Has the image of Japan as the land of Hello Kitty upstaged its perception as a country full of swaggering samurai and mincing geisha in the Western mind? That's what the latest Web analytics data would seem to indicate.

Japan apparently first entered the Western psyche in the 15th century as European traders expanded eastward. Cartographers called the country Cipangu in its first depiction on a Western map in 1453; the first recorded use of Giapan in English came in 1577.

Today, Web analytics tools provide data visualizations of a radically more powerful kind to understand shifting views of Japan. "Cipangu," a word used by merchant explorer Marco Polo, was apparently adopted by Portuguese traders from Chinese dialects to indicate Japan. Google's Ngram Viewer, a tool that searches Google's digital book library, draws a graph that shows "Japan" had already vastly eclipsed "Cipangu" in the English corpus by the earliest date in Ngram's library of 1800.