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Comparing Japanese Names in 1912 with Modern Names

Comparing Japanese Names in 1912 with Modern Names
Comparing Japanese Names in 1912 with Modern Names

The website 明治安田生命 releases the rankings of “the most popular names” every year. Find out the top names given boys and girls.

One of the major events of 2019 was the revision of the Japanese era. Heisei (平成) era lasted for 31 years, and it was changed to Reiwa (令和). The whole of Japan was so excited that a new era had begun.
Has this big event affected the way we name our babies?

The latest ranking of the most popular names for boys (2019)

  1. 蓮(Ren)  蓮: lotus flower
  2. 陽翔(Haruto)  陽: the Sunlight 翔: flying
  3. 新(Arata)  新: new
  4. 湊(Minato)  湊: harbor
  5. 蒼(Sō)  蒼: the blue color of the grass
  6. 律(Ritsu)  律: Standard, regulation
  7. 樹(Itsuki)  樹: standing tree
  8. 大翔(Hiroto)  大: big 翔: flying
  9. 悠真(Yūma)  悠: comfortable, considering 真: straight, honest
  10. 朝陽(Asahi)  朝: morning 陽: the Sunlight

“蓮” was also ranked first in 2018. Although the name “Ren” can be expressed in other kanji, this kanji for“Ren (蓮)” is the most popular. The lotus(蓮) is a symbolic flower in Buddhism and is related to temples. This name also gives a sense of strength because it is a plant that is firmly rooted in the ground. The fact that it is short, easy to call, and easy to remember and a name that is familiar to people is probably another reason for its popularity.

The third-ranked name “新 (Arata)” means new and is associated with the beginning of a new era. It wasn’t in the top 10 rankings until 2018, but now that it’s in the year of a new era, its popularity has increased.

As you can see from the rankings, names with a single kanji are the popular choice.

The latest ranking of the most popular names for girls (2019)

  1. 凛(Rin)  凛: gallant
  2. 陽葵(Himari)  陽: the Sunlight 葵: the name of the plant
  3. 結愛(Yua)  結: linking, connecting 愛: love
  4. 杏(Ann)  杏: apricot
  5. 紬(Tsumugi)  紬: soft thin cloth woven from raw silk
  6. 莉子(Riko)  莉: jasmine 子: child
  7. 結月(Yuzuki)  結: linking, connecting 月: moon
  8. 芽依(Mei)  芽: sprout 依: feeling at ease
  9. 美月(Mitsuki)  美: beauty 月: moon
  10. 心春(Koharu)  心: heart 春: spring

The No.1 ranked name “凛 (Rin)“ moved up from last year’s No. 5 position. In addition to sounding cute, “凛 (Rin)“ has powerful imagery associated with the word, such as ” gallant” and ” dignified”. This name suggests that parents want their children to live strong and independent lives as women.

Also, there was a lot of talk about the new era Reiwa (令和) was adopted from the oldest poetry in Japan. So people’s attention is focused on ” Japanese style”. Perhaps old-fashioned names are more popular now. Old-fashioned names like “紬 (Tsumugi)” and “莉子 (Riko)” became popular. (“紬” is a traditional textile, and ending with “子” was the mainstream from around WWⅡ to the 1960s.

Just like the popularity rankings for boys, names with a single kanji are popular with girls as well.
Now that we’ve introduced the latest name rankings, here’s a ranking of the earliest remaining information (1912 / the first year of the Taisho era).

The oldest ranking of the most popular names for boys (1912)

  1. 正一 (Shōichi)   正: right, 一: one, first
  2. 清 (Kiyoshi)   清: purely
  3. 正雄 (Masao)   正: right, 雄: male
  4. 正 (Tadashi)   正: right
  5. 茂 (Shigeru)   茂: rich and beautiful.
  6. 武雄 (Takeo)   武: samurai, 雄: male
  7. 正治 (Masaharu)   正: right, 治: governing
  8. 三郎 (Saburō)   三: three, third, 郎: a young man
  9. 正夫 (Masao)   正: right, 夫: husband
  10. 一郎 (Ichirō)   一: one, first, 郎: a young man

The year 1912 also marked the end of the “Meiji” era and the beginning of the new “Taishō (大正)“ era. That’s why names with the word “正” were so popular such as “正一”, “正雄”, “正”, “正治”, and “正夫”.

In the first rank, “正一 (Shōichi)” was the name that gave to the first son, who was born that year. Interestingly, the next year, in 1913, “正二 (Shoji)” was most popular when the second son was born, and in 1914. “正三 (Shozō) was the first rank when the third son was born.

  • 1912 1st rank: 正一 (Shōichi) 一: one, first
  • 1913 1st rank: 正二 (Shōji) 二: two, second
  • 1914 1st rank: 正三 (Shōzou) 三: three, third

The second most popular name, “清 (Kiyoshi)”, was also highly popular, ranking in the top 10 every year from 1912 to 1943. In 31 years, Kiyoshi has won the first prize 14 times.

The oldest ranking of the most popular names for girls (1912)

  1. 千代 (Chiyo)   千: thousand 代: the world, age
  2. ハル (Haru)   meaning: spring
  3. ハナ (Hana)   meaning: flower
  4. 正子 (Masako)   正: right, 子: child
  5. 文子 (Fumiko)   文: literature, 子: child
  6. ヨシ (Yoshi)   meaning: good, right
  7. 千代子 (Chiyoko)   千: a thousand 代: the world, age, 子: child
  8. キヨ (Kiyo)   meaning: purely
  9. 静子 (Seiko)   静: quiet, 子: child
  10. はる (Haru)   meaning: spring

Girls’ names are different from modern rankings. Half of the names in the ranking are written in katakana or hiragana.
This is said to be due to the low literacy rate of the generation of parents who gave the names. It is also said that while boys were given honorable names, girls’ names were thought to be simple enough.
Because of the “feminine” impression given by hiragana and katakana names, it is still customary to use only hiragana and katakana for names even today.

The era of “大正 (Taisho)” name is also popular with girls. “正子 (Masako)” came in fourth place.

The new era “令和 (Reiwa)” from 2019 expresses “beauty and harmony” and “culture is born and nurtured through the interaction of people”. As in the first year of “大正 (Taisho)”, there has been an increase in the number of “令和 (Reiwa)” names starting with babies born in June 2019 after the change to “令和 (Reiwa)”.
It’s a name with a “令 (Rei or Re)”. For example, names for girls include “令奈 (Rena)”, “令佳 (Reika),” and as well as “令真 (Ryōma)” and “令貴 (Reiki)” for boys.

What did you think? I hope you’ve enjoyed it!

Reference: 明治安田生命 名前ランキング

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