When new names are forced down the public’s throat, sometimes they get regurgitated. Back in the late 1980s, when Japan National Railways was broken up and privatized, somebody suggested the name “Kokuden” -- the name applied to its network of short-distance commuter lines in the capital -- be modified to “E-Den” to better reflect the name of the JNR’s successor, East Japan Railway Company.
This catchy new name was ignored by passengers and the media alike, who now mostly refer to it simply as the JR.
Likewise for Tokyo Dome, which replaced the old Korakuen baseball stadium in 1988. Its operators encouraged fans to call it the “Big Egg,” after the appearance of its curved white roof. That idea laid an egg with baseball fans, who were comfortable with Tokyo Dome.
Nikkan Gendai (June 18) uses these examples to suggest that Tokyo Sky Tree -- the new nickname recently announced for the 610-meter-high tower to be erected on the Tobu Railway yards in Sumida Ward – isn’t likely to take root. The new moniker was selected by a public campaign offering six candidates, which included Tokyo Edo Tower and Yumemi Yagura (watchtower of dreams).
“It doesn’t seem to be a name people are likely to take to,” remarks Chiharu Hirabayashi, a professor at the Tohoku University of Art and Design in Yamagata. “To people, a structure standing higher than 600 meters is going to have the image of a tower. A tree isn’t very ‘tower-like.’ And it's a difficult word to memorize.
“In their minds, I think many people have already become used to the name they referred to it by before the announcement -- New Tokyo Tower,” Hirabayashi adds.
Nikkan Gendai agrees. People will probably refer to the new landmark as New Tokyo Tower, and that will be that. After all, when organizations come up with names that fail to excite or inspire the public, there’s no downside to ignoring them.
“I suppose they’re in the process of coming up with a mascot character to convey the image of something that shoots up to the sky, you know, like in the story of ‘Jack and the Beanstalk,’” Hirabayashi suggests. “After it’s completed, they ought to illuminate the tower to make it resemble a tree, and then maybe the nickname would catch on with the public.”
Or perhaps, Nikkan Gendai suggests cynically, they might at least consider reserving the “tree” decorations exclusively for the Christmas season.© Japan Today