When people are asked which language they'd love to learn, the answer is often Japanese. Filled with cherry blossoms, rice paddies, and age-old temples, Japan is a land of immense beauty. At the same time, futuristic mega-cities like Tokyo and Kyoto are filled with the electric buzz of 24/7 culture, all the sushi in the world, and those once-in-a-lifetime vending machines.
Japanese baby names used to be confined to the islands of Japan. 1950s mothers didn't have the power of the internet. Even in the 1990s, baby names in the US, UK, or Canada were following very traditional trends– Jessica, Sophie, Emily or Jonathan, James, and George were picked over and over.
Times are changing. Japanese names might sound exotic, but there's a very specific reason moms should be paying attention to them. Their meanings are centered around beautiful images or concepts, like the cherry blossoms that fill temple pavilions. Or the gushing waterfalls that stagger fields.
"Ko" is often added to Japanese baby names as an endearing ending. Kind of like how Western names turn Ella into Ellie (or Mike into Mikey). With meanings from "snow" and "apricot", to "tomorrow," these Japanese baby names are too beautiful to ignore. Here are 25 of them that are beyond breath-taking.
25 CHIYOKO: A THOUSAND GENERATIONS
Chiyoko means "a thousand generations" in Japanese. This baby girl's name has way more going for it than just the meaning, though. For starters, say it out loud. It sounds cheerful. It's got that signature "oko" ending that will make any little baby 100 times cuter. There's also immense power to a name like this. Your baby marks the start of a new generation– from you to her. Launching a thousand generations? All kinds of power. "Chi" means "thousand," "yo" means "generations," while "ko" means "child."
24 SADASHI: AMBITIOUS ONE
Admit it, ambition is definitely a personality trait that you're hoping will be passed on. "Ambitious one" is the meaning of Sadashi. This name is traditionally chosen for girls in Japan, although over in countries where Japan isn't the language, who's to stop you picking it for a boy? The giant pro of choosing a name like this is that you can pack in the meaning without sounding like you're showing off. Call your baby "ambitious one" in English? That could get a few looks. Sadashi is just perfect.
23 KIOKO: HAPPY CHILD
Of all the things we wish for our children, happiness probably tops them all. Health isn't far behind, although it kind of gets bunched together with happiness– when we're healthy, we're hopefully happy. Kioko is the girl's name that draws from the meaning of "meets world with happiness." The "ko" on the end turns it into a child version. If all you want for her (or him– the name could work with a boy) is happiness, you've found your name.
22 SEN: WOOD FAIRY
Mommies-to-be are increasingly turning to names with sweet, deep, or evocative meanings. Names like Jane or John are being replaced with millennial favorites like Lake, True, or Pax (which means "peace"). The reason? We want out children to have names that have a stunning meaning. Sen is the short baby girl's name that packs a lot in. The meaning in Japanese is "wood fairy." Nature, magic, and a little twinkle– all in three letters.
The Disney costume battles are officially won with this name– "I'm the fairy!"
21 TAKI: PLUNGING WATERFALL
Talk about a "wow" name. Taki is the super-short girl's name with a meaning that's anything but basic. "Plunging waterfall" is the Japanese meaning of this name. Bringing up images of gushing waterfalls, breath-taking nature, and a real force with the "plunging" part, there are so many reasons to consider this one. Think about it. If you call her Taki, people will know her for having that super-cool, unusual name. It's when they find out the meaning that everything will turn up a notch.
20 AKIYO: BRIGHT BOY
Oh, is this a cute one. Akiyo is the Japanese boy's name that literally means "bright boy." Those first few weeks as a newborn might be spent with their eyes shut tight, but it's once the weeks turn into months that we see the brightness. The infectious way a baby's face lights up. The melt-worthy giggle as they start to discover the world. If you want a boy's name that takes that brightness and puts it into the name, pick Akiyo. It can even be shortened to Aki.
19 ASUKA: TOMORROW
We've got a feeling the Kardashians would be all over this one (if they knew what it meant). Kim Kardashian chose North because it's "the highest point." Khloe Kardashian chose True. With a meaning of "tomorrow," Asuka is the Japanese girl's name that doesn't just work for the here and now. It works forever. This name would be ideal for a baby girl who will grow to be hopeful of things to come. Asuka also sounds incredibly beautiful. What about picking it for a middle name?
18 SUKI: FOND OF
Suki is a girl's name that has worked its way out of Japan. With celebrities like Suki Waterhouse, Suki in Avatar: The Last Airbender, and that 2 Fast 2 Furious reference, we've heard it before. Not many people know the meaning of Suki, though. "Fond of" is the translation. We love the "of" at the end– it's just so adorable. Suki also has a beautiful, crisp sound.
Suki is one of the few names known outside Japan. People still don't know what it means, though.
17 MICHIKO: BEAUTIFUL, WISE CHILD
Beauty and wisdom– the two things that aren't for sale, right? When people send blessings for a new baby, they will generally choose these two things. Whether it's in a living room in Ohio or in one of the oldest Buddhist temples in the world, someone will always be bestowing wishes of wisdom and beauty on a new baby. Michiko is the baby girl's name that means "beautiful, wise child" in Japanese. We think it works great for both girls and boys.
16 HARUTO: TENDER SOUL
Haruto is traditionally a boy's name in Japan. With gender barriers around the world collapsing though, we think that this name could work just as well for a girl. Haruto has several meanings in Japanese. "Best warmth" is one. "Tender sound" is another. So is "soar to the heavens." The most common meaning though is "tender soul." With such a gentle meaning and a strong sound, this name would be perfect for a strong baby who will have a heart of gold.
15 CHIZU: A THOUSAND STORKS
And this is precisely why we decided to make a list of Japanese baby names. How many names can you think of with a meaning as powerful as "a thousand storks?" Chizu is a gender-neutral name that's been chosen by Japanese mommies for centuries. The meaning of this name is largely why Western mommies are eyeing it up, though. The stork might be a bit of a legend in terms of what brings that baby along, but we're still baking stork cakes at baby showers, right? Chizu is breath-taking.
14 KAZUE: FIRST BLESSING
If you're expecting your first, you've yet to discover exactly why mothers use this phrase. If you've already got kids, you'll be more than familiar with it. Whether or not you're religious, you probably associate with the concept of feeling blessed. What you're blessed by isn't important. What you're holding in your arms is. Kazue is the Japanese girl's name that means "first blessing" as well as "branch." We couldn't think of a more perfect name for that first baby.
13 HIBIKI: ECHO
In the world of millennial baby names, Echo could be a name in itself (and it is). If the open meaning of this beautiful name speaks to you, it's time to consider the Japanese version. Hibiki is traditionally used for girls in Japan. If you don't speak the language, it's worth experimenting saying this one out loud. Hibiki has a distinctly bright, upbeat sound thanks to three "i" letters, but they don't feel cluttered. The meaning of "echo" is also beyond beautiful.
12 YUKI: SNOW
The gender-neutral name of Yuki is one that sounds as beautiful to a foreigner as it is meaningful to a Japanese native. "Snow" is the meaning of this stunning name. While it's definitely tempting for any mommy-to-be expecting a baby in the wintry months, the name works just as well for a spring or summer baby. Just like the meaning, Yuki sounds crisp, fresh, and brand new.
Kim K may have picked North, but would she have picked Yuki if she'd known about it?
11 SUZUË: BRANCH OF LITTLE BELLS
We'll admit, the meaning of this name completely took our breath away. Japanese names seem to have a way with words that no other language does. "Branch of little bells" is the meaning of Suzuë. This girl's name has the super-unusual "ë" spelling, the soft, lyrical sound, plus a meaning that will 100% make the other girls in class jealous. They aren't just bells. They're tiny little bells. As to the branch– is there a greater symbol of life than a tree branch?
10 MIKA: BEAUTIFUL FRAGRANCE
Many Asian words revolve around scents. Hong Kong actually means "fragrant harbor." Over in Japan, Mika means "beautiful fragrance." The name has worked its way into the West as a gender-neutral name, so it won't sound too unfamiliar to people around you. The Walking Dead has a character named Mika (a girl). For boys, Mika is found in other countries like Sweden, Norway, and Finland. If the fragrant smell of fresh flowers seems fitting for a fresh baby girl or boy, consider Mika.
9 KIMI: BEAUTY OF THE CENTURY
So many names have ties to beauty. Belle in Beauty & The Beast was named after her beauty. Bella means "beautiful" in Italian. None, however, have the power of the name Kimi– this isn't just a regular beauty, it's a "beauty of the century." Kimi is gender-neutral, and the fun, light-hearted sound works perfectly for a baby born in 2018 or 2019. So many names that we know are already shortened to Kimi– Kimberly is one of them. You can even shorten Kimi to Kim.
8 RYOKO: GOOD CHILD
Ryoko is slowly starting to be chosen for boys (after having spent many years as a girl's name). With a meaning of "good child," it's easy to see why mommies-to-be are swooning over this name. The word "good" can mean so many things. Back in the dark ages, a "good" child was a well-behaved child. We've moved on, though. Good now represents an individual in terms of who they are and what their values are. Ryoko has an amazing sound (and an amazing meaning).
7 KOEMI: SMILING
Picture any scenario with your baby– maybe it's the high chair. Maybe it's that first outing to the park. Whether it's bath time, bedtime, or off to school time, there's one thing you want above all. A child who will smile. Koemi means "smiling" in Japanese. For anyone outside Japan, the sound of this name is also super exotic. Names with "K" openings are commonly seen with Kris, Kelly, Kayla, or Kane. Way more unusual, and with a guaranteed #smile is Koemi.
6 AKIRA: INTELLIGENT
Akira is the gender-neutral name that comes with quite a meaning. "Intelligent" is the Japanese meaning of this boy or girl's name. So many mothers strive to pin down a name with a great meaning. The downside is often having to settle for a name that either doesn't sound beautiful (or worse, sounds a touch pretentious). Akira sounds lovely, and the "intelligent" meaning isn't immediately obvious.
Not #InYourFace, because let's face it. An intelligent child doesn't need to be told they're intelligent.
5 UME: PLUM BLOSSOM
With just three letters, this baby girl's name is perfect on so many levels. Flower names are pretty common now, but not many have the fresh, fruity, and unusual twist of adding in plum imagery. Ume means "plum" in Japanese, although when it's used as a name, the meaning of "plum blossom" is often applied. One of the extra pros of this name is that the Japanese roots aren't immediately obvious. People might be familiar with the name Uma, but they'll do a double take when it's Ume.
4 TAMANE: THE SOUND OF A NECKLACE
That's the beauty of Japanese. This language takes some of the most beautiful, most indescribable sounds, and it turns them into actual words. Tamane is the beautiful-sounding, demure Japanese girl's name that means "the sound of a necklace." To be fair, it's a sound that's hard to describe. It's also the world's most indulgent, girly sound. If you're picturing a baby girl who feels as beautiful as a string of pearls (and her name should say it), consider Tamane. Could even be Tami for short.
3 SAYURI: EARLY LILY
Something about flowers turns so much more beautiful when it's early. Sayuri is the Japanese girl's name that seems to be proving popular as a gender-neutral name with mommies outside of Japan. "Early lily" is just one of its meanings. "Small lily" is another. Over in Japan, Sayuri is a name held by famous J-pop artists and the main character from the best-selling book, Memoirs of a Geisha.
This one is especially worth considering for a baby who makes a surprise early arrival.
2 AKEMI: BEAUTIFUL DAWN
Akemi is the gender-neutral name that was once chosen exclusively for boys. With a meaning that is generally translated to "beautiful dawn," the name, however, also has meanings of "bright, sea," and "dawn beauty." If something inside you is searching for a name that takes the earth's beauty and puts it into words, Akemi is it. Naming a child marks the dawn of their life. Their beauty? You'll see it in them every day. Watch everyone around him or her be blown away with this name.
1 SORANO: OF THE SKY
The sky will forever symbolize free spirit, potential, and timeless natural beauty. Whether it's fluffy pinks, fiery sunsets, or deep blues, the sky's imagery is something that mothers will always be able to resonate with. Sorano is traditionally chosen for girls in Japan. The meaning of this name is "of the sky." With simple sounds, simple imagery, but so much depth and meaning, Sorano is simply stunning.
Not your average baby name list! Definitely one of the more beautiful ones you've seen, right? Hit share on Facebook and get these breath-taking Japanese names out. Someone you know might just benefit from it.
Sources: The Culture Trip, Every Day Know, Beauty Heaven