I have this urge to share this peculiarity with you.
We choose our baby names based on sound, or relatives, and only sometimes meaning.
However japanese take the word ‘meaning’ to a whole new level.
I’ve just learned from a friend who is pregnant that the Japanese baby naming system is based on fortune.
Japanese ‘kanji’, writing symbols derived from Chinese characters, has a certain number of strokes. This is the amount of times you make a line on the paper. The amount of times you out your brush down and lift it up again. To keep it simple – our letter l has 1 stroke, but our letter t has two strokes. chapice?
Now, Japanese are made up of a certain number of kanji – for example Tanaka, when written in Japanese is 田中, so it has 2 kanji. The first kanji has 5 strokes, and the second 4. So you get 5-4.
For the first name, you now consult a book, to look up what stroke combinations for the first name when put together with the last name bring good luck – i.e. how many strokes, when matched with 5-4 (for Tanaka), would bring good luck.
The book will say, for example, 10-6.
So then you look for a name that has 2 kanji, with the first having 10 strokes, and the second 6 strokes. Some people get clever and will put kanji together than don’t usually go together, but technically CAN be read that way. This then means that sometimes even Japanese can’t automatically read someone’s name on paper.
And finally, if you’re stuck on a name, but the stroke count is unfortunate, sometimes Japanese people just revert to their simpler form of writing – called hiragana.
Complicated enough for you? I’ll take the easy option please!