What does “tokyo” mean in Japanese?
I think that many people know the name of the capital of Japan: Tokyo. Most of them, however, do not know what it really means in the Japanese language. In this blog post, therefore, I will explain this name in detail based on its kanji expression. My explanations would help Japanese learners to understand the capital city of Japan more clearly. Then, let’s get started!
Definition and meaning of “tokyo”
Let me start with the definition and meaning of “tokyo”.
- tokyo – 東京 (とうきょう) : a noun meaning ‘Tokyo’ in Japanese. This is the name of the capital of Japan.
Native speakers use this noun to refer to the capital city of Japan.
The definition and meaning are very simple and clear, I think. To understand this noun more clearly, however, let me explain its kanji characters in detail, one by one.
Tokyo in kanji
The kanji expression of “tokyo” consists of the following two characters:
- 東 : a kanji character used to mean ‘east’ in Japanese.
- 京 : a kanji character used to mean ‘the capital city’ in Japanese.
From these two kanji characters, we can understand that “tokyo” literally means ‘the east capital city’ in Japanese. This kanji concept represents well what the capital city really is. It is located on the east side of Japan and widely considered as the capital city. The first kanji character meaning ‘east’ is used to differentiate Tokyo from the former capital city, Kyoto, which is located on the west side of Japan. Interestingly, both kanji characters used in Kyoto mean ‘the capital’ in Japanese. It was the first capital city of Japan, so no directional word was necessary in the name. The relation between these two capital city names is worth knowing, I think.
When we meet new kanji expressions, we should check their kanji characters in detail to understand their meanings clearly and deeply. In many cases, kanji characters tell us a lot about the meanings of the expressions they form. Actually, here, we could get the better understanding of “tokyo” through the detailed check above. Then, let me explain how to use it through the example sentence below.
Example: how to use “tokyo”
Below are the new words used in the example sentence.
- boku – 僕 (ぼく) : a pronoun meaning ‘I’ in Japanese. This is used mainly by boys and young males.
- tachi – 達 (たち) : a suffix used after a noun or pronoun to make its plural form. In the example, this is used after “boku” to make its plural form, “boku tachi”, which means ‘we’ in Japanese. Learn more about Japanese plural.
- wa – は : a binding particle working as a case marker or topic marker. In the example, this works after “boku tachi” to make the subject in the sentence.
- ashita – 明日 (あした) : a noun meaning ‘tomorrow’ in Japanese. This can also work as an adverb almost anywhere in a sentence. In the example, this works as an adverb to say “tomorrow” in Japanese.
- ni – に : a case particle used to say where someone or something goes. In the example, this works after “tokyo” to say where “boku tachi” will go tomorrow.
- iki – 行き (いき) : one conjugation of the verb, “iku”, which means ‘to go’ in Japanese. In the example, it has been conjugated for the better connection with its following word.
- masu – ます : an auxiliary verb used after a verb to make it polite. Probably, this is well known as a part of Japanese masu form. In the example, this is used after “iki” to make it sound polite.
This is a typical usage of “tokyo”. In the example, it is used to say where the speakers will go tomorrow. It is a noun, so can be used to make the subject or the object in a sentence.
In this blog post, I’ve explained the definition and meaning of “tokyo” in detail based on its kanji expression. And also, I’ve explained how to use it through the example sentence. Let me summarize them as follows.
- tokyo – 東京 (とうきょう) : a noun meaning ‘Tokyo’ in Japanese. This is the name of the capital of Japan. These two kanji characters mean ‘east’ and ‘the capital city’ respectively. So, this noun literally means ‘the east capital city’. This kanji concept represents well what the capital city really is. It is located on the east side of Japan and widely considered as the capital city.
Hope my explanations are understandable and helpful for Japanese learners.
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