1570s, via Portuguese Japao, Dutch Japan, acquired in Malacca from Malay (Austronesian) Japang, from Chinese jih pun, literally "sunrise" (equivalent of Japanese Nippon), from jih "sun" + pun "origin." Japan lies to the east of China. Earliest form in Europe was Marco Polo's Chipangu.

japan (v.)

"to coat with lacquer or varnish" in the manner of Japanese lacquer-work, 1680s, from Japan. Related: japanned; japanning. Hence also japonaiserie (1896, from French). Japanned work being generally black, japanned took on a slang sense of "ordained into the priesthood."