One of the beautiful things about traveling to foreign countries is learning the language and hearing words you’ve never heard before. If you take the time, you will learn the meanings behind some of them.

Even if you don’t have the opportunity to travel, there are still ways to study or bring part of another culture into your life. Selecting a name is one of those ways. With a history and heritage that spans thousands of years, Japan has much to offer.

Japanese names are often connected to geography, history, nature, family lines, or symbols of what the parents wish for the child, like good fortune. Once a name is selected, parents then typically decide on which kanji to use to write the child’s name.

Kanji characters are derived from Chinese symbols, but one can have multiple meanings based on how it is pronounced and how it is used. When it comes to names, parent choose a combination of kanji to express the meaning of their child’s name that go along with the traditional meaning.

Additionally, Japanese names have endings that denote the gender of the baby. Boys’ names may end with something like –to, -michi, -go, or –hiro. The endings of girls’ names may contain –a, -ka, -sa, or –yo, or something else.

This list is a collection of Japanese names and their traditional meanings for both boys and girls. Kanji can change the meanings depending on how the name is written. Some are taken from what’s been popular during the past few years, while others have been used over time.

  1. Emi (feminine)

    Pronounced “ay-mee”. Means: favor, benefit.

  2. Sakura (feminine)

    Pronounced “saa-KOO-rah”. It means cherry blossom, which holds significant symbolism in Japanese culture. The cherry blossom represents life, death, and renewal.

  3. Himari (feminine)

    Pronounced “hee-ma-ree”. Named for the hollycock flower (or jasmine or sunflower depending on kanji). It can also mean “ball of light” or “home of light and love”.

  4. Aiko (feminine)

    Pronounced “eye-ko”. Ai means love, affection, while –ko means child.

  5. Minato (masculine)

    Pronounced “meen-a-toe”. This one means “harbor” or “port”, and was popularized by the anime show, Naruto.

  6. Akio (masculine)

    Pronounced “ah-kee-yo”. It has several meanings, including “bright, luminous”; “hero”; and “husband”.

  7. Kaito (masculine)

    Pronounced “kye-toe”. Kai means “ocean”. The “to” part is linked to a Chinese constellation or the meaning “soar, fly” based on its kanji.

If you are interested in seeing more popular Japanese names for boys and girls, check out this list created by Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance Company. They release an annual list of names ranked by popularity, and they even keep an archive that goes back a century.

Name lists like these can help expand your world! Choosing a name for your child isn’t always easy, but no matter what you decide on, it will hold symbolism and meaning for you.

Do you see something you like? Are you interested in giving your child a Japanese name? Are you familiar with the naming traditions in this culture?