Choosing a Japanese name, international name, or one from your home culture for your baby can be challenging


Choosing a baby name—in Japan or elsewhere—can be challenging regardless of your cultural context, and even more inside an international family. With potential unwelcome advice from your in-laws, criticism from your co-workers, and pregnancy-brain to blame for your own waffling name style allegiances, it’s no wonder that many parents are choosing to keep their baby’s name a secret until the birth.

Fact: People are far less likely to complain about a name when faced with the adorable baby in question! 

An infinite list of questions

Should we go with an honor name after our relatives? 

Is popularity a pro or a con for us?

Do we care about a name’s meaning? 

Is the sound of a name our primary concern? 

How about the flow of the “sibset” or how siblings’ names sound together? 

As an international family in Japan, these usual baby name questions can’t get the job done on their own. Instead, for example, you also have to consider the child’s future both in and out of Japan, how the name will sound in multiple languages, and even what language you want your child’s name to hail from. 

When I named my daughter, I was still living in Canada—but I knew that we would likely be coming to live in Japan in the near future. To complicate matters, for family reasons, we wanted the name to be easily pronounced in English, French, Khmer, and Italian! I also was not sure where she would spend most of her life. As such, I decided against skewing the name choice too much in one (cultural) direction or another.

And, then, I am also really picky about names in general! “The Name” couldn’t have been worn by anyone I disliked over the years, nor could it be too popular or too obscure. To make matters worse, I was committed to a botanical name in the middle. So, for anyone very overwhelmed by their decision, I feel you!

Below is a list of things to consider, from one anxious Mama to another, when you are naming your baby in Japan.

1. Name Origin

Something to consider:

There is no right answer to this question, only what feels the most appropriate for your family. If you are interested in a Japanese name, why not check out the charts of top baby names in Japan? Or you could choose among relatives, if you have a Japanese family, or from a Japanese media or literary source that you’re a fan of. 

“International” names sourced in western baby name books and sites are often skewed towards Europe and Latin America. From a Japanese perspective, “Matteo,” for instance, doesn’t straddle the boundary between Japan and other countries in a way that gives it a borderless feel, right? However, there are some great names that work in and out of Japan, even if their pronunciations may differ.

Click here to read more.

© Savvy Tokyo

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Just choosing a pure Japanese name with "fortuitous" kanji can be a real challenge.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Just to add to the article, note that although you can find kanji versions of many English sounding names from people in Hong Kong, where they've been using Western names for decades, unless the kanji used are included in the Japanese jouyou kanji, your child will not be able to use those kanji in Japan.

The other thing not mentioned is the balance with the characters used for the surname. It is possible to have different opinions on this matter, but it may be an idea to choose a kanji name for your child if their surname is in katakana. Both forename and surname in katakana is rare for someone with Japanese citizenship.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Yup, choosing a name for your child is hard, but this article seems to be about creating issues that weren’t there in the first place. So much drama.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

John is a good name.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Or Joanne

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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