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I heard from my Japanese friends that I should avoid using the word 「来日」 when I'm outside of Japan.

Is it true, and, if it is, has this something to do with the kanji 「来」?

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Yes, it is true. 「来」 means to come.
If you are outside of Japan, you can use 「[訪日]{ほうにち}」 instead.
「訪」 means to visit.

  • Seems like I misunderstood the question :D OP probably knows the things I cover in my answer – siikamiika Apr 18 '17 at 2:01
  • There are regional differences though. For example on Kyushu it's very common to refer to yourself as "coming" somewhere instead of "going". (this is not standard Japanese though) – bjorn Apr 18 '17 at 8:10
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The word 「来日{らいにち}」 means visiting Japan. The kanji 「日」 in that word is an abbreviation of 「日本{にほん}」 (Japan). The kanji 「来」 can be used to express coming somewhere, but I don't think there is a generally understood abbreviation method for every country.

One way to express arriving in a country:

[country]に到着{とうちゃく}する (ni tōchaku suru)

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