Why do some Japanese parents give their children a ‘Kira-Kira’ name?

  • The ‘name’ your parents give you at birth is usually for a lifetime. Therefore parents should contemplate very carefully the best name for their child. Especially in Japan, where the Japanese name is always used in schools and workplaces (they even registered their full name on their Facebook accounts), and there is no culture of having an English name(like in China), so the name that is decided by the parents will influence the child’s entire life…

    Although one’s given name is very important in Japan, in recent years, there has been a trend among parents to name their child with an ‘overly-special’ name which is called キラキラネーム(Kira-Kira name). How do they name their kids? What are the controversies that surround these kinds of names?

    What is キラキラネーム(Kira-Kira name)?

    You may already know that Japanese names are written separately from pronunciation and each kanji can be pronounced differently. According to the Japanese Family Register Act and the Household Registration Act, although the Kanji that can be used as a name is limited, the pronunciation is not under control. Therefore, as long as you use the available Kanjis, you can register any pronunciation you want.

    Under this law, many combinations of Kanji and pronunciation can be generated. Therefore, some parents give their child a unique and exaggerated name. This kind of naming is referred to as the ‘Kira-Kira name’. The Japanese word ‘キラキラ’ means shiny and those names sound outstanding(or ridiculous) as a shiny jewel.

    Examples of ‘Kira-Kira names’

    Different types of Kira-Kira names:

    1) ignoring the original pronunciation of the Kanji, using the related meaning as pronunciation
    Example : in the name ‘柔風’, ‘柔’ can be called ‘jyu’ or ‘yawaraka’ while ‘風’ can be called ‘fu’ or ‘kaze’, but the parents decided to pronounce it ‘fuwa'(ふわ) since the Japanese word ‘ふわふわ’ means fluffy which is similar to the meaning of 柔風(soft wind), however, it is difficult for other people to pronounce it correctly.

    2) Not using the pronunciation of the Kanji completely
    Example: written as ‘心愛’ but read ‘Kokona’. ‘心’ can be pronounced as ‘shin’ or ‘kokoro’ while “愛” can be pronounced as ‘ai’ or ‘mana’. The parents only took the part of ‘koko’ from ‘kokoro’ and ‘na’ from ‘mana’. They cut out some parts from the pronunciation of the Kanji, making new pronunciations, rendering the pronunciation of the name almost impossible.

    3) Using the pronunciation of English instead of Japanese
    Example: written as ‘光’, the Japanese pronunciation should be ‘hikari’ but the parents choose to pronounce it the English translation of the word ‘light’ or in Japanese pronounced ‘Raito’.

    4) Using the name of objects
    Example: written as ‘檸檬’, using the pronunciation of ‘Lemon’.

    5) Using the names from anime or names of characters from games
    Example: written as ‘真理生’ and called ‘Mario’ which is the same name as the famous character from Nintendo.

    6) Although they are written in Japanese, the name sounds like foreign names
    Example: George(じょうじ) or Tyler(たいら).

    7) Using words that are not suitable for names
    Example: written as ‘愛保’ and called ‘Labuho’ which is the same pronunciation as love hotels(ラブホ) in Japan.

    The controversy over ‘Kira-Kira name’

    ‘Kira-Kira name’ can be unique and impressive, however, there can be negative effects on the children, such as bullying because of having a strange name, feeling ashamed of their name as an adult, and affecting their chances of getting a proper job.

    Using ‘Kira-Kira name” has caused many controversies in Japan. In 1993, one pair named their child as ‘devil’ (悪魔-Akuma) and submitted the birth certificate to the city office. Although the two kanji were not violating the law, this name still was rejected because this was an abuse of parental rights and the possibility of harming the child’s welfare. The parents tried to use the Japanese pronunciation of devil ‘Akuma’ as the child’s name. After several revisions, the parents finally got permission with the similar pronunciation of ‘Aku’ (亜駆). This case has raised many discussion in Japan and was considered the origin of the ‘Kira-Kira name’.

    Recently, Japanese entertainer りゅうちぇる(Ryucheru) was also denounced because he wanted to name his child as ‘Link'(リンク) or ‘Mona'(モナ) which is written in Katakana but not in Kanji or Hiragana, which is usually applied in Japanese names. Also, the pronunciation is more like a foreign name instead of a Japanese name. But he won his case and was allowed to name his child ‘Link'(リンク). Japanese society does not support the use of uncommon names because they want to prevent and avoid any prejudices against the people who have these names, but in some cases, the parents challenge the societal norm and maybe change conventions.

    Some say that a name is a gift from the parents to a child, but if the gift is too ‘shiny’, it may become a burden to the child for life. What’s your opinion on Japanese naming culture? Let’s share with us!

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