Thursday, December 21, 2006

Popular Names

The top popular names for newborn babies in Japan this year have been announced today. I don't know about other cultures, but in Japan names are definitely a kind of mirror that reflects the society, what kinds of events happened and who the heroes were during the year.

For example, the most popular name for newborn boys this year is "Riku" which means "land" in Japanese. It ranked 14th place last year but made it all the way to the top in one year. It's not that there was a national hero like an athelete who achieved incredible results, but there are analyses that in this age of social instability like the widening disparities and so forth, name like Riku that are associated to grandness or stability became popular. It's interesting that the popular kanjis for boy's name last year was "ocean".

Other popular boy's names include those using the first kanji for the newborn prince's name Hisahito. The kanjo for the part Hisa can also be read Yuu, and the character itself means "far and away" "relaxed" "at ease".
Because the winning pitcher for the national high school baseball tournament Saito Yuuki's name - though not the same "Yuu" as the Prince - includes a different kanji for "Yuu", names like Yuuto, Yuuki, Yuuta came into higher ranks (7 of them in the Top 100).

The other name that jumped to a higher rank is "Daisuke" undoubtedly coming from the professional baseball player Matsuzaka Daisuke who successfully made his way to the MLB. The kanji for this name means "big, grand" and "to help".

As for girl's names, "Hina" came in first place for the second consecutive year. The kanji for Hina is "sun" and the flower "field mustard". They both provoke the images of warmness and girly prettiness. There are 13 names that end with this particular "na" ranked in the top 100, and quite a few with the kanji "love" and a range of flowers.

Quite a number of baby girls got their names from figure skater Asada Mao who placed second place in the Grand Prix Final which closed just a couple of days ago. In addition to being a really good skater, she has a bright and charming character so I guess that's what boosted up the popularity of that name.

To sum up - names associated to future hope for boys, and good character for girls. I mean, both hopes are included in most of the names regardless the gender but as a general tendency I think I can conclude it this way. Generally speaking, in an age when the future looks foggy names associated to hope and stability increase and on the other hand, at times of prosperity names related to strength come in higher positions. For girls... maybe the tendency isn't as clear as boys.

And there's always the other major way of naming babies which is to borrow a character or two from the parents' names. In my case, I don't inherit a kanji from neither of my parents and my name doesn't even mean anything in Japanese, but I inherited the meaning of "friend" from my mother's name.

Those of you interested in names and/or kanji can come see the kanji section on Japan Mode. Some time soon I may update the page with year 2006's top 5 baby names. But for today, I have an article on the film "Sakuran" published. The film's only going to be released in Japan next February but is another one on geisha (actually "oiran") so if you're interested
come have a look!

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