Your Simple Guide to Choose a Cute Japanese Name

japanese names
Hey there, I'm Jerry. I completed my undergraduate studies in China in 2020, and I'm currently struggling for my Master's degree at Rikkyo University in Tokyo, Japan. I speak Chinese, English, Japanese, and have recently been learning Portuguese. It can be said that learning languages have lit up my life, enormously enriched my academic background, and enhanced career prospects for me. Don't hesitate, let's enjoy learning languages together!

Want to give yourself a cool Japanese name? Looking to write a story with a Japanese protagonist? Let me help you out! Indeed, a Japanese name is a great choice when you want a screen name or nickname! The ratio of vowels to consonants in Japanese syllables is 1:1, making Japanese sound excellent phonologically — the closest language to music. 

Before taking one on, let’s have a brief look at what a Japanese name consists of. The order of Japanese names is the opposite of English names, with the surname first and the given name second. For instance, the name of the main character of Crayon Shin-chan is 野原新之助 (Nohara Shinnosuke): Nohara is his surname, and Shinnosuke is his given name.

野原新之助
野原新之助

Unlike Western culture, which emphasizes individualism at its core, Japanese culture is deeply influenced by Confucianism, where family and collectivism come first, and individualism second. Therefore, the family name is placed before the given name.

Even though we don’t have Japanese surnames, that in no way prevents us from taking on a Japanese given name as our nickname, screen name, classroom name, or for use in a creative project. Read on if you wish to pick a Japanese name for your own purposes! 

What to pay attention to when choosing a Japanese name

The first thing that needs to be considered is pronunciation. If you want to introduce your Japanese nickname to others, the most important thing is to teach them how to pronounce it. You don’t have to worry about it being hard because the fundamental pronunciation of the Japanese language is super easy. The only tricky part is writing the Kanji, the most difficult part of the 3 Japanese writing systems. But it will make your Japanese name really cool!

Also, please be careful not to take a name with bizarre meanings or names for objects. I have a friend who gave himself the English name “chocolate.” You know how weird it sounds. Thus, the best way to avoid such a situation is to ask your Japanese friends or teachers to confirm that it’s a normal name. 

Japanese names are mostly written in Kanji

Today, Japanese names are still mostly based on Kanji, As you probably know, Kanji (also known as the Chinese character) is an essential part of the Japanese writing system, and has also profoundly impacted Japanese culture. Although some female names are written only in hiragana, the feminine writing system of the Japanese language.

Consider both Kanji and pronunciation

Since Kanji are ideographic but not phonetic, one Kanji may have multiple pronunciations. For this reason, Japanese people mark their names with Hiragana on their business cards to prevent others from not being able to read them (this is called furigana). 

Likewise, a syllable may correspond to multiple Kanji, and the meaning changes according to the different Kanji. Therefore, Japanese parents need to consider both Kanji and pronunciation when naming their children.

For example, Yuki is a widespread Japanese girl’s name, and it corresponds to the following Kanji: 

雪 (yuki), meaning snow

幸 (yuki), meaning happiness and luck

有希 (yuki), meaning hopeful

The most popular Japanese names in 2021

Welcome to the name store! According to Meijiyasuda’s statistics, the names listed below are the ten most popular names for boys and girls in 2021. Perhaps you can pick one of your favorites.

Japanese names for boys

  1. 蓮(Ren or Hasu), meaning lotus. The lotus grows in the mud but blooms pure white flowers. Hence, this name symbolizes “integrity” and “sacredness”
  2. 陽翔 (Haruto). “陽” means the sun, and “翔” means flying. This name gives an impression of spreading wings and flying around the sun. Parents give boys this name in the hope that their children will be energetic and positive.
  3. 蒼 (Sou or Aoi), meaning blue and green. Why does the same word represent two different colors? You can refer to an article that I previously wrote. This Kanji evokes the blue sky and the green grasslands,giving the impression of being broad-minded and optimistic.
  4. 湊 (Sou or Minato), meaning aggregation and ports. This one and the previous one are tied for third. This name gives the impression of gathering people and goods and being sociable.
  5. 樹 (Itsuki, Tatsuki), meaning tree. Tree means upward force and vitality. Furthermore, the tree is not afraid of the wind or sun and is strong enough to face all challenges.
  6. 朝陽 (Asahi), meaning sunrise. Parents want their boys to be like a rising sun, full of energy and hope.
  7. 大和 (Yamato). The Japanese call themselves the Yamato people. This word has no direct meaning and signifies masculinity and open-mindedness.
  8. 悠真 (Yuuma, Haruma, Hisama, Yushin). “悠” has an image of being grandeur and generous, and “真” means real. As you noticed, this name has multiple pronunciations. When pronounced as “Haruma,” it sounds more lively, while “Yuuma” sounds more subdued. As a result, Japanese parents consider not only the meaning of the Kanji but also the feeling that the pronunciation brings.
  9. 颯真 (Souma). “颯” means the sound of the wind. It gives a sharp, sporty impression.”真,” as mentioned above, means real.
  10. 陽向 (Hinata). “陽” means the sun and “向” means toward. This name gives an impression of facing the sun and embracing its warmth like a sunflower.

Japanese names for girls

  1. 紬 (Tsumugi). This is a very precious and delicate silk in ancient Japan. Wouldn’t it be strange to name a person after fabric? Japanese people  have also raised such a question themselves. This Kanji being popular is probably related to the name of a female character (繭宮紬) in an anime.
  2. 陽葵 (Hinata or Himari), meaning sunflowers. You may have noticed that this name is pronounced the same as “陽向” in the list of boys’ names. As I mentioned before, the same Kanji may have different pronunciations and the same pronunciation may correspond to different Kanji.
  3. 凛 (Rin or Samu), meaning cold and severe. It doesn’t sound like one with a good meaning, but it has become a prevalent name in Japan since the 2010s. This Kanji gives an impression of composure and calmness.
  4. 澪 (Rei or Mio), meaning a channel in a river or sea that is deep enough for boats to pass through. Mio was recognized as a suitable Kanji for names in 1990 and is often used in girls’ names due to its melodic sound.
  5. 芽依 (Mei). “芽” means buds, and the pronunciation of “依 (i)” sounds cute (kawaii). This name brings to mind spring, budding, and vibrancy.
  6. 結愛 (Yua). “結” means knotting, and “愛” means love. Both Kanji are popular for naming girls, and when they are combined, the feminine image is much more profound.
  7. 陽菜 (Haruna or Hina). “陽” means the sun, and “菜” means rapeseed. Many Japanese people name their children “菜” due to the prettiness of the rape blossom.
  8. 杏 (An, Anzu, Kyou), meaning apricot. This Kanji is the name of a fruit. Both the meaning and pronunciation create a cute feeling.
  9. 紬希 (Tsumugi), “紬” as mentioned earlier, is a type of silk in ancient Japan and gives the impression of elegance. “希” has the image of hope and freedom.
  10. 莉子 (Riko). “莉” means jasmine. It has become a popular Kanji used for girls’ names since the 2010s. In contrast, “子” was popularly used for naming girls during the 1920s~1950s. An unexpected lovely feeling is created by combining a new trendy Kanji with a traditional one.
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