What Makes Japanese Names Special
For one, Japanese phonetics are really different from English, which can make your baby’s name a bit more unique. For example; while there are lots of Japanese names that start with ‘m’ or that start with ‘a’, you won’t ever find a Japanese name starting with ‘c’ or ‘l’.
Japanese names are also special since they’re originally spelled with kanji characters, which have their own meanings. This unique property can make Japanese names feel a lot more layered as it draws not just from the meanings of the individual kanji but also from the combination of different kanji characters.
If you know your way around the language, you can even come up with new interpretations of ancient Japanese male names! Just be sure to double-check your work before naming your kid. Otherwise, you might end up like Ariana Grande and her ‘small, charcoal grill’.
How Do I Pronounce Japanese Names?
While Japanese names can seem too foreign for our English-speaking tongues, they’re actually pretty easy to pronounce once you know the trick behind them. For one, most Japanese consonants are pronounced the same way that English consonants are. The only consonant you might have trouble pronouncing is ‘tsu’, which sounds like a mix of the hard ‘t’ sound and a short ‘s’ sound.
Japanese vowels are also pretty simple, since the pronunciation is pretty uniform across all Japanese words. The only times you would change the pronunciation is with doubled vowels like in ‘Yuuto’, and in those cases, you only need to lengthen the sound of the vowel.
The only part of Japanese pronunciation that can be a bit tricky for us English-speakers is the stress on the syllables. Unlike with a lot of English words, you don’t stress the syllables of short Japanese words. You also don’t stress the middle syllables of longer Japanese words as these tend to be the least stressed parts of the word. For example, ‘Sakura’ is pronounced ‘SA-Ku-Ra’ and not ‘Sa-KU-Ra’.
As long as you keep these pronunciation rules in mind, you should be fine with most common Japanese names, including the ones in our list below.
If you have high hopes for you baby boy, ‘Haruto’ can be a great name for him as it can mean ‘to soar’ or ‘to fly’. The name can also be read as ‘sunny person’, so it’ll fit someone who’s bright and bubbly.
Famous namesakes: Haruto Shirai (football player), Haruto Sakuraba (from Eyeshield 21)
‘Hinata’ conveys warmth and hope as it can mean ‘ray of warmth’ or ‘moving towards the sun’. It can also be a cute name for your baby boy as it’s an alternate reading for ‘himawari’, the Japanese word for sunflower.
Famous namesakes: Hinata Watanabe (kickboxer), Shouyou Hinata (from the anime Haikyuu!)
If ‘Hinata’ doesn’t sound right for your baby, you could also go with ‘Asahi’, which can mean ‘morning sun’ or ‘sunshine’.
Famous namesakes: Asahi Yada (football player), Asahi Nakiri (from Food Wars)
Touma means ‘ten thousand swords’. It’s also another one of the few Japanese male names that work well with English since you could call him ‘Tom’ for short.
Famous namesakes: Touma Ikuta (actor), Touma Kamijou (from A Certain Magical Index)
‘Kaito’ is another name that works great in both English and Japanese. After all, it sounds like ‘kite’ while also meaning ‘to fly above the ocean’! How cool is that?
Famous namesakes: Kaito Kiyomiya (professional wrestler), Yuna D. Kaito (from Card Captor Sakura)
Speaking of cool names, ‘Hayato’ can literally mean falcon person! How cool would it be to be named after one of the fastest birds in the world?
Famous namesakes: Hayato Sano (actor/singer), Hayato Gokudera (from Reborn!)
‘Sora’ can be an adorable name for a baby with beautiful blue eyes since it can mean ‘blue sky’. It’s also the name of one of the most popular video game protagonists, so chances are a lot of people will be familiar with it.
Famous namesakes: Sora Kawai (poet), Sora (from Kingdom Hearts)
Like Sora, Riku is another name that’s popular in the west due to the video-game Kingdom Hearts. It means ‘wise’ or ‘clever’, and best of all, it’s a simple and easy to pronounce name in English.
Famous namesakes: Riku Sanjo (writer), Riku (from Kingdom Hearts)
‘Yuuki’ translates to ‘courage’ and ‘bravery’, and if you’re expecting your kid around Christmas, you can also use the name as a cute reference to his birthday as it can also mean ‘summer evening’.
Famous namesakes: Yuuki Kaji (voice actor), Yuuki (from Erased)
If you’re feeling a bit cheeky, you can name your fifth kid ‘Itsuki’ since the name can translate to ‘five trees’. That said, even without the pun, it’s still a nice name to have as it can also mean ‘bright’ or ‘independence’.
Famous namesakes: Itsuki Urata (football player), Itsuki Koizumi (from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya)