Leaving aside the issue of whose world view is correct, there seem to be two Japanese readings for the Korean word for the body of water between the two countries:

NHK writes 東海 【とんへ】 but wwwjdic writes 東海 【とうかい】

アメリカ軍【ぐん】「日本海【にほんかい】を『東海【とんへ】』と書 【か】いたのは間違 【まちが】い」

U.S. military: "Writing 'East Sea' for Sea of Japan was a mistake"


Why are there two Japanese readings for the Korean word? Are they interchangeable and equally acceptable as readings of the Korean name?


1 Answer 1


In both languages the word is formed of borrowed Chinese elements, which after borrowing went through several changes. トンヘ is the Japanese approximation of the Korean pronunciation, while とうかい uses the on'yomi (Chinese-derived) pronunciations of the characters that are common in Japanese.

  • Cool, thanks! Are the two readings interchangeable and equally acceptable all over Japan, or would it be more common to use とうかい? I am wondering why NHK chose とんへ for the furigana it kindly provides for its articles.
    – Ned Reif
    May 6, 2023 at 8:39
  • 2
    @NedReif NHK chose that because they are talking about Korea and their renaming of the sea. They are not interchangeable as it's the Korean pronunciation, and 日本海 is the correct name anyway. It's a touchy subject as it relates to the relationship between Japan and Korea, and I'm not sure that the average person would even recognize the トンヘ pronunciation.
    – Jimmy
    May 6, 2023 at 9:37

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .