Kira-Kira Names for Kids

Shiny Names for Kids to the Chagrin of Many in Japan

By Stephen Karnas

A new trend for children’s names sweeping Japan is the kira-kira name phenomenon. “Kira-kira” literally means “shiny” or “sparkly” and what is going on is kids are getting shiny new names that look or sound cute or interesting, but are unintelligible to all but the kid’s parents. The Chinese kanji are being used as a phonetic symbol rather than for the meaning of the kanji. And names are being given that sound like characters from animation films or games.

The boom of parents naming their children a kira-kira name started quite a while ago, and at this point, there are relatively many children who have kira-kira names – names that are impossible for other Japanese to read.

The issue exploded recently when an elementary school class student list, loaded with kira-kira names, floated on the net. Nobody knows if the list was real or a hoax but it shed light on the issue and shocked many who were not aware of the phenomenon.

Meanwhile, a children’s doctor tweeted a complaint that due to kira-kira names, it takes too much time to figure out the real name of patients who are arriving at hospitals for emergency treatment. There is not a moment to lose in medical practice, he said, but kira-kira names are causing the risk of patient ID mix-ups by medical teams.

Even Prime Minister Abe has gotten involved, complaining about kira-kira names saying “Many of these kids with kira-kira names get bullied.” He also went on to say that parents should take a more sober approach to naming their kids, because it is “different than naming your pets”…

Here are some examples of kira-kira names:

光宙 – ぴかちゅう – Pikachu (The Chinese characters mean Light/Univers)

愛猫 – きてぃ – Kitty (The Chinese characters mean Lovable/Cat)

今鹿 – なうしか – Naushika (The first Chinese character 今 means “now” which is pronouced as Nau in Japanese)

大熊猫 – ぱんだ – Panda

礼 – ぺこ – Peko (礼 means “bow” in English. Peko describes an action of bowing in Japanese)

凸 – てとりす – Tetris (The Chinese character 凸 looks like a Tetris bloc)

緑輝 – さふぁいあ – Sapphire (The Chinese characters mean Green/Shining)

火星 – まあず – Mars (火星 means Mars. The Chinese characters are never pronounced Mars in Japanese.)

泡姫 – ありえる – Ariel (The Chinese characters mean Bubble/ Princess)

男 – あだむ – Adam (男 means “man” in Japanese)

馬周 – ましゅう – Matthew (Phonetic equivalent of Matthew)

大穴 – だいあな – Diana (Phonetic equivalent of Diana)

Where will the madness end?

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