lifestyle

Japan’s top baby names for 2015

37 Comments
By Scott Wilson, RocketNews24

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.

Before we get started, a quick crash course on Japanese names. Like we mentioned in the intro, Japanese parents not only pick out a name they like for their child, but, in the majority of cases, kanji characters they like as well. So if the parents like a certain name but want different kanji, you can end up with different ways of reading/writing names.

Because of that, you may notice some names repeating in the list but which use different kanji to “spell” them. While this is kind of a cool idea, it is incredibly frustrating when trying to read or write someone’s name: even if you recognize the kanji used in it, you may not be able to pronounce a person’s name, and on the flip-side even if you know a person’s name, you may have absolutely no idea how write it.

With that out of the way, let’s start with the boys’ names. Above left are the top 10 Japanese boys’ names for 2015.

The first thing to notice is that the number one name from last year, Ren, got demoted to number three. Hinata/Haruta is still going strong, only dropping one place down from third to fourth.

Interestingly, the kanji for “harbor/port” (and three different ways to read it) takes the number one spot this year. Perhaps it’s the parents’ desire for their child to travel the world? Or maybe they’re all just Naruto fans and hope that their boy grows up to be like the Fourth Hokage, Minato Namikaze?

For a Naruto name, the parents certainly could have picked worse; I for one am glad there isn’t a whole generation of kids named “Orochimaru.”

One kanji that featured a lot in the list is “ta” (太), meaning “fat/thick/grand”, in the fourth, sixth, and tenth most popular names. Cookpad Baby, the site that compiled these lists, suggests that the reason for this is parents “wanting their child to grow up strong and to have a full, rich life.” (N.B. Be sure not to confuse 太 with 大 [big] or 犬 [dog]. Why, Japanese people? Why?)

Moving on to the girls, below are the top names for 2015, with quite a few ties:

The most popular names are Sakura (“cherry blossom”) and Riko (“lavender child” in this instance). These weren’t even on the list in 2013, and they didn’t break the top three last year either.

The fact that Sakura appears again at number five with a kanji (the top-slot one, you’ll notice, forgoes Chinese characters altogether and is instead written in phonetic hiragana script) shows just how popular the name is. And let’s not forget number three either, Aoi (“hollyhock”), yet another flower.

Cookpad Baby suggests that the popularity of flower names is due to parents “wanting their child to bring beauty to the world around them, and to be loved by many.” That’s a fine theory, but personally we’re going with the popularity of Naruto’s Sakura again for this one.

Another change this year is Rin falling down to sixth place. Last year we speculated that Rin (meaning anything from “cold” to “elegant”) may have had some Frozen inspiration behind it, and the fact that the name Anna is tied for sixth place might mean that "Frozen" mania isn’t quite over yet in Japan.

One final observation is the prevalence of girls’ names that feel right at home outside of Japan too. Sara, Anna, Yuna, and perhaps even Sakura are all names with a bit of Japanese flavor to them, but fit right in with more Western names. Compared to the boys’ names which might give a Western teacher doing roll-call a headache, the girls’ names are all pretty straightforward.

Is the boys’ number one name Minato (“port/harbor”) and the girls’ easy-on-the-Western-ears names a sign of Japanese parents trying to prepare their children for more international lives? Or is it all just because of Naruto? We’ll have to wait until next year to find out.

Source: livedoor NEWS

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Why old Japanese women have names in katakana -- New wave of “creative” Japanese names read more like riddles -- Japan’s top 20 flowery names for baby girls: love, hearts, and dreams

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.


37 Comments
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I think it is a good idea to be aware of how the name sounds in English too. I have encountered some strange ones, like Saiko and Miito. Though I guess any name could sound odd in some language or other and it is impossible to take all of them into account.

-3 ( +6 / -9 )

I think it is a good idea to be aware of how the name sounds in English too.

I suppose you think then that people with English names should be aware of how the name sounds in Japanese too?

MEXT should get off their butts and get rid of the "Japanese" version of romaji and stick with the Hepburn style, which would eliminate many of the problems you are referring to here. As an example, Souta, pronounced from an English person would say it would be SOta, (the so pronounced as the word "so") but in reality the name is Shota.

The differences come from the different way of writing romaji.

However I disagree that people "be aware" of how the name sounds in English, as this is Japan.

9 ( +14 / -5 )

But with many Japanese traveling abroad or with international aspirations in a globalising world it might be judicious. That's all I am saying, Yubaru. Hence I qualified my statement with the impossibility of being cognisant of the sound in every language. Of course, if parents don't want to think about it it is up to them but I have seen kids suffer the consequences of this.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

So Moonraker, you have dropped using your birth name in English and started using a Japanese one, because of the way your birth name may sound here in Japan?

It gets under my skin that every English speaker thinks the world should change this and that to suit them because they are English speakers.

Im British, my wife is Japanese and my son has a full Japanese name, I changed my name by law to a Japanese name because I am a permanent resident and will never return to the west, my family claims my son should have only a English name as half British, what rubbish, he is born Japanese, lives in Japan and will most likely die here also, so why have a English name to please fools that cannot pronounce peoples names or too stupid to learn how to pronounce them.

-3 ( +6 / -9 )

MEXT should get off their butts and get rid of the "Japanese" version of romaji and stick with the Hepburn style, which would eliminate many of the problems you are referring to here. As an example, Souta, pronounced from an English person would say it would be SOta, (the so pronounced as the word "so") but in reality the name is Shota.

This, this, this. So glad im not the only one.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

One of my female friends is named Moe and she says she always feels embarrassed when she is overseas and people mispronounce her name (as in Moe of the Three Stooges). If I had a baby now, I think my wife and I would definitely choose a name that sounded "nice" in both English and Japanese.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

I think the responsibility is ours to learn other people's names and how to pronounce them correctly. That said, my very simple surname gives people fits both here in Japan and back home. Here it's problematic because it sounds like a first name. There it's problematic because... well, I'm not sure why but there are plenty of variations I've heard over the years. I don't really care that much, but I don't want to make others feel bad by saying their names incorrectly so I work on pronunciation. Sometimes I think this name or that one will create havoc in English-speaking countries, but even people there need to be sensitive and understanding. Not everything is based around the English meaning. And certainly shouldn't be in countries where English isn't the first language. Or even the second.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

why have a English name to please fools that cannot pronounce peoples names or too stupid to learn how to pronounce them.

Ouch, sounds like someone had an altercation with someone... Why not choose a name that both sides of the family can feel happy with? There are plenty of them.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

If you have a bi-cultural kid, choosing a name that works in both your first language as well as Japanese is a good idea. But for Japanese kids? Why should they bother getting a name that works in English?

7 ( +10 / -3 )

My son has the same 1st name on both his citizenships, easy to pronounce in Japanese, English, German, etc.

His surname is Japanese or mine depending on what he will chose.

My sister has a Russian 1st name, mine is more universal but I use the English pronunciation in Japan.

Like was said use a name easy to pronounce spell in both or more countries. Kanji don't mean much outside Japan. Still we decided non morning sun/brightness in case of a girl or boy.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I knew a guy whose first name is Phuc. He changed it to an English name, because he moved to USA. Don't know if officially or not.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Perhaps I was being a bit nuanced, shigure. Apologies. Sometimes it is a problem. Basically, I don't care what you call your kid. I can speak and read Japanese and Japanese names present no problem for me. Perhaps your son will remain in Japan all your and his life. But, like in the case of my own son, who by dint of my foreignness, will likely spend time overseas, I thought it wise to choose a name that fits in English and Japanese. There may be some monocultural yet internationalised Japanese who think the same way too. But I don't expect you or anyone else to do the same. I am no language fascist.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

Not sure why the downvote.

Because my wife didn't take my name or because my sister has as Russian one.

Back home we are free to take the husbands or wife's name or keep current.

Son is called Akira 晃 sister is called Tamara, she still uses her maiden name too.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Our kids have six official names each, three English, three Chinese, one name of each as surnames. So their Chinese grandparents call them by their Chinese names and nicknames.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Thank God poor Shizaho is off the list...

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Japan’s top baby names for 2015

In a country with an alarming low birthrate, thinking of top "names" should be least of their worries.

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

In a country with an alarming low birthrate, thinking of top "names" should be least of their worries.

So they should drop everything and anything else no matter what?

6 ( +8 / -2 )

I chose my sons name back then based on the 800m WR holder Kipketer. I thought Keter. My my wife changed the spelling and we had a Japanese name.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Yubaru

As an example, Souta, pronounced from an English person would say it would be SOta, (the so pronounced as the word "so") but in reality the name is Shota.

You're mistaken. SOta is the correct pronunciation. Both for 颯太 and 奏太.

I AM in favor of Hepburn style in most cases.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@Yubaru

I don't understand your Souta/Shota example. Under any of the romanization systems, wouldn't these represent different words?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

YubaruNOV. 16, 2015 - 07:51AM JST I think it is a good idea to be aware of how the name sounds in English too. I suppose you think then that people with English names should be aware of how the name sounds in Japanese too? MEXT should get off their butts and get rid of the "Japanese" version of romaji and stick with the Hepburn style, which would eliminate many of the problems you are referring to here. As an example, Souta, pronounced from an English person would say it would be SOta, (the so pronounced as the word "so") but in reality the name is Shota. The differences come from the different way of writing romaji. However I disagree that people "be aware" of how the name sounds in English, as this is Japan.

No, but Japanese is not an international language learned by everyone in the world. It would be a very short-sighted parent who did not check their name was strange in English given that a lot of Japanese study, travel and emigrate in English-language countries.

My wife's friend (Japanese) asked me whether 'Wako' was okay in English - naturally I said, 'yes'. And she chose a different name.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Souta would not be read Shota, Syouta would be read Shouta. Which is pretty ridiculous, because even given the variation in how the alphabet is read in various countries, no other country would read Syota as Shota. Or at least, none that I know of.

I agree with Yubaru that the government should standardize this, and choose some method of reading romaji that will actually be read that way in some countries.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Yubaru is bang on in both his points. No one in Japan need be aware of how their baby's name sounds in another language, regardless of reason. It's something they MIGHT want to think about if they have good reason, like one or both parents are foreign, they plan to live in a foreign country, or whatever, but it should never be automatic.

And yes, Japan needs desperately to stop using Nippon-shiki when they DO use Roman characters for writing. I know a man named Chizuru, yes, usually a woman's name, who gave me a name card with "Ciduru" and even knowing Nippon-shiki quite well (it IS very useful, given that keyboards/dictionaries use it) I kept thinking he was selling apple cider or something. Same with the Korean systems of Romanization -- there may be national pride in writing Busan or Gangam Style, but no one who is not familiar with Korean is going to pronounce it "Pusan" or "Kangnam". A lot of the names on the names on the list would be mispronounced regardless of how long you've been here or how well you know Japanese if you can't see the Kanji equivalents because in some cases the name as it would be read in both Hebon-shiki and Nippon-shiki exist; I know both Soutas and Shoutas, so without the Kanji I would assume it's Hebon-shiki for such names.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

I apologize for using an ambiguous example, I looked at the list and saw the name "Souta" there, and instead of Shota. My mistake, however even with Souta the "U" would be accented as English speakers typically will accent the middle syllable in three syllable words so Souta would become So- U-ta.

Better example Tinatu, to and English speaker you would read that "Tea-NA-two", but in reality the girl's name is Chinatsu!

I changed my name by law to a Japanese name because I am a permanent resident and will never return to the west,

There is no law nor requirement to change your name when you get PR status. Citizenship, that's one thing, PR, no.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Years ago when fresh off the boat, I was approached by an ebullient Filipina at my Japanese class orientation who blurted out, 私はゲリです! Apparently, instructors were quick to correct her, and the next day she reintroduced herself as ゲルリ. That's how one of my first pieces of Japanese vocabulary turned out to be 下痢. So, yeah, parent's shouldn't concern themselves too much about this when naming children, but how the child chooses to transcribe a name depending on a local language is of importance.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

However I disagree that people "be aware" of how the name sounds in English, as this is Japan. Japanese should be more concerned about how English words/names sound in proper english, not the Japanese english they continue to use that only Japanese understand, when spoken to a native speaker they just get a puzzled look. Id give examples but id run out of space

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I remember a couple of times during the late 80's and early 90's when the local governments told the parents they COULD NOT use that particular character to name their child. The one case that really sticks in my mind is when the couple wanted to name their newborn son "Akuma", using the character for "devil" ! They were told, "dame desu".

0 ( +0 / -0 )

In a country with an alarming low birthrate, thinking of top "names" should be least of their worries.

On the contrary, articles like this are great in a country with a low birthrate. People with or without children enjoy reading them to see if their name or something else that interests them pops up on the list. Then, they usually give thought to the idea of having kids, even if only to say, "I would never name my kid something like that." They are putting themselves momentarily in the shoes of a parent while otherwise they might not have even thought about the concept.

It's important to help people visualize themselves as parents. To help seal the deal, it's important to have policies in place to allow them be the parents they want to be -- this basically means making it possible for parents to spend quality time with their kids and their spouses each day while also providing a reasonable standard of living. An economy that depends on lots of consumer spending runs by training people to indulge themselves. As a result sacrifice for the sake of having a family is a hard sell.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I can't believe "Steven" as in Steven Seagal, or Raquel, as in Raquel Welch, didn't make the cut...

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Another R24N article notes the prevalence of names from Naruto in the girl's list.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I remember a couple of times during the late 80's and early 90's when the local governments told the parents they COULD NOT use that particular character to name their child. The one case that really sticks in my mind is when the couple wanted to name their newborn son "Akuma", using the character for "devil" ! They were told, "dame desu".

It's not just "back then", it still happens today, and thankfully so too. Sometimes parents go overboard in their desire to choose the "right" name for their child.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

One of my female friends is named Moe and she says she always feels embarrassed when she is overseas and people mispronounce her name (as in Moe of the Three Stooges).

Tell her to write her name with an acute accent - as in Chloé, so her name becomes Moé . People will then know to pronounce the second vowel separately.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

I love Japanese names but I've gone off English names because they just don't sound so... Hmm..well.. English anymore...

England's most popular name is sure to go down a bomb with the English.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

That's how one of my first pieces of Japanese vocabulary turned out to be 下痢

Isn't 下痢 default pronunciation for Gary?

On a serious note, I reckon stories like this make people broody, so much more please, LDP needs the taxpayers!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Rick Shinjuku: "I love Japanese names but I've gone off English names because they just don't sound so... Hmm..well.. English anymore... http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/dec/01/britain-most-popular-baby-name-muhammad"

Well, that says a lot about you on a number of levels. First, "Muhammad" is about as "English" a name as Bao-Zhi, and it's been the most popular name for a boy world-wide for a long, long time. Not really surprising given that Muslims make up a quarter of the world's population, and Muhammad is the name of the Prophet. But again, perhaps your thinking of what "English" should be is a little off.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Igloobuyer talked about 'Wako'. Were they serious? Could be pronounced like wacko, which is not an ideal name.

I think parents should be 'practical' when choosing a name; by that I mean kids can be ruthless with one another if given any opportunity like a strange first name. English speaking countries are not the center of the world but they certainly will probably play a part in your child's life, at one time or another.

I've spent about 69 years correcting nearly everyone's spelling of my name, which is a common name Karl but usually spelled Carl. At least I wasn't 'A Boy Named Sue' from Johnny Cash.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Igloobuyer talked about 'Wako'. Were they serious?

It could be worse. They might pronounce the name as "Weiko" and others might mistake them for followers of David Koresh.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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