Languages of Security in the Asia-Pacific

College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University

Languages of Security in the Asia-Pacific header image 2

Japanese – Kokka

May 27th, 2011 · No Comments · Japanese, Nation



Relates to nation

The term consists of two characters:

koku / kuni – country; (the) state; region; home (hometown, home country); (arch)land; earth

家 ka / ie – house; home; family


Kokka conveys the meaning of ‘state’, ‘country’ or ‘nation’, yet it also suggests family. The term kokumin, 国民, conveys the meaning of ‘citizen’ and suggests the people.

Both these terms were taken from the Classical Chinese and then reinvented during the modernising Meiji period. In the entry for rachi (kidnapping), the discussion of the kidnapping issue draws attention to the strong sense of a Japanese family carried by these terms for nation and people. Another way of referring to the Japanese nation is to use the term ‘国kuni’ or ‘わが国wagakuni’, and reinforces the sense of nation as family. The term ‘国kuni’ (country) was strongly emphasised in 2007 when former PM Shinzo Abe attempted to foster positive nationalistic sentiment through the use of the phrase ‘beautiful country’. In general, the Japanese express loyalty not to ‘kokka’ but rather in terms of ‘wagakuni’; the latter term having a stronger connection to the idea of ‘family’. The term, ‘Nihon’ (日本) conveys the meaning of ‘Japan’ and literally translates as ‘where the sun rises’.

Up until the end of WWII, loyalty was expressed to the Emperor (Tenno Heika天皇陛下). The loyalty to the Emperor was personally linked to the Japanese race – ‘nihonjin’ (日本人), which literally translates as ‘Japanese people’. There is no specific term for ‘Japanese race’. The term ‘minzoku’ (民族) is a word that translates as race but is largely technical in meaning. It does not possess a strong emotive element. The central importance of the Emperor in defining the concept of nation until 1945 resulted in a certain vacuum in the Japanese national sense of community during the post-war era.

As there is more emphasis on the ‘country’ as a focus of loyalty, it may be for this reason that the idea of ‘wagakuni’ – literally meaning ‘our country’, ‘our land’, ‘one’s own country’ – has become so important in Japan today. The term ‘わが国wagakuni’ used to be a term exclusively for Japanese citizens to refer to their own country, however, it is a term that for instance, if an Australian was speaking about their own country in Japanese, could use.




No Comments so far ↓

There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment