What happens when you take a prefecture’s name written in kanji and change it into English based on the literal meaning of the Chinese characters? Sounds like you’d get a pretty cool name, right? Well, you may be disappointed to find out that Tokyo (東京), the capital of the nation of Japan, in fact simply means “Eastern Capital,” and Kyoto (京都), the former capital, doesn’t fare much better, coming out as, um, “Capital Capital.”
But with 45 other prefectures to choose from, there’s no reason we can’t find some good ones! Join us after the jump for some fun with kanji.
Using a list of Japan’s 47 prefecture names in English, Japanese Twitter user FSseisyun compiled a ranking of the top five names. Let’s take a quick look and see how good the choices were, presented from left to right with their Romanized name, kanji characters and literal translation.
5th place: Aichi (愛知) – Love Knowledge
4th place: Chiba (千葉) – Thousand Leaves
3rd place: Aomori (青森) Blue Forest
2nd place: Shizuoka (静岡) Silent Hill
1st place: Niigata (新潟) Eternal Force Blizzard
Overall, these were some nice picks. I wish Aomori really did have blue (it’s a long story) forests full of apple trees like its name suggests. That would be magical. I also liked Shizuoka because the name “Silent Hill” reminds me of the spooky video game of the same name. But I can’t quite imagine Shizuoka being a place that is especially still, quiet, and calm.
Niigata, too, has an interesting name when translated, but there is something fishy about it. When directly translated, Niigata is “New Lagoon” but this Twitter user decided to change it. So why did they decide to call this prefecture “Eternal Force Blizzard?”
It’s because Niigata gets a LOT of snow! There is so much snow that some of the roads become walled off with the compacted white stuff. Thus, you can clearly see why “Eternal Force Blizzard” is a fitting moniker compared to “New Lagoon,” which is totally lame (yet an accurate translation).
Here are a few more literal translations, in no particular order:
Fukui (福井) – Good Luck Well
Iwate (岩手) – Rock Hand
Ehime (愛媛) – Love Princess
Kumamoto (熊本) – Bear Origin/Book
Shiga (滋賀) – Overgrown with Celebration
Hyogo (兵庫) – Soldier Storehouse
Yamaguchi (山口) – Mountain Mouth
“Overgrown with Celebration” was my personal favorite – I’m not sure how you can even begin to describe such a thing. If you have any favorites or think you can explain what “Overgrown with Celebration” might look like, leave us a comment below!