The Basics of Choosing a Japanese Name

The Basics of Choosing a Japanese Name

Japanese baby names have become more popular in recent years thanks to the influence of popular anime and manga series like Naruto and My Hero Academia. Plus, Japanese baby names often have lovely nature and virtue-related meanings.

However, the Japanese baby naming tradition is complex, particularly due to the thousands of kanji (characters) that can be used to spell names.

Many kanji have the same sound but different meanings. Thus, names that sound the same could have many possible spellings and meanings. Additionally, a single kanji can have more than one sound.

Here are some kanji (spelled out phonetically in English) that are commonly used in names:

ai – love

hana – flower

hiro – man/husband/hero

ichi – one

ji – two

ken – healthy

ko – child (common in girl names)

mi – beauty

rou – son

you – sun

Beautiful Japanese Baby Names

Below is a selection of Japanese names that I find particularly beautiful in sound and meaning. You will see that several of the names I’ve listed have two-part meanings, representing the kanji commonly combined to create that name.

Keep in mind that I have grouped names by gender based on my personal preference or most common usage. Many Japanese names are not considered gender-specific.

Japanese Names for Girls

Aimi  love + beautiful

Airi — love + jasmine

Akemi — bright + beautiful

Akira — bright + light

Aya — color

Ayame — iris

Chiyo — thousand + generations (eternal)

Emiko — smiling child (there are a variety of other meanings but this is my favorite)

Hanako — flower + child

Kaede (“kah-eh-deh”) — maple

Kanon — flower + sound

Kaori — fragrance

Kazuki — one or harmony + radiance or hope

Kohana — little flower

Maiko — dance + child

Miya — increasing beauty

Moriko — forest + child

Rumi — beauty + flow + lapis lazuli

Shiori — weave + poem

Suzume — sparrow

Tama — jewel

Tsukiko — moon + child

Japanese Names for Boys

Akio — bright + man or bright + hero

Daichi — great + earth or great + wisdom

Hajime — beginning

Isamu — courage

Kado — gateway

Kaemon — joyful

Kazuo — harmony + man

Raiden — god of thunder

Ronin — samurai without a master

Ryuu — dragon

Sora (“so-ruh”) — sky

Taiki — great + radiance

Yasuo — peaceful man

Yori — trustworthy

About the Author



Jackie is a lifelong name nerd and a busy student working to earn a doctorate in biomedical science. In her minimal spare time, she loves to cuddle with her pets, cook, and name things. Check out Jackie’s blog, Namesplash.