From what I understand, both 「ひがし」 and 「あずま」 meant "east" and then the latter became the reading of 東.

Is 「ひがし」 an archaic term and never used, or are both acceptable? If both are acceptable, what context/how are the two written differently?

  • 1
    ひがし is older and still currently used. あづま is obsolete.
    – user4092
    Commented Feb 9, 2015 at 23:46

3 Answers 3


Are you sure they aren't the other way round? I have only ever known as either ひがし on it's own 東{ひがし} or とう when used in a compound 東京{とうきょう}.

The reading あずま seems like in comes from the period where the region encompassing Kyoto and Nara were the political and cultural capitals of Japan as it basically means Tokyo from the Perspective of Kyoto. My dictionary tells me that the reading あずま is outdated so I would recommend the ひがし reading when reading contemporary words, for example 東口{ひがしぐち} as opposed to 東口{あずまぐち}, unless the name of the person or place expressly uses あずま as it's reading.


Uh, I think you have it backwards? ひがし is the ordinary word for "east" in modern Japanese. あずま is archaic, and I'm pretty sure people would look at you weird if you used it.

There are, however, some compounds in which あずま is fossilized. The only one I was aware of before looking things up was 東夷【あずま.えびす】 "Eastern barbarians"; there also appear to be compounds like 東遊【あずま.あそび】 (a particular kind of dance that came from eastern Japan) and 東下り【あずま.くだ.り】 "travelling away from the capital, to the East". In all of these compounds, "east" appears to generally mean "east of Kyoto", which was the capital at the time あずま was still common.


Ah, sorry, I read your post mistakingly. We do not call eastward 東(あずま), completely an old word, thus we call eastward as 東(ひがし)

FYI please refer to the origin of あずま ( I mistakingly wrote the below first, sorry )

I think the question is answered here. ( No UPVOTE NEEDED, Downote is OK )


I think Mr. Darius can read entire contents, however, I dare to translate for those who can not read.


この「あずま」という言葉は碓氷峠から東、群馬・関東の方を見て日本武尊が「吾嬬(あずま)はや……」と言ったのが語源だそうです。 「わが妻はもういないのか」と言う意味 日本武尊が関東を平定し、信濃に入ろうとしたとき、碓氷峠から関東平野をかえりみて愛する妻を偲んで言ったのだそうです。 日本武尊は関東へは海を行ったのだけれど、その時海が荒れ、海神の怒りを鎮めるために日本武尊の愛姫・弟橘姫が荒れ狂う海に身を投げました。このことを思い出し、「吾嬬(あずま)はや・・・」とつぶやいたそうです。 このことから、碓氷峠より東の関東を「あずまの国」と呼ぶようになり、「東」を「あずま」と読むようになったとされています。


This is related with Yamato Takeru No Mikoto ( * Yamato Takeru No Mikoto is an ( perhaps ) imaginary person who appears in 日本書記 ( にほんしょき ) which was published around AD 700 discribing the histories and legends of the emperors or God before the century. For more info, please refer to this English site http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yamato_Takeru

東(あずま)'s origin is when Yamato Takeru No Mikoto went to the Usui Toge ( * Usui Toge is here http://www.google.co.jp/maps/place/36%C2%B020%2741.6%22N+138%C2%B039%2703.8%22E/@36.344889,138.651056,8z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x0:0x0?hl=ja, it is in Kanto Sanchi ( = Kanto Mountains which divides Chubu Chihou ( 中部地方(ちゅうぶちほう)) = the middle part of Japan from Kanto Chihou 関東地方 ( かんとちほう ) = mainly south east area of Japan )),

( perhaps in order to conquer the Eastern barbarians at that time ), he said on the top of the peak, looking at the Kanto area, "吾嬬(あずま)はや……".

This utterance is meant to be "I came so far from my home so my wife is not here ( lamenting )). Yamato Takeru No Mikoto wento Kanto area by sea, however the sea became wild , so that Takeru's loving daughter 弟橘姫(おとたちばなひめ)threw herself into the sea in order to seethe the anger of God Of Sea. At that time too, Yamato Takeru No Mikoto, uttered remembering back the Usui Toge, 吾嬬(あずま)はや・・・

Henceforth the region east from Usui Toge ( mainly Kanto region ) is called 東(あずま)

******** 東,あずま= 吾嬬 = 吾妻 = my wife in old Chinese ************

  • お褒めの言葉ありがとうございます。しかし、私が質問を投稿したわけではなく、質問を編集しただけなので、私がその知恵袋の質問を読めるかどうかはあんまり関係ないですね…(笑) Commented Feb 10, 2015 at 0:46
  • ええと,正直言いますと,Darius氏は違いを知っていながら投稿したのかと思いましたが(笑)。後すいません。出かけますので。
    – user7644
    Commented Feb 10, 2015 at 0:50
  • 心配ご無用です。このサイトのユーザーインターフェイスは間違いなく慣れていない人にかなり分かりにくいと思いますので、粘り強く続けてください。 Commented Feb 10, 2015 at 1:01

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