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What are 'kira kira' names and why Japanese parents choose them for their kids

16 Comments
By cinnamonellie, grape Japan

Naming your baby is an important process as it may affect your kids' lives, so it is better to think of the name more than once as they will bear it for the rest of their lives.

In Japan, especially, if you have an unusual name or a foreign-sounding name, people tend to throw you looks when they read it or hear it.

I always have that kind of experience when going to the hospitals, for example.

Not to mention that I also have a middle name and when I get called to the reception, literally everyone in the area turns their heads towards my direction.

However, I feel that things have been slowly changing lately, and there have been a couple of schools and kindergartens that give their children English names to use during the classes or with their English teachers.

The kids seem to enjoy it, and their parents also seem to like the idea a lot! Most are thinking that if their child goes traveling or studying abroad, they can also use an English name so it will be a lot easier for them.

The many types of Kira Kiraキラキラ Names

“Kira kira” means “shiny” in Japanese, and it refers to the unique names that feel so special and make you think of a jewel.

Sometimes, they are too special, and that is when it becomes a problem.

I think parents sometimes let their personal preferences go wild, and then names like “光”(Kanji from hikari, but pronounced in English as “Light”) are born.

I don’t consider it something unusual, but it might get a bit confusing, and the old generation in Japan will have a hard time reading them.

However, this is one of the good examples as I have heard worse.

Parents give the children these rare names in the hope their baby will grow up to be unique, but names that sound different from the usual ones stick out and sometimes might have an opposite effect.

I believe it is better not to force the limits if you don’t want to risk your child getting bullied or having a bad experience because of a too outstanding name.

Some of the types of shiny names are:

  • Names of the characters(as an example: Pikachu ピカチュウ, Naruto ナルト, etc.)
  • Unsuitable names for children: I remember I read something a long time ago that a couple named their children “devil”, Akuma/悪魔 in Japanese. Some parents choose names of objects and some very inappropriate, too!
  • Written in Kanji, but pronounced in English: An example would be the “光”(Hikari) above that is pronounced translated in English as “Light”.

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© grape Japan

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16 Comments
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Oh wow, you gave a whopping 4 examples. Let me add some more information to the phenomenon. These kira kira names are usually given by so-called "DQN" parents, or the type of people who used to belong to moped gangs. They tend to get married and start families in their early 20s and many are high school dropouts. Some recent examples of kira kira names : 希星 Kirara, 奇跡 Daiya, 夢露 Melo, 今鹿 Naushika (this one's particularly cringe-worthy), 七音 Doremi, 本気 Maji.

10 ( +12 / -2 )

I had a good laugh at 明日, pronounced “tomoro”

12 ( +12 / -0 )

If I had a child called Pikachu, she or he would suffer bullying..

Millenials...

9 ( +9 / -0 )

And one will certainly become the future future prime minister of Japan; and his first lady will be Nyan Nyan.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

It’s similar to names like Abcde, pronounced ‘Absidy’ or L-sha, pronounced ‘Ladasha’ or my favorite (to mock) is Sssst, pronounced ‘Forest’.

everyone wants their kid to be unique!

5 ( +6 / -1 )

My kids met an Assu in the play park yesterday.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The list of names given in the article is very tame compared to the long lists of head-shaking and burst-out-laughing names given on Japanese sites. The kanji for yellow and bear being read as "ぷう", or the kanji for number one, ichiban, being read as "とっぷ", for example.

Japan is known as a society with rigid conformity, where people don't always get to make free choices. It's interesting to hear what some people select when given the choice.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

People who choose weird names in the belief it makes their children unique are morons. Your children are unique, they don’t need the burden of silly names as life is hard enough as it is.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

As a foreigner living in Japan while having to explain the story of my life and answer to the very same questions to every person I meet for the first time I would never even think of passing this curse to my children, making them go through the lifelong ordeal of explaining to every teacher, nurse, city staff etc how to "read" their own names.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Written in Kanji, but pronounced in English: An example would be the “光”(Hikari) above that is pronounced translated in English as “Light”.

Can somebody rewrite that in proper English? I cannot understand what they're trying to say. The person's name is Raito? Is that what they mean?

I've long come to the conclusion that Japanese usually pick kanjis, and then allocate their own pronunciation.

No other country needs you to write your name twice.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

'However, I feel that things have been slowly changing lately, and there have been a couple of schools and kindergartens that give their children English names to use during the classes or with their English teachers.

The kids seem to enjoy it, and their parents also seem to like the idea a lot! Most are thinking that if their child goes traveling or studying abroad, they can also use an English name so it will be a lot easier for them.'

Does nobody else find this disturbing?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

My late j-wife and I gave our son and daughter traditional Japanese given names. Personally I dislike all the unconventional spelling for unusual names but I am old school and I am not going to change and hopefully others will understand my ideas, good or bad in their opinions.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

If I ever have a child in Japan he or she will be named with common (but nice) Japanese names only. I will not have the child go through a life time of grief having to explain their name everywhere they go, or having a hard time filling forms and such.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I like it I have the word Ray in my name means a beam of concentrated light, the Japanese versions that sound similar but are mostly for girls I think, and if there name is light will they try and understand everything about light I wounder...

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I love traditional Japanese names, I think they sound majestic and classy. They give the person a more dignified air about them. The one who wears the name will either make that name more special or give it a bad rep. From where I'm from, people from the older generations (Gen X and older) tend to have Spanish, Greek and Roman names while the Gen Z's have some wild names which would make for some funny moments at Starbucks.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Does nobody else find this disturbing?

Yeah, it implies that you have to be called "Bob" and "Susie" to speak English, something which Hajime kun and Kana chan can't be expected to do even with six years' of lessons.

My wife took my surname and so our kids have a katakana surname. While it may cause my wife and kids grief (and we don't use it for trivial things like queuing in a restaurant), I think that is still preferable over trying to fit into an ultimately outdated view of Japan.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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