I recently found out that the kanji 洛 is associated with Kyoto / the capital.

Here are some example words showing this association:

洛内【らくない】 : "in Kyoto or the capital"

洛外【らくがい】 : "outside Kyoto or the capital"

洛南【らくなん】 : "southern part of Kyoto​ / south of the capital"

I figured it must be from the time when Kyoto was Japan's capital, but I've been unable to find where the relation between 洛 and "capital" comes from.

Could it be similar to how, for example, 米 is associated to America, and 亜 with Asia? Maybe 洛 was used to write "capital" or "Kyoto" at some point?

  • 1
    Relating to the kanji 洛, I hope you like "洛中洛外図 Rakuchu Rakugai-zu (Views In and Around Kyoto). There are several Rakuchu rakugai zu, and they are a genre paintings produced from the Muromachi period to the Edo period that depicted the town area (inner Kyoto) and suburbs (outer Kyoto) from an overhead view.ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – user20624
    Commented Jan 18, 2018 at 5:19

2 Answers 2


It was because we Japanese borrowed many words from Chinese.

For example、洛陽{らくよう} is the capital of (English) in Three Kingdom Age.

Here Wiki says,


Kyoto was in old times called 洛陽 or 長安{ちょうあん}, appropriating the words of Chinese Empire's ( capitals ). A theory holds Kyoto was once divided into to 2 sides, East and West, respectively the West、右京{うきょう} was called 長安、the East, 左京{さきょう}, was called 洛陽。Whereas, 右京 has lots of swampy lands, so that eventually the street style remained only in ( the East ), 左京、= 洛陽。 Therefore the word 洛陽 came to denote the center of Japan, and just using 洛 of 洛陽 became to denote the capital.

The famous another example is that 豊臣秀吉{とよとみひでよし} was later called 太閤{たいこう}、which is the after name equivalent with Chinese one after he resigned the old Japanese political ranking 関白.


The use of 洛 comes from another way of referring to the eastern part of greater Kyoto area, namely 洛陽{らくよう}.

洛陽: 平安京の左京(平安京の東半部)の称。右京を長安と称するのに対する。また、京都の異称。 // Rakuyou: The eastern half of the capitol of Japan during the Heian period. A way of differentiating from the western part (長安).

Kyoto was modeled after the cities of Chinese cities of Chang'an (長安) to the west and Luoyang (洛陽) to the east.

As the eastern part was more central as far as administration, entertainment, etc., 洛陽 came to refer to Kyoto in general, or the main part of it at least.

The origin of the first character of the name of the Chinese city 洛陽 is from the the Luo (洛水)river to the south: 洛陽の南には洛水が流れており、これが地名の由来となっている.

大内裏{だいだいり}, the 'Greater Palace', in the center of 洛陽 was the dividing line between 洛西、洛東、洛北、etc. While no real landmarks really presently exist in the location of the former palace, the naming conventions were retained.

Some background here. Also here.

  • Very interesting, thank you both! Now, I don't know which to pick as the accepted answer.. haha.
    – kikones34
    Commented Jan 19, 2018 at 0:22

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