Westerners may be bewildered at the propensity of far easterners to refer to their own country by different names. Here are just a few for Japan.

Wa (倭) is the earliest recorded name for Japan, found in Chinese treatises on geography. This name is found in the San1 Guo4 Yan3 Yi4 (三国志), or the Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

Another wa (和) is still in used today, and means "harmony".

Yamato (大和), is the name of the ancient seat of Japanese government at Nara, and is sometimes used as the name of Japan. The onyomi of the kanji, daiwa, means great Japan, using wa from above.

Chinese names for Japan that were assimilated into Japanese culture include fusou (扶桑), which means Hibiscus. This name comes from Sung dynasty records. In Chinese legend, the hibiscus grows on the island in the east where the sun was supposed to originate. Another word is Yamatai, which is a Chinese approximation of Yamoto (and therefore not used by Japanese).

Nihon (日本) is also one of the earliest names. The official history of the Zui dynasty (During the 5 kingdoms period I think) records this event: the Prince Shotoku, Regent of Japan, sent a letter along with his envoy to the Emperor of China.:

Hi iduru tokoro no Tensei, sho o hi bossuru no Tensei ni itasu. Tutu ga nakiya?

"The Emperor of the land where the sun rises sends a letter to the Emperor of the land where the sun sets. Are you well?"

The history books also say that the Emperor of China became angry and ordered such "barbarian" things not to be shown to him.

Nippon is an alternative onyomi of Nihon. It does not comes from the Portuguese. Hinomoto is the kunyomi version of Nihon. Marco Polo used the word "Chipangu" to describe Japan, and may be the origin of the western word "Japan". Chinese dialectical pronunciation of Nihon come close to "Jippun", or "Ngippun".

Hou (邦) is a word that is used in Kanji compounds to mean Japan.