2011’s Most Popular (and banned) Japanese Baby Names

A ranking of Japanese baby names was recently released, showing which were the most popular this year. Apparently “Hiroto” is the most popular boy’s name and “Yui” is the most popular girl’s name. Name trends are an interesting thing, because they show us just how influenced we are by the popular culture. For example, there is a recent trend among Westerners in taking baby names from the vampire book/movie “Twilight;”and old heroes’ names are making a comeback, like Gatsby and Atticus. So what is the newest name-trend to hit the Island of Japan?

The following is a brief comic from the “Manga Newspaper,” at newsmanga.com, which is news in manga form (not news about manga). This particular one came from December 7th.

Remember to read the comic from right to left (for both panels and dialogue)!

The comics are rarely actually supposed to be funny, but I guess this is supposed to make you chuckle. Though I write for an English-speaking audience, so I’m going to guess the joke here isn’t much of a knee-slapper unless you can read Chinese characters. And even then…

As for the names, the characters like 愛 (Ai) and 結 (Yui) are actually significant because a single character can contain various meanings, and be used in multiple ways. For example, “Yui” means bind/tie/join, and can be used in names like Yuiko, Yuika, etc. “Ai” means love (not necessarily a romantic love, though), and can be used in names like Aina, Aiko, Aika, etc., but these names are not exclusively female. For example, “Aito” is a perfectly normal, masculine boy’s name. Some sample names with 陽 (Haru/You) include Youko, Haruki, and Shigeharu; and with 希 (Ki), you can see names like Naoki, Miki, and Yuki, some of which are also girls’ names.

The girl in the comic, “Mana Ashida” is pictured in the title image above. She’s a huge star nowadays, and is known for – what else? – being cute. She’s featured on Japanese TV every other day; she sings and dances, and she starred in a kids’ movie (“Marumo no Okite”) that featured an incredibly catchy and now-famous song, which can (if you dare) be viewed below:

And if that wasn’t terrifying enough, there’s always the name that’s too evil to name your kid. It’s the Japanese equivalent to “el Diablo…” Akuma. The word translates best to “devil” in English, and the name is banned from being used. In 1993, a couple actually tried to name their kid Akuma, but after initially being tentatively accepted, it was later rejected. One report says:

…naming his baby “Akuma” was an abuse of the parent’s right of naming their child and the child’s name stated in the notice was inadequate, [so] the person was requested to submit a different name.

Indeed, it is a name that spells trouble. The character “Akuma” from the video game “Super Street Fighter II Turbo” was banned from tournaments in America, because he was too evil virtually unbeatable. Alas, el Diablo is so cruel.

...and ripped, apparently

What would cause someone to name their kid something so bizarre is beyond me, but then again I wonder about this often nowadays when celebrities make baby announcements. Some celebrity baby names include “Sage Moonblood,” “Bear Blu,” and “Audio Science.” And the baby name website NameBerry predicts that adjectives will be the big new thing in 2012. Such names will allegedly include Happy, True, Noble, Brave, Strong, Loyal, Loving, and Royal.

It’s no “devil,” but I’m guessing little baby “Loving” is going to get some weird looks next year.

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2 Responses to 2011’s Most Popular (and banned) Japanese Baby Names

  1. 6 8 10 says:

    I don’t have kids, but my dog has one of the more unique names in Japan. I named her Nandakay. About a year before I got her, I was teaching a kids class in my former job as an English teacher. I was running through some review questions, and asked one student “What is your dog’s name”. He replied “Nandakay, Nandakay, Eigo wakkanai!”. I understood, but made a joke that I thought his dog’s name was Nandakay. The class roared with laughter (said student included). So when I got a dog, she was stuck with it. I call her “Nana” for short, though, which is common enough in that it might actually appear on a list of most common names. If my dog had been male, I’d still have called it “Nandakay”, but would have shortened it to “Kei”.

  2. Jon Michael says:

    The man wanting to name his child Akuma/demon/devil, is sadder because he wasn’t naming him simply after a videogame character. In Japan, there is no character named “Akuma” in Street Fighter.

    The character called “Akuma” in the US version of Street Fighter is actually named Gouki in the original, Japanese version. When they were westernizing the game, they thought that just another martial artist rival to Ryu wasn’t enough. So, they decided to (stupidly) change the character into a literal demon. And, he’s Japanese, so they had to use the Japanese word for “devil/demon”. Thus, Gouki was changed to “Akuma” for the US. Although, the storyline of him being a literal demon has long been thrown away, the name still sticks with him in the US versions.

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