front entrance.

This and other seldomly asked questions on Japan ad it’s culture can be found at the saq page


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