Japan Today



Some worry that 'kirakira' names will cause kids to be bullied in school


Once upon a time there was a boy named Prince – more or less. Actually his name was Oji, which means Prince. His parents intended no harm. The idea had been, his mother explained when matter came up for consideration in family court in March, to give the boy a sense of uniqueness. He would grow up “like a prince,” said mom.

Alas, life is not like that. Far from commanding respect, the name drew either incredulous stares or derisive laughter. Reaching the age of 18, thoroughly sick of it, Oji resolved to be Oji no longer. The court saw his point, and accorded him permission to change his name. He is now no Prince but plain ordinary Hajime – Hajime Akaike of Kofu, Yamanashi Prefecture.

What has gotten into young parents nowadays? The names many of them inflict on their children! “Kirakira names,” they’re called. Kirakira is best translated as “sparkling.” Sometimes they’re just plain weird. A turning point in the history of the phenomenon occurred in 1994, when a publicity-mad young couple named Sato gave their newborn son the name Akuma – Devil. Let other parents, they thought, give their children conventional names that are no sooner uttered than forgotten. Their boy would stand out in a crowd – whether he liked it or not.

The media storm that followed led to an intervention by the justice ministry, which struck the name. The parents at first refused to back down, then finally compromised. They would call the boy Aku.

A 68-year-old grandmother in Mie Prefecture, inspired by the Oji case, sent off a letter to a legal advice column published by Josei Seven (May 2). Her own grandchild has a kirakira name. She doesn’t say what it is, but does say that her daughter, the child’s mother, brusquely dismissed her vigorous objections and insisted on the name of her choice. “It’s okay when the child is small,” the grandmother writes plaintively, “but when the child is in puberty, won’t such a name provoke bullying?” Her question for lawyer Masami Takeshita, the column’s expert adviser, is, “How would my grandchild go about changing the name, supposing the desire to do so arises?”

Oji’s success notwithstanding, it’s not easy, the lawyer replies. Changing your name is not like changing your clothes or your hair color, and generally speaking, society intends to keep it that way. Your name, so far as society is concerned, is you. To change it, you have to present a pretty good reason.

Takeshita  cites five. (1) You inherited a professional name as a symbol of a family profession (like kabuki acting or tea ceremony teaching) which you have not made your chosen career; (2) someone in your neighborhood shares by coincidence your identical name and surname, causing confusion; (3) your foreign name no longer suits you now that you have returned to Japan; (4) you are entering the Buddhist priesthood and require a priestly name; and (5) your name sounds provocatively odd in some foreign language.

There is no specific mention of kirakira names, unless the last point may be said to cover them. One may well hope it does. An online scan for the most popular among them yields such treasures as Loveha, Lovely, Luna – to say nothing of those that are immediately familiar to anime and manga fans: Pikachu, Kitty, Naushika. Many, moreover – and this is true lately with more than a few names that are not conspicuously sparkling – are written with characters that defy conventional readings. No one seeing the naked characters would have a chance of knowing what they signify. Presumably that’s part of the fun.

© Japan Today

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I'd rather be named Moon Unit than Prince.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

A name is not the problem.

Bully culture is the problem.

Fix the problem.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Some worry that 'kirakira' names will cause kids to be bullied in school

Only "some" worry about this? That in itself is worrying. Any unique or unusual name will result in bullying. That's kind of how kids around the world tend to operate: they mock and ridicule anything that's different. I get it, you don't want to give your child a ridiculously common name, like John in English, or like Hiro in Japanese. That doesn't mean you should give your child a name like Oji or Akuma. It's really not that hard to be creative without giving your child a name they'll be bullied for during most of their school life. It just requires you to stop and think for 5 seconds. "Will kids bully my child for having this name?" If yes, don't pick that name. It's as simple as that.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Rather than raising your child to be remembered by his/her name, raise it to be remembered by its deeds.

Ichiro Suzuki, for example is a combination of one of the most common first and last names. What he has accomplished however, is not.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I can not but help thinking of Native American names and wondering if little Sitting Bull or young Dull-knife were bullied. I think the act of bullying needs to be addressed more than the naming of children.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I'm with Fox Sora on this. There should be zero tolerance for any comments about natural differences between people. About skin colour, appearance, any disabilities or difficulties etc. Names given for cultural reasons are the same.

The most worrying thing about kirakira names, which are not a natural difference, is that some people choose them to deliberately make the child stand out. Anyone who goes out of their way to attract attention would be wise to realize that not all of such attention is going to be positive. You do not get to choose this.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Ill have to agree with comments that it's not the names it's a culture of bullying. A persons name is a name given by parents fir whatever reason. Everyone else has no say noelr opinion. If other people, are, raising children to be bullies who would, attack someone over their name, then the Shame should be on parents of the bullying kids and on the bullying kids themselves. If this carries to adults, then an adult who would in any way impede a persons, existence over a name, should be liable for damages

2 ( +2 / -0 )

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