Category: japanese baby names
Guest blogger Sachiko returns with reflections on the complexities of using names from her Japanese heritage.
Growing up, I never thought Japanese names were weird. Most people in my part-Japanese, part-American Mormon family had one. I lived in Japan when I was small, and grew up going to the cherry blossom festivals in the spring, dancing at Obon in the summer and eating mochi on New Year’s Day.
Then I started naming my own children, and two things happened, one good and one bad.
First, I found out how hard it can be to choose a Japanese name. (This is the bad thing.) My Japanese is shamefully rudimentary, and barely a match for the formidable language barrier. I rely on a lot of sources for Japanese naming help, which I’ll go into later.
Second, I found out how popular Japanese names are, in the sense of being well-liked, if not yet well-used. (This is the good thing.) I had thought that nobody would appreciate a Japanese name unless they were Japanese, or maybe because they’d spent considerable time in Japan.
That’s why my first few kids have their Japanese names in the middle, the place of Name Shame, the same way you’d lock a crazy aunt in the attic.
People surprised me—not only did they accept my kids’ Japanese names, they really seemed to like them. I took courage, and gave my two most recent kids Japanese first names, and not only did people like them, some asked for pointers on choosing a Japanese name for their kids.
Regionalism might have something to do with that. Perhaps Japanese name popularity roughly correlates with the size of local Japanese-American communities. My experience bears that out, with my family’s Japanese names most popular here in the Northwest, and in Utah. I’m told Japanese culture is fashionable right now, so Japanese names might be getting more popular in your area too.
Let’s cover the possible difficulties you might experience while choosing a Japanese name.
R’s are flipped, like a cross between an R and a D. Pronounce every syllable with equal emphasis, and you’ll be right 90% of the time. For instance, most people pronounce my daughter’s name, Sakura, like this: saw-KUR-rah. The correct pronounciation is saw-koo-rah, with a small, quick, flipped R.
Unless people ask how my kids’ names are pronounced, though, I don’t correct them, because how pretentious would that be? My last name has a strong –ur sound, which sounds good with the American pronunciation of Sakura. Also, we have a cop-out: we nicknamed her Suki, a name anybody can say.
We’re all familiar with the ancient Greek and Roman pantheons of mythological deities, from Adonis and Athena to Zeus, but there a number of other ancient names from other cultures with their own pantheons of intriguing god and goddesses. We’ve delved into the some of the most intriguing mythologies—Egyptian, Phoenician, Norse, Celtic, Indian, African, et al– and discovered some striking ancient names for the intrepid baby namer.
ÁINE (AWN-ya)– Irish Celtic goddess of love, summer, wealth and fertility
AINO (EYE-no) – A Finnish mythological water sprite
ANAHITA – A Persian mythological goddess of river and water
ANNIKKI (accent on the first syllable) – A forest goddess in Finnish mythology
ANU – Irish Celtic goddess of fertility, magic, moon, air and prosperity
ASTARTE – Ancient Phoenician goddess of love, fertility, motherhood and war (morphed into Greek mythology as Aphrodite)
ASTRILD – Norse goddess of love
ATLA—Norse water goddess
BELISAMA – A Celtic goddess of light and fire
BRANWEN –Irish Celtic goddess of love, beauty, sexuality and the sea
BRIGHID (pronounced breed) — Irish goddess of fertility and creativity, martial arts and healing
DANU – Irish Celtic mother of the deities , goddess of rivers, water, magic, prosperity and wisdom
ELAINE – A Welsh Celtic maiden moon goddess
FREYA – Norse goddess of love, beauty, war, magic and wisdom; the most beautiful of the goddesses
INANNA – A Sumerian goddess of the earth, sky and love—and also war
ISIS – an Egyptian goddess, known as mistress of charms or enchantments
KALMA – Finnish goddess of death and decay (maybe skip this one)
KALI – Hindu goddess of power (and—oops—destruction)
LAKSHMI—Hindu goddess of beauty and prosperity, purity, chastity and generosity
LEZA — African goddess of protection and divination