Sunday 18 November 2018

Japan Place Names Explained

Having blogged samples of my books on English place names and also examined the etymologies of the nations of the world and their respective capitals I thought it time I cast my net a little wider. As English place names share some links to other tongues it would be interesting to see if any of the elements contributing to our place names could be found elsewhere. Continuing an alphabetical tour of the world and a look at the largest Japanese cities.

Tokyo has been known as such only since 1868, it translates as 'east capital'. As many crossword addicts will know it was previously known as Edo, itself aptly describing the location of a place beginning as a small fishing village for it means simply 'estuary'.

Yokohama has a long history and is another beginning as a fishing village. The sandbar gave it its name for it means 'horizontal beach'.

Osaka translates from the Japanese as either 'large hill' or 'large slope'.

Nagoya was written in two different ways but both read the same, the most likely interpretation is as 'peaceful'.

Kyoto, the former capital, has a name meaning 'capital'. After the capital was moved to Tokyo this place was known as Saikyo for a short time, a name meaning 'western capital'. To confuse matters still further, Kyoto is sometimes referred to as the thousand year capital.

Saitama comes from the district of Sakitama and can be interpreted as 'colourful promontory'.

Chiba is a name meaning 'thousand leaves', not particularly appropriate today but would certainly have been when named as such more than a thousand years ago,

Niigate is first recorded in 1520, it translates as 'new lagoon city'.

Shizuoka has been populated since prehistory and always known as 'the calm hills'.

Ota is the abbreviated form of Ota-ku, literally 'big rice field'.

Edogawa is simply 'the estuary river'.

Suginami is a part of Tokyo named for its 'cedars avenue'.

Itabishi translates as 'plank bridge', a wooden crossing of the Shakujii River dating from some 1,200 years ago. That the name has survived is testament to how striking the bridge would have been in its day.

Higashiosaka literally translates as 'east Osaka city',

Matsuyama translates as 'pine mountain'.

Koto translates as 'river east'.

Note the spellings of the places are English as the piece is written in English.


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