Shikoku: Why 四国 and not 四州

If Shikoku is derived from ‘four provinces’ why is it spelled 四国 (4 countries) when Kyushu (9 provinces) is spelled 九州?

Countries, states, provinces, they’re all tenuous delineations, historically. 国 can also mean province. Like 九州 doesn’t really have nine states anymore. Japan, for most of its history, wasn’t a unified state (country/nation/whatever).

7 Likes

Wikipedia says 九州 used to be called 九国, so maybe your reasoning wasn’t to far off :bulb:

4 Likes

One supposes that きゅうしゅう is easier to say than きゅうこく, and しこく easier than ししゅう.

And then there’s the 中国地方 in western Honshu, which is confusingly written with the same kanji as 中国, the country of China, which (aside from historical reasons) is why it’s sometimes called 山陰山陽地方 instead.

3 Likes

Japanese people sometimes also wonder why it’s called 九州 and not 九国.

While there is no definite answer and the word 九国 has also been used as already pointed, some Japanese websites suggest that it might be because 「九州」was an actual word in Chinese, used when the territory was divided in 9 parts. The word has also been used in the Korean peninsula, so it could have traveled to Japan and used due to custom.

There is however no final evidence, specially considering that 州 has also been used in Japan, such as in 遠州 and 紀州, so “yup, that’s just how it is”.

四州 is heresy

4 Likes