As far as I understand, the Chinese people called America "美国" (among many) which literally translates to 'beautiful country'. I understand it was phonetic transcription of 'America'.
But I wonder why Japanese use "米国" which translates to "rice country". I know '美' and '米' have the same pronunciation in Japanese.
When did Japanese start to use '米国'? Was there any time when '美国' was used in Japanese? is there any reason to use the Chinese character '米' for the name?