It’s not easy being a kid. If you’re fat the other kids make fun of you; if you’re skinny the other kids make fun of you; if you get good grades they make fun of you… Kids don’t need a genuine reason to be tease their peers; they can make one up just as easily.
But when your parents name you after their favourite thing – be it the weather on the day you were born, the place you were conceived or their favourite snack food – things get awkward for poor little Windy Latrine Butterfinger.
Although authorities have been known to intervene when parents try to call their child things like Akuma, meaning devil in Japanese, and @ as once rejected by authorities in China, the vast majority slip through the net. Since kanji, the Chinese characters used in the Japanese writing system, are based on meaning and can be read in a variety of different ways, parents giving their child a kanji-based name (some choose phonetic kana script, but this is usually just for girls) are able to choose both their child’s name and how it will be written.
For the most part, parents choose names that convey their love or hopes for their offspring, but in the land of otaku nerdism, sometimes parents just can’t help but get carried away.
Kirakira (lit. sparkly) or DQN (from the onomatopoeia word dokyun, the sound of being struck hard or shot in the chest) names are allegedly on the rise in Japan, and are causing more and more kids unnecessary distress as other kids make fun of them each time the teacher calls “Suzuki Goomba” during rollcall.
Political hopeful and victim of recent TV blunder Shinzo Abe, the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party made a stand against kirakira names last week when he stated that giving a child a name like Pikachu, which could be written something like 光宙 (“light” and “space”), is tantamount to child abuse, saying: “Children are not pets; we have to provide guidance for parents who would name their child in such a way.”
Naturally, this has sparked quite a debate both online and with national newspapers picking up on the comments, some suggesting that parents should be free to name their child whatever they like. Others, however, suggest that Mr. Abe is right to take a firmer stance against the yankii (coming from the English “Yankee” but meaning delinquent youth) parents who wish to adorn their child with a ridiculous name:
“Kids are merciless. You’ve gotta give your child a break when naming him or her.”
“Stupid Parents: My child is being bullied! This country is awful! The Administration: Yeah, well, you called your kid Pikachu FFS…”
“A name that distinctive is bound to lead to privacy issues online…”
“No matter the kanji, a kid called Pikachu is going to get bullied. They might as well call him Poop.”
“Well, since Pokemon is known the world over, in a way these parents have chosen a very international name LOL”
“Wherever they go, having to introduce yourself as ‘Pikachu’ would never be easy.”
It’s great to live in a country where we have freedom of speech and the ability to choose, but when it comes to affecting another person’s life with our decisions, we enter into a rather difficult debate. A parent may well give their child an unusual name with the best intentions and all the love in the world, but ultimately not everyone will see it that way.
Most would agree that it’s fine for hardcore anime fans to decorate their cars with character designs and motifs to the point that others find them painful to look at, but when the same fan breaks into your garage and turns your car into a Hatsune Miku hot rod, it becomes a problem. Perhaps if a parent loves Pokemon that much they should legally change their own name, rather than giving their kid the burden of wearing the moniker for the rest of their life. Or until they turn 20 and can legally change it, anyway…
This all reminds me of a friend of mine who did some part-time work at the Inland Revenue service when he was a student. His job basically consisted of filing documents away eight hours a day, but he would often regale us with tales of having spotted a “Mr. Bastard” and even a “Ms. Sunshine” amongst the files. Changing a family name isn’t the easiest thing to do, but parents have a golden opportunity when deciding their child’s name to shape their future. If you’re about to give birth to a child, do the decent thing and give them something that won’t make them cringe every time it’s called…