2008: Baby names

Baby Names

Benesse has published the results of their annual baby-name survey. Yui and Yūto are the top names for girls and boys respectively, just as last year, but since there are so many ways to spell both names, they do not actually top the “name + kanji combination” chart. That honor goes to Hiroto (大翔) and Aoi (葵), the latter most likely thanks to actress Miyazaki Aoi — inescapable star of Atsu-hime.

2ch nerds are basically OK with the kanji for Hiroto 大翔, although they don’t like the pronunciation to for 翔. For the record, however, it comes from tobu, “fly, soar”, and it dates back to a poem about Mt Fuji in the Man’yōshū: 飛鳥母毛不上 → tobu tori mo/ tobi mo noborazu → “Even the soaring of birds in flight does not reach [its peak]“. Suck it, haters.

And now the news for Kingdom Hearts fans. Sora as a boy’s name has risen in popularity for the fifth year running, up to #5. Meanwhile, Riku peaked at #4 in 2006 and has been falling since, and no-one ever liked Kairi.

Oh… and Saaya has also enjoyed a huge jump in popularity, from #141 to #76. I know someone who’s going to love that.

Matt TREYVAUD
December 27, 2008

Matt Treyvaud is a writer and translator living near Kamakura. He is Néojaponisme's Literature/Language editor and the proprietor of No-sword.

7 Responses

  1. Daniel Says:

    Any idea if there is Freakonomics-like name research for Japan? I’d be curious to see the demographic breakdown.

    My personal favorite names of the kids I taught – a guy named Ramu and his little sister Memu. Can’t remember the kanji unfortunately.

  2. Matt TREYVAUD Says:

    I bet 夢 was involved… Haven’t seen any Freakonomics-style research, but anecdotal evidence suggests that 90% of old people have kids with funny names on their lawn.

  3. Adamu Says:

    Since coming to Japan in April 2007, my wife and I have enjoyed checking the names whenever a supermarket puts up a collection of elementary school artwork. They seem to come out of nowhere, though examples seem to escape me now. Basically, Junko and Kosuke are out, Erena and Sora are in.

  4. W. David MARX Says:

    I would guess that there’s a clear class dimension to what names are used. We always enjoy the DQN Name list, like アナル for boys, and these are clearly Yankii names.

    There is definitely an idea that some names such Masako and Yuriko have 品, which is code for “from the upper middle classes.”

    I wonder in terms of total births, whether under-25 yankii births are more of the total percent these days. That would skew the name rankings.

  5. M-Bone Says:

    I remember reading that there are no longer any “ko” names in the top 10 for girls. Tragic.

  6. Matt TREYVAUD Says:

    IIRC, there are only 2 “ko” names in the whole top 100 this year — and those are “Riko” and “Hinako”, not exactly flagbearers for those venerable, uh, Taisho-thru-Showa traditions. (I believe the modern trend in 子 was started by the mid-Meiji upper class, though, natch.)

    Masako and Yuriko are interesting examples to bring up in the context of 品. Masako can hardly avoid the association, being the name of the Crown Princess and all (and it was a popular name the year she joined the family, same as Michiko in 1959 and Aiko more recently)… but even setting that aside, both 雅 and 百合 refer to high-class tastes to begin with.

    The name “Sakura” (さくら) intrigues me: it directly references very old traditions yet is still very popular right now. Maybe ending in “-ra” helps it fit in with current tastes in girl’s names (note how many end in “-na”, whereas “-ko”, “-ki”, “-mi” are falling out of favor). Maybe it is related to sakura as a popular (literally) symbol of Japan — Yamato is high in the boy’s list too. Writing it in hiragana rather than kanji reinforces this impression.

    But yeah, completely inventing a name for your kid is not an upper-class thing. Are there any countries where this isn’t the case? (Do US yuppie names of the 80s count?)

    P.S. Some friends of mine who had their first kid this year showed me their baby-name book’s section on “Names from foreign words”. I feel for any kids whose parents named them “Aasu” (Earth) or “Kanto” (Kant).

  7. Rory P. Wavekrest Says:

    Ass, Anal and Kunt?
    WHAT IS GOING OONNNNN

    My ladyfriend’s sister name her two kids
    Rennousuke and Kaede.