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Japanese Baby Names

Japanese Baby Names
Japanese baby names are Romanized translations of kanji — the characters used in the Japanese language. Japanese names can be written in multiple combinations of kanji —sometimes hundreds — and the meaning of a name changes depending on which characters are used. The name Kenzo, for example, has meanings related to wisdom, health, or humility when written in different kanji permutations.

Along with Kenzo, other Japanese baby names in the US Top 1000 include Amaya, Kane, Raiden, Asa, Kairi, Koda, Hana, Tori, and Kai. Uncommon Japanese names you may want to consider include Hiro, Naoko, Suki, and Ren — a popular name for boys in Japan.

Japanese baby names are only beginning to be used in the West, as the world becomes smaller and international names become more accepted in most countries. Some Japanese baby names that translate easily to Western culture and language include the following.

Japanese Baby Names

KaiHeart

  • Origin:

    Hawaiian
  • Meaning:

    "sea"
  • Description:

    Kai has many origins and meanings. What does the name Kai mean? That depends on which Kai you're referring to.

AsaHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew; Japanese
  • Meaning:

    "healer; born in the morning"
  • Description:

    A short but strong biblical name with multicultural appeal, Asa is enjoying new visibility thanks to hot young actor Asa Butterfield of Hugo fame.

AmayaHeart

  • Origin:

    Spanish version of Amaia or Japanese
  • Meaning:

    "mother city; the end; night rain"
  • Description:

    The Spanish form of Amaya is both a given name and a surname, originating from the Spanish mountain and village of Amaya. In this context it means "mother city" or "the capital." Amaya can also be considered a derivation of Amaia, a Basque name meaning "the end." In Japan, Amaya is a surname.

KodaHeart

  • Origin:

    Japanese, Sioux
  • Meaning:

    "friend"
  • Description:

    A word in the Yankton-Yanktonai and Santee dialects of the Lakota Sioux language, meaning "friend" or "ally", used for one of the main characters in the movie Brother Bear. Also a common Japanese surname or a respelling of the musical name Coda.

KaneHeart

  • Origin:

    Celtic
  • Meaning:

    "warrior"
  • Description:

    A name of multiple identities: a somewhat soap-operatic single-syllable surname, a homonym for the biblical bad boy Cain, and, when found in Japan and Hawaii, it transforms into the two syllable KA-neh. Kane also has multiple meanings: in Welsh, it's "beautiful"; in Japanese, "golden"; and in Hawaiian, "man of the Eastern sky."

KikiHeart

  • Origin:

    French nickname and Japanese
  • Meaning:

    "double happiness"
  • Description:

    Kiki is one of the Coco-Gigi-Fifi-Lulu bohemian-type French nickname names from the turn of the last century, which have endless energy and sparkle. Artist Kiki Smith is its most well-known contemporary representative, and Kiki was the inspiring heroine of Zadie Smith's On Beauty. Kiki can be a nickname for any name beginning with the K sound, from Katherine to Christina to Kayla.

MikaHeart

  • Origin:

    Japanese
  • Meaning:

    "beautiful fragrance"
  • Description:

    Mika is a Japanese girls' name that translates easily to English. As a male name, it's a short form of Mikael, the Scandinavian and Finnish form of Michael. Both are spelled and pronounced the same.

KenzoHeart

  • Origin:

    Japanese
  • Meaning:

    "strong and healthy"
  • Description:

    Kenzo is a common Japanese name with several creative bearers: the single-named fashion designer, prizewinning architect Kenzo Takada, and painter Kenzo Okada, which makes it internationally recognizable.

SukiHeart

  • Origin:

    Japanese
  • Meaning:

    "loved one"
  • Description:

    One of the most familiar and usable Asian names.

RumiHeart

  • Origin:

    Japanese
  • Meaning:

    "beauty, flow, lapis lazuli"
  • Description:

    Rumi is a Japanese girls' name that sounds like a couple of other choices more familiar in the West -- Rumer and Remi -- that is achieving notice because of its choice by two celebrities, including Beyonce and Jay-Z.

ZenHeart

  • Origin:

    Japanese
  • Meaning:

    "meditation"
  • Description:

    A spiritual word name used by actor Zoe Saldana for her son.

RioHeart

  • Origin:

    Spanish
  • Meaning:

    "river"
  • Description:

    Rio is a reductive ranchero place-name with an attractive Tex-Mex lilt. No Doubt's Tom Dumont has a son named Rio Atticus.

RaidenHeart

  • Origin:

    Japanese
  • Meaning:

    "thunder and lightning"
  • Description:

    The name of the Japanese god of thunder makes an assertive choice, very much at home in the Western world. Because of the name's similarity to popular baby names Aiden and Jayden, most people will pronounce it RAY-den, but it's more properly RYE-den.

AyaHeart

  • Origin:

    Japanese, Hebrew, Arabic
  • Meaning:

    "colorful, bird, sign"
  • Description:

    Simple names have their appeal, but Aya, barely more than a breath, maybe be too simple. It debuted on the US Top 1000 in 2012.

HiroHeart

  • Origin:

    Japanese
  • Meaning:

    "broad, widespread"
  • Description:

    Hiro is an apt name for a hero of the show Heroes -- and for our times. Widely used in Japan, sometimes also for girls. Hiroshi is a long form.

KenjiHeart

  • Origin:

    Japanese
  • Meaning:

    "second son"
  • Description:

    One of several Japanese names that refer to a child's place in the family birth order.

SakuraHeart

  • Origin:

    Japanese
  • Meaning:

    "cherry blossom"
  • Description:

    Lovely Japanese name that would certainly be appreciated in Europe and the U.S. It was rarely used in Japan until the 1990s, and draws its current popularity from the fact that it is deeply connected to Japanese traditional culture without sounding frumpy and old-fashioned.

HanaHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew, Hawaiian, Maori, Japanese
  • Meaning:

    "grace, work, glow, flower"
  • Description:

    Many things to many peoples: a flower name, also spelled Hanae, to the Japanese; a Czech and Polish short form of Johana; and an alternate form of the biblical name Hannah in the US. It also means "craft, work" in Hawaiian and "glow" in Maori.

RoninHeart

  • Origin:

    Spelling variation of Ronan
  • Description:

    In the USA, both spellings of this old Celtic name rose significantly. However, Ronan outpaced this version in the lasts, and we, too, prefer the original, though history and movie buffs may appreciate this version's association with renegade samurai in Feudal Japan. Ronin is a character in the Marvel Universe.

NoriHeart

  • Origin:

    Japanese
  • Meaning:

    "doctrine or seaweed"
  • Description:

    Japanese name that would have no trouble assimilating--though many would associate it with the dried seaweed used to wrap sushi. Kim Kardashian and Kanye West use Nori as a nickname for their daughter North.

NomiHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew and Japanese
  • Meaning:

    "beautiful, pleasant, delightful "
  • Description:

    This adorable cross cultural name updates Naomi and offers an accessible Japanese option. Strikes the right balance by being distinctive without seeming strange.

AkiraHeart

  • Origin:

    Japanese
  • Meaning:

    "bright, intelligent"
  • Description:

    A popular Japanese name for both sexes that's migrated to the West because of its appearance in manga and video games.

MidoriHeart

  • Origin:

    Japanese
  • Meaning:

    "green"
  • Description:

    In Japan, color names symbolize human qualities (in this case, fame); name of gifted violist Midori, but also a Japanese melon liqueur.

ToriHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Victoria or Japanese
  • Meaning:

    "bird"
  • Description:

    A more modern nickname for Victoria than Vicky, Tori is used fairly frequently on its own, kept in the public eye by singer Tori Amos and actress Tori Spelling. Still, it's far from fashionable, sinking in the polls significantly since reaching a peak of Number 142 in 1994.

YukiHeart

  • Origin:

    Japanese
  • Meaning:

    "snow"
  • Description:

    An appealing Asian name with a nickname feel.

MaroHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin, Hebrew, or Japanese
  • Meaning:

    "from Mars; bitter; or, myself"
  • Description:

    Maro is an ancient saints' name -- he was an Italian follower of St. Flavia and was martyred -- rarely used in modern life. The name Maro may stem from the Roman Marcellus, related to Mars, the god of war, or it may be a feminine form of Maria, connected with Mario. Maro is also a Japanese name meaning "myself."

KoiHeart

  • Origin:

    Japanese or Choctaw
  • Meaning:

    "carp; panther"
  • Description:

    The Koi is a variety of carp especially popular in ornamental gardens in Japan, where they are a symbol of good fortune. In Buddhist culture, the koi is associated with courage. Being one letter away from trendy Kai boosts its prospects as a cool unisex name.

KyokoHeart

  • Origin:

    Japanese
  • Meaning:

    "mirror"
  • Description:

    One of the most familiar and attractive Japanese names, though rarely heard outside that culture.

SoraHeart

  • Origin:

    Japanese or Korean
  • Meaning:

    "sky; conch shell"
  • Description:

    A simple and pretty multicultural name: as a Japanese name, it's unisex and means "sky"; as a Korean name, it's feminine and means "conch shell".

AikoHeart

  • Origin:

    Japanese
  • Meaning:

    "beloved child"
  • Description:

    Aiko is a very common Japanese name with a lovely meaning that is rarely heard outside the Asian community.

KaoriHeart

  • Origin:

    Japanese
  • Meaning:

    "smell, fragrance"
  • Description:

    Kaori is a Japanese girls' name once largely unknown but brought into the spotlight by celebrity couple Eniko and Kevin Hart, who gave it to their daughter in 2020. Kaori is easily translated in the Western World; it's got a rhythmic sound and a familiar feel, maybe since it's similar to Maori, the name of the people and language of New Zealand. But the correct pronunciation is kow-ree.

IchiroHeart

  • Origin:

    Japanese
  • Meaning:

    "firstborn son"
  • Description:

    Ichiro is a good classic choice for the first boy in a Japanese family.

KeikoHeart

  • Origin:

    Japanese
  • Meaning:

    "happy child"
  • Description:

    Japanese classic with optimistic meaning.

AkiHeart

  • Origin:

    Japanese, Finnish; "born in the autumn, ancestor"
  • Meaning:

    "born in the autumn, ancestor"
  • Description:

    A name known in several cultures, also through animated book character Tiger Aki. Finnish author Aki Ollikainen is another notable bearer.

AzamiHeart

  • Origin:

    Japanese; Persian
  • Meaning:

    "thistle flower; greatest"
  • Description:

    Azami has a prickly image and feel — reinforced by the thistle's image in Eastern mythology as one of defiance. A name that spans two widely divergent cultures, Azami might make the perfect international choice, at once unusual and easy to comprehend.

HanzoHeart

  • Origin:

    Japanese
  • Description:

    Heard most frequently in 18th century Japan, Hanzo is a rarity in modern culture. Hattori Hanzo was a legendary samurai of the Sengoku Era. A modern day namesake might be Hanzo Shimada, from the video game Overwatch. Hanzo is one of many unique baby names from Asia and from the gaming world.

TakeoHeart

  • Origin:

    Japanese
  • Meaning:

    "strong as bamboo"
  • Description:

    Well used in Japan, appreciated for its powerful meaning.

KatanaHeart

  • Origin:

    Persian or Japanese
  • Meaning:

    "honorable or sword"
  • Description:

    Katana is a male name in Old Persian and a well-used word in Japanese, but as a girls' name is these days found more often as Kitana, the name of a princess in the video game Mortal Kombat II.

YoshiHeart

  • Origin:

    Japanese
  • Meaning:

    "good, respectful"
  • Description:

    A classic Japanese name known to kids around the world as a Nintendo video-game character.

MiyaHeart

  • Origin:

    Variation of Mia or Maya; Japanese
  • Meaning:

    "palace, shrine, temple"
  • Description:

    Is it pronounced MEE-ah or MY-ah? Only the bearer knows for sure, which is one of the central problems with this hybrid name.

MikiHeart

  • Origin:

    Japanese
  • Meaning:

    "flower stem"
  • Description:

    Attractive but slight Asian alternative, with a 1970s nickname feel.

SumiHeart

  • Origin:

    Japanese
  • Meaning:

    "elegant, refined"
  • Description:

    Simple and, yes, elegant -- until you think of the wrestlers.

KairiHeart

  • Origin:

    Japanese
  • Meaning:

    "sea"
  • Description:

    Kairi is the name of the main female character in the popular role-playing video game series, Kingdom Hearts. Voiced by Hayden Panettiere in the main series, Kairi is one of the seven Princesses of the Heart. Kairi entered the US Top 1000 in 2010 and was given to over 400 baby girls in one recent year.

InoHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek; Japanese
  • Description:

    Ino was one of the Queens of Thebes who, after her death, became an immortal. Ino raised her nephew, Dionysus (son of Semele and Zeus), provoking the wrath of Hera. In desperation Ino threw herself into the sea and was thereafter venerated as Leucothea (The White Goddess).

HarukiHeart

  • Origin:

    Japanese
  • Meaning:

    "spring child"
  • Description:

    Japanese writer Haruki Murakami, well known in the U. S. , might inspire some namesakes.

HanakoHeart

  • Origin:

    Japanese
  • Meaning:

    "flower child"
  • Description:

    Hanako has a delicate sound and quaint meaning -- but there's a catch. According to widespread urban legend in Japan, Hanako is the name of the ghost of a little girl who haunts school bathrooms, who sometimes answers if you call her name.

IsseyHeart

  • Origin:

    Japanese
  • Meaning:

    "first-born"
  • Description:

    Japanese-born fashion designer Issey Miyake, known for his techno-clothes, could provide baby naming inspiration.

ReiHeart

  • Origin:

    Japanese
  • Meaning:

    "bell or beautiful"
  • Description:

    A sweet and simple Japanese name with several possible meanings, depending on the kanji characters used.

KazuoHeart

  • Origin:

    Japanese
  • Meaning:

    "first son or harmonious man"
  • Description:

    Kazuo is a boys' name well-used in Japan though not well-known in the U.S. Kazuo Ishiguro is the author of Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go. The emphasis is on the first syllable.

SenHeart

  • Origin:

    Japanese mythology name
  • Description:

    Simple, Zen-like name of a mythological forest elf.
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