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Tour leader Brian recently had the challenge of picking a name for his son. It’s a task that’s tricky at the best of times, but when it comes to picking a Japanese name, it’s no ordinary challenge…
When parents choose a name for their child in any country it can prove to be difficult but Japan, in my opinion, is on another level.
My wife (Japanese) and I had a particularly hard time because we wanted a name that was easy to pronounce in Japanese and English. We also wanted a name that people couldn’t make any rhyming jokes with in Japanese or English. This was harder than you think. At first, when we didn’t know if we were having a boy or girl, we liked the name “Romi” for a girl. I told some of my students at the time and they acted like they couldn’t hear me and said, “What? Gomi?”
Gomi in Japanese means “trash”, so there went that name. We found out we were having a boy so I thought of the name “Kito”, but in Japanese for boys there often attach kun at the end of their name. My wife told me that Kito-kun sounds too much like Kito-ku, which means “on the verge of death”. There went another name.
We finally decided on the name Taiga. It sounds like tiger but with a “GA” sound at the end. I didn’t know this but it’s originally a Japanese name.
Now comes the hard part. Deciding the kanji (characters) for the name Taiga. Japanese use kanji for their names and each kanji has a literal meaning. For example, my wife’s name is Haruka (晴香) and the kanji for her name means “Sunny smell”. There are hundreds of different kanji combinations that can be made just for the name Taiga. Depending on how many strokes it takes to write the name it will have a certain amount of luck. This picture below is from a book which shows the amount of luck for each number of strokes.
After reading books and researching online the kanji for our son Taiga was finally decided. “Tai 大” meaning “Big” and “Ga翔” meaning “Fly or soar” was the best luck for his name. By coincidence, my nickname back in the states is “Big Fly”.
At the beginning of this post is a picture of my son’s meimeisho (命名書). A long time ago, many babies died within a week due to not having proper medical attention. When a baby is seven days old, many Japanese families have a ceremony called a shichiya (七夜) where the baby is officially named. They write the baby’s name and the date and time of birth on the poster. The meimeisho is usually displayed in a family shrine or over the baby’s crib.
The name proved to be lucky for Taiga after all – as he made the front cover of the most popular baby magazine in Japan, Hiyoko Club!