Source: Koujien 5th ed. Impromptu translation by myself.
- 1. 日本国の国籍を有する人。日本国民。
nihonkoku ni kokuseki wo yuusuru hito. nihon kokumin.
- A person who holds Japanese nationality. A citizen of Japan.
- 2. 人類学的にはモンゴロイドの一。皮膚は黄色、虹彩は黒褐色、毛髪は黒色で直毛。言語は日本語。
jinruigakuteki ni wa mongoroido no ichi. hifu wa kiiro, kousai wa kokkasshoku, mouhatsu wa kokushoku de chokumou. gengo wa nihongo.
- Anthropoligically speaking, one of the mongoloid races. Has yellow skin, black-brown irises, and straight black hair. Language is Japanese.
While both 1. and 2. above would be seen as true by almost any Japanese adult, the second is a much stronger interpretation, often overriding the first.
Perhaps due to the Japanese history of national isolationism and racial homogeneity, Japanese people still have much difficulty accepting a naturalized Japanese Citizen who is visibly non-Japanese. A recent example is Arudo Debito, a naturalized Japanese of American origin who was denied access to an onsen because he was not visibly Japanese. (see How to Become Japanese, www.debito.org).
On the other hand, naturalized citizens of Japanese descent, such as Hawaiian-born sumo champion Akebono, would almost never be seen as "non-Japanese". Likewise, Korean-born but Japanese-raised judo star Akiyama Hiroshi would be fully accepted as Japanese. One concludes that looking Japanese and having a Japanese name are a very important part of being considered Japanese.
The word nipponjin, another reading of the same kanji 日本人, is often used by older Japanese people and in non-standard Japanese dialects. (see nippon). Employing a glottal stop, this word has a slightly richer, stronger sound and is connotative of Japan's past. This pronunciation is often spurned by the younger generation for two reasons: first, it sounds like their parents' parents; and second, it stirs images of imperialistic Japan. (see hinomaru).