I noted in the post that former DPJ House of Representatives member Iwakuni Tetsundo had gone so far as to put the question of the pronunciation of the country's name to the government, to which the Aso Cabinet responded, officially, that "Nihon" and "Nippon" are equally correct. I promised at the time that I would try to find out from Iwakuni-sensei himself the reasons why he asked for a government assertion of the correct pronunciation of the country's name.
Yesterday, in an email, Iwakuni-sensei responded. His response was much longer and detailed than I anticipated. As a consequence I will post the gist of it here, rather that merely insert a few words into the earlier post, as I promised.
Iwakuni-sensei starts out by saying that the question he submitted to the Cabinet on June 19, 2009 (Link - J) speaks for itself. However, his interest in the pronunciation question was piqued by discussions going on within the House of Representatives Education Committee. Members from the Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling coalition would say "Nihon." The Socialists would say "Nippon." The Communists would say "Nihon." Moreover, looking at what children were being taught in school, the first year elementary school textbooks introduced the country as "Nihon." However, by the third year, readings of the Chinese characters for the country name expanded to "Nippon" without explanation.
Looking around, Iwakuni-sensei found inconsistencies in the speech of government officials. Prime Minister Koizumi Jun'ichiro, when he announced the dispatch of Self Defense Forces personnel to Iraq, peppered his speech with various iterations of "Nippon" -- but when discussing the dispatch at other times referred to the country as "Nihon." Bank of Japan Governor Hayami Masaru, a Protestant Christian, introduced himself as "Nihon Ginko no Hayami desu" ("I'm Hayami of the Bank of Japan") even though on the nation's currency (pull out a bill if you have one on you) the name of the issuing authority is "Nippon Ginko."
More interesting still is the choice of the members of the Imperial Family: they never say "Nippon."
In part this is due to tradition. The "pa-pi-pu-pe-po" sounds do not appear in speech before the late Edo Period. They are nowhere to be found in the Manyoshu. They cannot be found in any of the reign or imperial names.
However, more important to the Imperial Family of today is the association between the undemocratic Meiji Constitution Imperial State -- the Dai Nippon Teikoku -- and usage of the plosive consonant version of the country name. As Iwakuni-sensei told a Chicago audience in October last year, during the war years persons who used "Nihon" for the country name put themselves at risk of having their status as citizens challenged.
If the current Heisei Emperor -- an opponent of all coerced expressions of patriotism, as was illustrated by his famous flambeing of the nationalist Tokyo Board of Education member Yonenaga Kunio* -- never says "Nippon" nor allows his sons to say it , one would not be far wrong in guessing the plosive consonant country name carries too much historical baggage for safe daily use.
* At the Emperor's Autumn Garden Party in 2004, Yonenaga introduced himself with a preening "It my job to see to it that in all the middle schools of Japan, everyone is made to raise the flag and sing the national anthem." The emperor replied, with deadly wistful understatement and indirection, "You know, it would desirable that it were done in a way that could not be called forcible" ("Yahari, kyosei ni naru to iu koto de wa nai koto ga