kirakira names01

As much as politicians try to prevent them and doctors disapprove of them, kirakira Japanese names, the kinds that hold double meanings or are just plain hard to read, are apparently still on the rise. A recent survey of kids in their teens and early twenties showed that now more than 40 percent of students know someone at their school with an obscure reading for their name.

Reading name kanji is already a difficult task. A single symbol can have up to a dozen different readings, and while some are more common than others, there’s always a bit of guesswork that goes into deciphering the pronunciation of someone’s name. It’s bad enough when two people have names with the same symbols and entirely different readings. Imagine the frustration that teachers must face when a new student’s name is pronounced in a way that doesn’t even sound Japanese!

There’s a difference between naming your kid something “international” and making your kid’s name a nuisance. See if you can understand the reason behind the reading of some of these kirakira names.

In an online survey sampling 500 regular students in their teens and twenties, it was discovered that approximately 44.8 percent of students go to school with someone with a kirakira name. Nearly one-third actually share a class with that person. When asked the names of these unorthodox people, here’s a sample of what came up. If any of our readers can read Japanese, try to guess how you’d pronounce names like these: 真九州, 明日, 美凪子, and 音.

Give up? You might as well, because most of these names don’t relate to the Japanese readings of their kanji at all!

  • 真九州 is for Makkusu, the only name of these four in which the kanji can technically match the reading, though the person’s parents were obviously acting on a stretch, trying to find symbols that would fit the sound of the Western name, Max.
  • 明日 is meant to be read Tomoroh. The kanji are most commonly pronounced ashita, and hold the English meaning,”tomorrow.” This was obviously the inspiration for this kirakira name.
  • 美凪子 is pronounce Biinasu, almost in line with some of the kanji’s actual readings. The symbols themselves mean beauty, calm, and child or young woman, with the last one often appearing at the end of girls’ names. Because the Japanese language lacks the “V” sound, this is the closest this girl’s parents could get to naming their daughter Venus.
  • Last comes 音, read as Rizumu, the Japanese way of pronouncing the word “rhythm.” What’s particularly strange about this one is that the meaning of the kanji is actually “sound”! While it is used in the word for music, it’s in no way associated with the beat.

As Japan slowly becomes more open to Western influences, many parents wish to equip their kids with names that are easy for foreigners to relate to. Unfortunately, this attempt at foresight can sometimes override common sense. Parents, please do your kids a favor and name them things that their peers know how to pronounce!

Reference: LiviGen (Japanese)
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