Names with auspicious and beautiful meanings appear often in parents’ top picks.
Choosing a name for your newborn son or daughter can be tough. Not only are you responsible for bestowing a name upon another human being—a collection of vowels and consonants that that will stick with them for life and likely have a profound effect on how people initially perceive their owner—but if you live in a country like Japan, then you not only have to choose the baby’s name, but how it will be written in kanji characters as well. Talk about pressure.
But that’s the reason we have baby name lists! For the past two years we’ve been keeping track of the most popular names for baby boys and girls in Japan, and this year we’re keeping up the tradition. Take a peek at what trends are spreading through Japan by seeing which names are in this year and which are out.
You may think choosing a name for your kid is hard, but in the West, we have it easy. All we have to choose is the name. Here in Japan, parents-to-be also have to choose what characters they want to write it with, a decision that has to take into account the relative auspiciousness of the number of strokes it takes to write, how well-known a particular reading is, and even if the government will accept the name they finally settle on!
Like trends for particular names, there are trends in the use of particular kanji or Chinese characters, too. Insurer Meiji Yasuda has just published the most common names this year and the kanji used for them, so read on to see what the hippest babies are sporting.
What’s in a name? New parents often look for a name that they hope will embody the spirit of their child or be something that their son or daughter can wear with pride throughout their life, but even the most heartfelt monicker can prove awkward when taken out of context, and can be more funny than beautiful when heard by speakers of other languages.
For Japanese parents, the meaning of kanji characters used for a child’s name are just as important as how it sounds. Recently, however, one young couple had the name they chose for their new baby daughter rejected when they attempted to register it at their local town hall. It was probably a good thing, though, since the characters they had chosen had an altogether different, rather unpleasant, meaning that the couple were completely unaware of.
The name you give to your child will stay with them for the rest of their life, so parents are always careful to choose one that will stand the test of time and carry them through to adulthood. In the United States, Sophia and Jacob took the top spots for baby names in 2013, while Ava and Noah took first place in the UK (depending on which site you consult). Let’s take a look at this year’s top 10 baby names in Japan as reported by Japanese pregnancy and parenting site, Tamahiyo.
In Japan, the meaning of names can often be easily understood since they are typically made up of two or three Chinese characters. But what does that same name mean in other languages? Often, nothing. But sometimes a Japanese name can be translated as something as mundane as “bear cub” or as embarrassing as “pubic hair.” Take a look at 24 Japanese names that mean something entirely different when said in another language.