Made in Japan Not Made in Nippon

We have noticed an increase in the number of items listed on the web as ‘Made in Nippon’ or where the word ‘Nippon’ is used as a substitute for ‘Japan’ somewhere in title, category or description. In each instance it was apparent this had been done for the sole purpose of including that important keyword in the listing, though it is actually only relevant to an entirely different collecting niche.

Yes, it is true that ‘Nippon’ is a Japanese word for ‘Japan.’ In the sense of it being an alternative name for Japan the term can indeed be accurate. However, ‘Occupied Japan’ collectors would not employ ‘Occupied Nippon’ as search terms when seeking to be presented with satisfactory search results for items marked ‘Occupied Japan’. Likewise, neither does a collector of Nippon era (1891 – 1921) goods expect to be presented with search strings filled with alternate items actually marked ‘Made in Japan’ or ‘Japan,’ rather than their chosen target of Nippon era ware.

To a ‘Nippon’ collector that term has a specific connotation. It is not just the name of a country of origin, but rather its use in a listing implies correspondingly specific expectations a collector will have for an item.

If items marked ‘Japan’ but not ‘Nippon’ were subject to no differentiation by collectors, then all wares marked ‘Japan’ would be considered to be ‘Nippon’ and the "Collectors Guide to Nippon" would offer items marked in either fashion together, without distinction, and with similar pricing structures. It does not. Indeed, while it may be known that a twin for an item marked ‘Nippon’ exists, although marked ‘Made in Japan,’ the one marked ‘Made in Japan’ is unlikely to command a price equivalent to a ‘Nippon’ marked item, especially if the buyer happens to be a collector of Nippon era items only.

If a reference work notes the same item may be marked in either fashion, that statement means exactly that and nothing more. It does not provide the ability to arbitrarily assign earlier manufacture dates for identical items made at a later time in order to allow for their placement within a preferred class of objects.

Collectors who enter the term ‘Nippon’ into the search box on Ruby Lane or any other website should have every expectation of receiving niche specific returns that relate to their collecting needs and desires. They are likely to be disappointed when a search for 'Nippon' includes items not marked or appropriately identifiable as such, but instead they receive a search result filled with items marked ‘Made in Japan’ or ‘Japan’.

So, in case there is any question on this topic, the purpose of this article is to make it clear that it is not appropriate to use ‘Nippon’ in the Title, Category or Description for items marked only ‘Made in Japan’ or ‘Japan.’

If an item is completely unmarked and the piece is not pictured in the "Collectors Guide to Nippon" or other similar reference book, where the item in question is identified as having been produced during the Nippon era, then the attributes of the unmarked item that help to identify it as Nippon ware should be made clear in the item’s description. If this cannot be done, the unmarked item should not be identified as ‘Nippon.’


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