How to Say China in Japan: Formal and Informal Ways, Tips, and Examples

Saying “China” in Japan might seem like a straightforward task, but there are various formal and informal ways to do so. This guide will provide you with tips and examples to help you navigate the appropriate ways to refer to China in the Japanese language. In addition to formal and informal variations, we will also touch upon any regional differences where necessary. Let’s get started!

Formal Ways to Say China in Japan

When it comes to formal settings, such as official documents, speeches, or academic discussions, it is crucial to use the correct and respectful terminology. Here are some formal ways to refer to China in Japan:

  1. Chūgoku (中国): This is the most common and official way to say “China” in Japanese. It directly translates to “Middle Kingdom” and reflects the historical significance of China as a central empire.
  2. Shin (辰): This is an alternative kanji character used for the word “China.” It is commonly seen in formal contexts and carries a sense of elegance and tradition.
  3. Kaikoku (開国): This term is used to refer to China when emphasizing its opening to the world during the 19th century. It can be suitable when discussing historical interactions or diplomatic relationships.

It is essential to note that when using these formal terms, it is advisable to rely on the context and appropriateness of the specific situation when determining which one to employ.

Informal Ways to Say China in Japan

In informal conversations, people often use shorter and more casual expressions to refer to China. Here are some commonly used informal ways:

  1. Chūka (中華): This term is frequently used in everyday conversations and represents a more colloquial way of saying “China.” It captures the cultural aspects of China rather than its political meaning.
  2. Shina (支那): This term is considered quite old-fashioned and is not suitable for formal situations. However, in casual conversations or historical contexts, this term might be used. It is important to exercise caution as “Shina” has negative connotations for some people due to its association with Japan’s colonial past.

Tips for Pronunciation in Japanese

To correctly pronounce the terms for “China” discussed above, it’s helpful to understand the Japanese phonetic system. Here are some tips:

  • Remember to emphasize the first syllable, “Chū,” when pronouncing “Chūgoku” and “Chūka.”
  • For “kaikoku,” break it down as “kai-ko-ku” and pronounce each syllable with equal stress.
  • To pronounce “Shina,” say “shee-nah” with both syllables in a short, crisp manner.

Examples in Context

Let’s now look at a few examples to see how these terms can be used in different contexts:

In a formal speech, a Japanese diplomat might say: “Chūgoku wa Nihon to no kokusaiteki na kankei ga totemo taisetsu desu.” (中国は日本との国際的な関係がとても大切です) (China’s international relationship with Japan is very important.)

During a casual conversation about Chinese cuisine, a food enthusiast might say: “Chūka ryōri wa watashi no ichiban no suki na tabemono desu.” (中華料理は私の一番の好きな食べ物です) (Chinese cuisine is my favorite type of food.)

When discussing historical events, an academic might say: “Shina to Nihon no kankei wa rekishi no nagai kōshō o motteimasu.” (支那と日本の関係は歴史の長い交渉を持っています) (The relationship between China and Japan has a long history of negotiations.)

Regional Variations

While the terms mentioned above are widely used throughout Japan, it is worth mentioning that certain regional differences may exist. For example, in Okinawa, the term “Chūgan” might be used instead of “Chūgoku” in some contexts due to variations in dialect.

Despite these regional differences, it is generally safe to rely on the formal and informal terms discussed earlier in most circumstances across Japan.


In conclusion, properly referring to China in Japan requires considering the formality of the setting and the context of the conversation. Understanding the subtle differences between formal and informal ways to say “China” in Japanese can help ensure respectful communication. Remember to utilize the formal terms like “Chūgoku” or “Kaikoku” when appropriate, and opt for informal expressions like “Chūka” or “Shina” in casual conversations. Be mindful of regional variations, and always aim for clear and respectful communication when discussing China in Japan.

By following these guidelines and examples, you can confidently navigate conversations and make a positive impression when referring to China in Japanese.

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