Seeing as our earth revolves around the sun, it is safe to say that it is a central entity in our lives, whether it be culturally, religiously or otherwise.
For many cultures, including Japanese culture, the sun represents light and energy. Japan is even known as the Land of the Rising Sun!
So, let’s get into all things ‘sun’ in Japanese.
How to say ‘sun’ in Japanese
You may know that the kanji for hi (日 / ひ) means ‘day’, however, it also holds the meaning of ‘sun’! There are a couple of ways to say ‘sun’ in Japanese. Hi is probably the most versatile, casual and easiest to remember!
In children’s language, the sun is often referred to as ohisama (お日様 / おひさま). The preceding o (お) and ending suffix sama (様 / さま) are Japanese honorifics used to express a high level of respect.
It could be translated as something along the lines of ‘Mr. Sun’ in English.
You may also hear Japanese people use the English loan word san (サン / さん). It is commonly used in movie, anime, game titles and the like, though you may also hear it in other sun-related loan words such as sunglasses, which is sangurasu (サングラス / さんぐらす).
Taiyou (太陽 / たいよう) is another commonly used term for sun. It is worth noting that the nuance is more like you are specifically referring to the sun as a physical body itself.
The first kanji 太 means ‘plump’ or ‘thick around’, while the second kanji 陽 means ‘sunshine’.
The verb deru (出る / でる) means ‘to exit’ or ‘to go/come out’, therefore hinode (日の出 / ひので) refers to the spectacle of the sun coming out in the morning!
It is a popular new year’s tradition to view hatsuhinode (初日の出 / はつひので) which is the first sunrise of the new year. In the Shinto religion, it is believed that the gods appear at this sunrise and grant good fortune to those who wish for it.
Conversely, the term for sunset ends in iri ‘入り’ which generally means ‘entering’, so when used in this instance it describes how the sun enters/descends into the horizon.
Other than hinoiri (日の入り / ひのいり), you may also hear people say nichibotsu (日没 / にちぼつ). 日 course means ‘sun’, while 没 means ‘to drown’ or ‘to sink’, so pretty straight forward!
Asahi is not just a delicious Japanese beer! The word asa (朝 / あさ) means ‘morning’ in Japanese, and combined with the kanji for ‘sun’ we have ‘morning sun’.
Asahi can be used to talk about the sunrise like hinode, however it is a broader term and can be used to refer to the sun at any stage during the morning hours.
While hinoiri and nichibotsu refer to the actual descension of the sun, yuuyake is in reference to the orange-tinted evening glow in the sky when the sun sets or has set.
If we break up the compound, yuu (夕 / ゆう) means ‘evening’ and yake (焼け / やけ) means ‘to burn’. This gives us an image of the warm sun ‘cooking’ the sky and transforming it into a beautiful golden evening.
Knowing the Japanese terms for the sun is all well and good but how do we describe a sunny day? On a clear, sunny day, you would use the word hare! You may notice the kanji for sun squished in the left side of the word hare (晴れ / はれ).
Ashita hare nara, beechi ni ikimasu
If it is sunny tomorrow, I will go to the beach.
Other sun related words
You may remember from our post about the moon, that Monday (getsuyoubi) is actually named after the moon. Similarly, Sunday, like in English, is named after the sun! In Japanese, Sunday is nichiyoubi (日曜日 / にちようび).
Note that the kanji for sun 日 is pronounced as nichi, its onyomi reading, as opposed to hi, due to it being a part of a compound.
The Land of the Rising Sun
Now we couldn’t possibly talk about all things ‘sun’ in Japanese and not mention its famous nickname ‘the Land of the Rising Sun’. But have you ever wondered where this name came from?
The nickname was in fact given to Japan by China. As the sun rises from the east, from China’s perspective, it seems as though the sun rises from Japan. This led them dubbing Japan as Nippon (日本 / にっぽん) or Nihon (日本 / にほん).
As you can see, the kanji character for ‘sun’ is paired with the kanji 本 which means ‘origin’.
Nippon therefore refers to ‘the sun’s origin’, or in other words, where the sun rises each morning.
Japan’s national flag
Japan being known as the ‘land of the rising sun’ in fact inspired its flag design!
Japan’s national flag is very simple, consisting of a white background with a red circle in the centre. The red circle is actually a depiction of the sun.
The Japanese flag is officially known as nisshoki (日章旗 / にっしょうき) meaning ‘flag of the sun symbol’. Although, it is more commonly referred to as hinomaru (日の丸 / ひのまる) which means ‘circle of the sun’.
Hinomaru bento is a popular lunch option for many Japanese people. A bento box is a traditional Japanese lunch box. Hinomaru bento consists of white rice with a single umeboshi in the centre. Umeboshi is a pickled plum which is red in colour, thus the rice lunch resembles the Japanese flag!
Ready to take the next step in your Japanese language journey? Our recommended online course is JapanesePod101.
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Hannah is a half Irish/half Japanese girl living in Ireland. Her love for Japan and the Japanese language led her to studying languages and translation in university where she specialised in Japanese. She spent a year studying abroad at Rikkyo University in Tokyo. In her free time, Hannah enjoys using her sewing machine to upcycle clothes and create new pieces!