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Japan is a country full of beauty and wonder, not to mention fascinating history. And the names! Unlike a number of modern countries, Japanese parents have stuck primarily to distinctly Japanese babies for their offspring. While there are no doubt Olivias and Jacksons to be found there, you’re far more likely to come across little ones named Ren, Sakura, or Haruto. These traditional names are part of the flavor of Japanese culture.
Meanwhile, these traditional (and more modern) Japanese names are far less common in other parts of the world. And while there are definite favorites within Japan, there are plenty of outliers there, as in any country. Some Japanese parents, like their American counterparts, seek out unique and unusual names. While Japan doesn’t maintain a countrywide registry of names that new parents can consult for popularity questions (like the Social Security Administration does in the United States, we’ve done our best to seek out some names that are off the beaten path, as it were. Perhaps some of these names can find life in America instead!
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Asas is not a particularly common name anywhere in the world. Considered to be Japanese in origin, this distinctly masculine name is said to mean “physician” or “healer,” or, according to one source, “a beautiful morning.” These are surely virtues that any modern parent would surely value in their child, so why isn’t this name more popular? Perhaps it’s simply less favored compared to more common names like Asa or Aziz. Perhaps it doesn’t even appear on all the most popular name sites or in baby name books. Whatever the reason, Asas is still very under-the-radar in most parenting circles.
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The Japanese name Bunji is decidedly masculine, but not a particularly popular choice for baby boys in that country (or in America). Like so many Japanese names, the meaning changes dramatically depending on how the Kanji is written. For Bunji, meanings include “affectionate” and “the next sentence,” along with numerous other variations on the “sentence” theme. Perhaps this is why the name is uncommon. Still, with its similarity to the Hebrew name Benjamin and variations like Benji, one might reasonably expect more parents to be drawn to a similar but still unique name like Bunji. Perhaps Bunji’s day is yet to come.
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Parents throughout the world have long delighted in giving their children names inspired by nature, and this is a trend that has been picking up in the United States especially. A sweet, relatively unique Japanese name that draws on this theme is Chouko, which means “butterfly” or “butterfly child.” Generally a feminine name, Chouko draws on Shinto origins. Depending on the Kanji, some sources also say the name means “lucid child” or even “long child,” whatever that means. No matter which precise definition appeals most, Chouko is a lovely name that would surely benefit any daughter it were given to.
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Hironori is most commonly used as a masculine given name. Some definitions include “benevolent ruler, “rich law,” “big decree,” or “wide virtue.” These meanings all follow the same theme, more or less, one that surely any parent would hope their son might grow into. Hironori, however, remains a relatively uncommon name, perhaps best known for being shared by a handful of athletes and a singer. Perhaps Hironori will see some surgence of popularity in the coming years, but as far as recent naming trends go, it doesn’t seem likely. This one will likely remain a hidden treasure for many years to come.
For parents expecting a little boy, an excellent name choice is Eito, although it has historically not been very popular. This Japanese name is Christian in origin, and most sources say it means “a prosperous person” or “kind-hearted.” Depending on how the Kanji is written, some sources say Eito can also mean “love forever and ever” or “overflowing with benevolence.” And while Eito is traditionally masculine, some say it can also be a unisex name, just as applicable to girls as to boys. Whichever meaning you prefer, and whether you prefer it for boys or for girls, Eito is a wonderful, strong name that would surely benefit any child.
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Hisa is a lovely Japanese name, usually considered feminine, that is most commonly said to mean “everlasting” or “long time.” The Kanji can actually be written in a number of different ways, and other associated meanings include “morning princess,” “bloom of the sun,” or even “colorful light,” among other things. All of these meanings are lovely and would wonderfully suite a baby girl. However, Hisa is not a particularly common given name, and is only shared by a handful of figures in the public eye. Perhaps Hisa will be the perfect name for your own little girl someday? Hisa is a beautiful name and the world could use a few more daughters bearing it!
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This strong masculine name is most often translated to mean “tree” or “timber tree,” but like so many other Japanese names, the meaning changes depending on how the Kanji is written. Itsuki can just as easily mean “cleanse” or “purification,” or “bright,” or “moon.” Itsuki is sometimes seen as a surname, but as a given name, it’s shared by a handful of Japanese athletes, plus it’s been spotted in numerous mangas and graphic novels. No matter which meaning (and Kanji) is most liked, any are perfect for a son, so perhaps it’s time to boost the popularity of this name.
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Jomei is a typically masculine name which is often defined as meaning “spread light,” although some sources offer “spread joy” instead. It is said that boys with this name love music and friendship, and who wouldn’t want a child that embraced those aspects of life wholeheartedly? Jomei has Sikh origins but is still recognized as a distinctly Japanese name, although it is far from common in that country. The name Jomei also isn’t particularly popular in the United States, although perhaps new parents looking to embrace either Japanese heritage or Sikhism may find it appealing.
Kagami is a Japanese girl’s name that is actually of Christian origins. Some sources say Kagami means “mirror,” which is a lovely thought. One way of writing the Kanji means “additional beauty,” which is perhaps where the idea of a mirror comes from. Kagami can also mean “incense of the ocean,” which is a wonderful, wild, earthy idea. Surprisingly, this name isn’t even on the radar of most American parents, although perhaps it should be. Regardless of how one chooses to write the Kanji or which particular meaning appeals most, Kagami is a great name for a daughter.
This lovely name is more commonly heard with baby girls, but it’s widely recognized as being equally appropriate for boys. However, it’s still uncommon with either sex. Most sites around the web translate Kokoro as some variation of “heart,” “mind,” or “feelings,” although variations in the Kanji can make it mean “superiority” or “idea.” The name has gained some slight traction in the United States in recent years, especially as modern parents desire to honor their ancestry or other cultures, but don’t expect to see the name with any regularity any time soon! Kokoro, no matter what the meaning, is still decidedly uncommon.
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This boy’s name is based in Judaism, and is often said to mean “light.” Kouki is a great name which can also carry a host of other meanings, depending on how one chooses to write the Kanji for it. Kouki can mean “sacred,” “skillful,” “fortunate joy,” or even, interestingly, “wide tree.” And there are many more! However you choose to define--and write--the name, there’s no denying that Kouki is a unique name that is given very infrequently, both in America and abroad. But it’s a strong name with positive significance, so perhaps someday it’ll gain in popularity around the world.
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Masato is a Japanese boy’s name that is rooted in Judaism. Depending on which source you consult and how the Kanji is written, Masato can mean “justice,” “holy man,” or any variation on the themes of government, conqueror, and benevolence. As strong leadership qualities are something all parents desire for their children, that makes Masato a great name choice for anyone expecting a son! However, despite its occasional pop culture appearance in television shows and graphic novels, and the fact that a handful of famous Japanese people, from athletes to actors to film directors, share the name, Masato remains a relatively uncommon gem.
This is a lovely feminine Japanese name which most sources agree means “green,” making this an excellent choice for a daughter of parents who love that color! Midori is considered to be rooted in Judaism, so it may also appeal to parents who belong to that particular faith. One source declares that the Kanji for Midori can also mean halcyon, which is certain to be appealing on a different level. Even if neither of those meanings strike true, there’s no denying that Midori is simply beautiful, perhaps even a little bit delicate-sounding. It’s the perfect name for a sweet baby girl.
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Why is Miyu not a more popular name in America? This sweet girl’s name, although some say it can easily be a boy’s name as well, is usually said to mean “a beautiful truth” or “heart.” Other variations of the Kanji have it meaning “progress and dreams” or “hope to help someone.” Miyu has found more popularity in Japan, making the top 20 list for the past few years, but due to its relative uniqueness in America, we couldn’t resist including it here. This beautiful name will turn heads and get the attention of friends and family, and it could easily become a favorite in the coming years. But for now, Miyu basks in its relative obscurity.
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Nariko is a name of many meanings, many of which seem to contradict one another. One source says Nariko means “a gentle child,” while another popular website declares that the name means “thunder.” Depending on how the Kanji is written, Nariko can also mean “beautiful village child,” “green pear child,” or even “child of crystal fruit trees.” How can any modern parent decide on just one? This lovely Japanese name is rooted in Judaism, making it appeal to a different group of expectant parents on a religious level. The name is decidedly uncommon in America, and hasn’t caught any national attention abroad, either.
Nozomi is considered to be a unisex name, leaning perhaps a bit towards being more feminine than masculine. Depending on what site or book you’re consulting, as well as how the Kanji is written, Nozomi can mean “reliable,” “wish,” “hope,” “hopeful truth,” or even “extraordinary.” What a beautiful selection! Any child gifted with this name will be in good company, as it’s shared by a number of models, actresses, and athletes. With it’s unique spelling and lovely meaning(s), Nozomi has crept up just slightly in popularity in America, but it’s still far from common. This name is sure to do credit to any child who carries it!
This Japanese name is most commonly given to girls, but it is recognized as a unisex name as well, and it’s not unheard of to find boys with the name as well. When you meet anyone with the name at all. As with nearly all Japanese names, the meaning varies depending on what Kanji characters are used to write it. Some sources define Seiko as “sincere” or “someone who is sincere,” while others say “affectionate child,” “pure,” or even “clear weather.” Throughout history, Seiko has been the given name of a number of notable Japanese people, both men and women. In America, on the other hand, Seiko has never been popular.
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Throughout the world, there is a certain tradition of naming children according to their birth order, and Japan is no exception. Shichiro means “seventh son,” giving it a definite place in large families, although less traditional families may chose the name regardless of the number of boy children in their families. Perhaps because of its numerical association--how many modern families really have seven sons?--Shichiro is an incredibly uncommon name, both in America and around the world, so any parents who find this solid name appealing can be almost certain their son will be the only one around bearing it.
If parents are looking for a unique take on the once-popular Irish-rooted Shannon, Shinon might fit the bill. Shinon, of course, is not actually related to Shannon in any way, but they look and sound similar enough to make some prospective parents happy. In reality, Shinon is related to the Japanese name of the flower aster tataricus, and as a name, it means “remembrance.” Alternative methods of writing the Kanji can give Shinon other meanings, such as “tide sound,” “princess,” or “preside over warmth.” No matter which meaning you prefer, there’s no denying that Shinon is a beautiful name, perfect for any baby girl.
One commonly agreed upon meaning for the boy’s name Tetsuya is “philosopher,” often with descriptors like “intelligent” thrown in. Other methods of writing the Kanji can make Tetsuya mean “iron arrow” or “thoroughness.” Popular website Baby Center doesn’t list any kind of popularity for Tetsuya since 2016, and even then, it was way far down on their lists. The name is of Shinto origin and is seen sporadically throughout recent Japanese history, given to politicians, composers, musicians, and even a character in the Pokemon animated television series. This strong, masculine name would surely benefit any child it was bestowed upon.
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Any parent expecting a boy hopes their son will be big and healthy, and the name Tarou is an excellent embodiment of that desire. Tarou literally means “a big son” or “big man,” according to one of the most common ways of writing the Kanji. Other Kanji arrangements are equally positive, with meanings like “gentle cheerfulness,” “big tower,” or “thick cherry blossoms.” Tarou, of Shinto origins, is almost always a boy’s name, and it’s just different enough from other common boy names like Taro and Taru to make it stand out in a crowd. Tarou is unique and positive.
The word “tsuru” is Japanese for crane, or sometimes stork. As a name, Tsuru is most commonly given to girls, and while it is far more common as a surname--history is sprinkled with a handful of well-known Japanese individuals bearing it as a surname--it’s certainly not unheard of as a given name. Generally, Tsuru is considered to be a girl’s name, and it’s of Buddhist origin. Aside from its bird meanings, Tsuru also can mean “greeting” or, more specifically, “stork greeting.” But while Tsuru is generally considered feminine, it’s recognized to be unisex, and has been given to baby boys as well.