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. Just like any other culture, Japanese names consists of surnames and given names. The order of Japanese names, however, is exactly the opposite of English names: surname + given name.
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.
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 when giving yourself a Japanese name is pronunciation. It’s important people can pronounce it and you like the sound of it. There is little to worry about as the fundamental pronunciation of the Japanese language is super easy. The only tricky part is writing your name in Kanji, the most difficult part of the 3 Japanese writing systems, which we’ll talk about later.
Also, just like in English, it’s advised to choose a normal name. Don’t take a name with bizarre meanings or names for objects. I have a friend who gave himself the English name “chocolate.” That sounds weird, right? Thus, the best way to avoid such a situation is to ask your Japanese friends or teachers to confirm that your name is normal and has no negative associations. Or you can also choose from the most popular Japanese name list we prepared for you in the latter part of this article.
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.
Can I write my original name in Kanji?
The answer to this depends on which language your original name comes from. If you are from the United States, the United Kingdom, and other non-Sinosphere countries, your name can probably only be written in Katakana by pronunciation. On the other hand, if you are from China, Korea, or Vietnam (countries that are part of the Chinese character sphere), then you will be able to write your name in Kanji.
Of course, there are not that many unchangeable rules in this world. Kanji is ideographic and not phonetic, so you could choose your favorite Kanji and pronounce it with your name. For example, a couple of Japanese parents have pronounced their child’s name 光宙 as Pikachu.
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 boy names
- 蓮（Ren or Hasu), meaning lotus. The lotus grows in the mud but blooms pure white flowers. Hence, this name symbolizes “integrity” and “sacredness”
- 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.
- 蒼 (Sou or Aoi), meaning blue and green. Why does the same word represent two different colors? You can refer to an article about Japanese colors that I previously wrote. This Kanji evokes the blue sky and the green grasslands,giving the impression of being broad-minded and optimistic.
- 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.
- 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.
- 朝陽 (Asahi), meaning sunrise. Parents want their boys to be like a rising sun, full of energy and hope.
- 大和 (Yamato). The Japanese call themselves the Yamato people. This word has no direct meaning and signifies masculinity and open-mindedness.
- 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.
- 颯真 (Souma). “颯” means the sound of the wind. It gives a sharp, sporty impression.”真,” as mentioned above, means real.
- 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 girl names
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 芽依 (Mei). “芽” means buds, and the pronunciation of “依 (i)” sounds cute (kawaii). This name brings to mind spring, budding, and vibrancy.
- 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.
- 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.
- 杏 (An, Anzu, Kyou), meaning apricot. This Kanji is the name of a fruit. Both the meaning and pronunciation create a cute feeling.
- 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.
- 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.
Did you pick out your favorite name from the ones listed above? One more important thing to note is that there is an honorific system in Japanese. When it comes to names, it can be somewhat complex to use different titles when talking to different people. Hope the above table can help you learn how to use them properly!
|English (and explanation)||日本語||Romaji|
|Mr. /Mrs. /Ms.||Name さん||San|
|For boys||Name くん||Kun|
|For girls||Name ちゃん||Chan|
|For Business scenes||Name さま||Sama|
|For teacher||Name 先生||Sensei|
|Senior at School/work||Name 先輩||Senpai|
|Company CEO||Name 社長||Shachou|
|Department head||Name 部長||Buchou|
|Old Japanese suffix||Name 殿||Dono|
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