How to Say Sun in Japanese: Words and Related Expressions

The sun. The source of life and even considered a god among many cultures. Japanese culture also values the sun. When written in kanji, “Japan” uses a character to reference the sun: 日本 (Nihon/Nippon). This kanji translates to “origin of the sun.”   

Let’s discover how to say sun in Japanese, along with related words and more! If you’re more of a night person, be sure to check out how to say moon in Japanese!

How to Say Sun in Japanese: 太陽 (Taiyō)

太陽 (taiyō) is the word for “sun” in Japanese. It can be written as “たいよう” in hiragana.

Let’s look at a few examples of the usage of 太陽.

Examples:  

1. 愛子さんは西に沈んでゆく太陽を見ながら懐かしく感じた。
(Aiko san wa nishi ni shizunde yuku taiyō o minagara natsukashiku kanjita.)
Aiko felt nostalgic while looking at the sun going down in the west. 

2. 太陽より大きな星は沢山あります。
(Taiyō yori ōkina hoshi wa takusan arimasu.)
There are a lot of stars bigger than our sun.

Another Kanji for Sun in Japanese: 日 (Hi / Bi / Nichi / Jitsu) 

The most accurate way of saying or writing sun in Japanese is 太陽.

However, sometimes it can be tricky. Often you will see the kanji 日 to mean “sun” as well. This character can be read as “hi,” “nichi,” “jitsu,or “bi” when referring to the sun. In some cases, 日 and 太陽 can be used interchangeably. Let’s look at some examples of this.  

Examples:  

1.  日が昇らないうちに出発しましょう。
(Hi ga noboranai uchi ni shuppatsu shimashō.)
Let’s depart before the sun rises.

2.  太陽が昇らないうちに出発しましょう。
(Taiyō ga noboranai uchi ni shuppatsu shimashō.)
Let’s depart before the sun rises.

In this case, 日 (hi) and 太陽 (taiyō) mean the same thing. The big difference is that 太陽 ONLY means “sun.” However, 日 can have other meanings like “day.” 

Words that are related to the sun can be written in different ways, either by using the kanji character 日 or 陽 from 太陽 (taiyō).

Some examples are:

  1. 西日 / 西陽 (nishibi): the setting sun, afternoon sun.
  2. 日差し / 陽射し (hizashi): sunlight, rays of the sun.

 

How Do I Know Which Character to Use?

An illustration of the yellow sun with the Japanese kanji characters for "sun" in the middle.  These characters are pronounced, "Taiyou" in Japanese.

Unfortunately, you’ll have to remember which character is used in different words. However, there are some guidelines you can use to help you remember which kanji goes with which word. Remember that these are guidelines and not rules. You may run into a few exceptions.  

  1.  太陽 (taiyō):  This word may be combined with other kanji characters to form longer, compound words. Words that have 太陽 in them will be related to the sun itself or have a meaning of “solar.” For example, 太陽系 (taiyōkei): solar system, 太陽光発電 (taiyōkōhatsuden): solar power
  2. 日 (hi/nichi/jitsu/bi):  When 日 is combined with other kanji to form words related to the sun, these words will usually refer to a PROPERTY or ACTION of the sun. For example, 日光 (nikko): sunlight, 日の出 (hi no de): sunrise, 日没 (nichibotsu): sunset.
  3. 陽 (hi/yō):  This character also means “positive,” like a “positive charge” or testing “positive” on a drug test. When combined with other kanji to form a word related to the sun, 陽 will usually refer to the sun’s rays or sunlight—for example, 陽だまり (hidamari): a sunny spot.  
  4. You’ll also find that some “sun” words can use either 日or 陽 in writing. For example, 夕日 / 夕陽 (yūhi): evening sun, 日焼け / 陽焼け (hiyake): suntan, sunburn 

Other Ways of Saying Sun in Japanese

Something as important as the sun is bound to have multiple words to refer to it. 

Examples:

  1. お日様 (ohisama): This is how children sometimes refer to the sun in Japanese.
  2. 天道 (tentō): This word is rarely used, but sometimes children or people working with children may say お天道様 (otentōsama) which can translate to “Mr. Sun.”
  3. 天日(tenjitsu, tenpi): This one is fascinating. Depending on the reading you use for 天日, it can mean different things. If you use 天日 with the reading of “tenjitsu,” it means “sun.” However, if you read it as “tenpi,” it means “sunlight.”

Words Related to the Sun in Japanese

Now let’s look at a few other words related to the sun in Japanese. Some words don’t even contain a “sun” kanji character but still have a meaning related to the sun.  

  • 夕日 (yūhi): the evening sun, setting sun
  • 日の丸 (hinomaru): outline of the Sun, Japanese flag
  • 炎天下 (entenka): under the blazing sun
  • 日食 (nisshoku): solar eclipse
  • 太陽暦 (taiyōreki): solar calendar
  • 天照 (Amaterasu): sun goddess in Japanese folklore

The History of 太陽 (taiyō) in Japanese

太陽 (taiyō) is a term that originated from a word with the same characters and meaning in Chinese. Its origin is thought to have come from ancient China. According to this idea, this world was thought to be composed of two types of 気 (ki), otherwise known as “qi” or “chi” in Chinese. This is what we know as “yin” and “yang,” the positive and negative, or “order” and the “chaos.” The state where the “yang,” or positive force, was at its peak was called 太陽 (taiyō), which is the word for “sun” in Japanese today.

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