Japanese Names

Posted on March 23, 2006 | evankirby

One of the teachers at our school recently had a baby, prompting us to think about some of the unique aspects of choosing names for infants in Japan. This may be a long post, so get your study caps on...

First of all, unlike most Western countries, in Japan you are not free to choose any name you want. There is a list of 2232 approved kanji for names. If the kanji you chose for your child is not on that list, it's not allowed, and the birth registration will be denied! This made news a few years ago when a couple tried to name their child "akuma", or demon. As you might expect, this didn't go down too well at city hall (although the name was mistakenly accepted once), and they took the battle all the way to the courts. Eventually, though, they withdrew and renamed the child, which seems sensible...
In addition, the "v" sound, which sort of kind of exists in Japanese (it's a katakana "u" with two dots) is only allowed when one of the two parents of the child is foreign. This is probably because it's quite a hard sound for most Japanese to pronounce.