Is there any particular reason why Neal Stephenson consistently refers to Japan as Nippon, and the Japanese as the Nipponese? I first noticed this in the novel Cryptonomicon, again in Reamde, and finally in the Diamond Age, which I just finished.

I realize that Nippon is considered a formal name for Japan (according to the Wikipedia entry, Japan was referred to as Dai Nippon Teikoku from 1868 up to the end of World War II), but it seems odd that he would use this formal term rather than the more familiar one while he doesn't seem to do this sort of substitution for any other countries/peoples.

According to the same article, Japanese people refer to themselves as Nihonjin.

  • Also possible is "Nipponjin"
    – Izkata
    Apr 29, 2014 at 23:49

3 Answers 3


In the footnotes for Cryptonomicon, Stephenson highlights that...

Men with experience in Asia use the word "Nip." The Colonel’s use of "Jap" suggests that his career has been spent in the Atlantic and/or Caribbean.

Clearly he's suggesting that anyone with real-world experience of Japan (like him, for example) would refer to Japan as Nippon, especially in a futuristic world where Japan has more power and influence.

  • I listened to the audio book. I don't think it included the footnotes!
    – tcrosley
    Apr 30, 2014 at 0:16
  • 7
    Having met many Japanese, they tend to dislike being referred to as "Nips." Rather violently. Apr 30, 2014 at 1:25
  • @James: Both are historically used as pejoratives. Apr 30, 2014 at 4:58
  • 1
    @James: It's possible that it was used as an abbreviation in the past, but the usage of the term during WW2 has made it an ethnic slur. I'm not sure what you're getting at in the last sentence, but I doubt that's historically true of ethnic slurs. Apr 30, 2014 at 13:04
  • 4
    @JamesSheridan: in-context, the story is set among military-culture Westerners. the idea is that by their choice of slur ("nip" or "jap") one can tell where they were stationed. Sep 11, 2016 at 21:31

Actually the Japanese call our country "Nihon", "Nippon" is a very "patriotic" way of saying Japan. No one really says "Nippon" these days and most people will relate the word of "Nippon" to the second world war.

And you are correct, we call ourselves "Nihonjin" and not "Nipponjin".


The pronunciation of the Japanese word for Japan is Nippon. So if Japan is influential in the future, it makes sense that their own name for their country would become dominant elsewhere as well. Like most people refer to the USA as America, even though there are actually many countries in both American continents. Nippon-koku is the formal use (not Nippon). Nippon-koku means The State of Japan.

  • I actually first learned this from the novel Shogun when I was a kid :) Apr 30, 2014 at 22:04

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