Thursday, January 7, 2010

Naaaaaame That Baby! Stroke Counts and Bleach Characters

There are a lot of factors that usually go into naming a baby in Japan, one of which is the tradition of trying to achieve a lucky number of strokes to guarantee a happy life for the kiddo.

When you learn kanji, the Chinese characters imported to Japan, there are a certain number of strokes each character should be made with, in a certain order. Strokes can go from the humble one-stroke 一, ichi, meaning one, to kanji like 鸞, ran, a mythical Chinese bird, clocking in at 30.

Naming a baby isn't just about the strokes in his first name, though, as I learned poking around the Net. Here's a very basic version...

Our example name will be Kurosaki Ichigo 黒崎一護, in a tip of the hat to fans of the anime and manga Bleach. Written vertically it would be Kurosaki Ichigo, family name first, with Kuro at the top and Go at the bottom. Individually, the kanji are 11, 11, 1 and 20 strokes.

There are five total stroke counts we need to examine to determine the luckiness of the name, as well as two "bonus" ones.

1. Total count of last name Kurosaki: 22
2. Total count of first name Ichigo: 21
3. Total count of all four characters: 43
4. Total count of "inside characters" saki and ichi: 12
5. Total count of "outside characters" kuro and go: 31
6. "Bonus" business success luck: Total of all four minus the first character kuro: 32
7. "Bonus" home life success luck: Total of all four minus the last character go: 23

A chart then gives all possible numbers within a four-level luck ranking: Very Lucky, Lucky, "Half" Lucky, and Unlucky. (Scroll down to the chart with all of the numbers written in it: from top to bottom it's Very Lucky on down.)

Ichigo's numbers are...

1. Unlucky
2. Very Lucky
3. Half Lucky
4. Unlucky
5. Very Lucky
6. Very Lucky
7. Very Lucky

Overall, this appears to be a fairly lucky name. The specific total number of strokes involved (as an example, 3. in our list) also has its own special characteristics. Ichigo's total of 43 suggests he will become fiercely independent from an early age and acquire fame and status early as well. He will also have a stubborn streak and will have to do the best with the personality he has. (Any Bleach fans here? How does that match up?)

Much like English baby books that give the old Latin meanings of names, some baby books in Japan will have this sort of chart and matching in the back of the book, and parents will at times consult professionals or religious authorities about auspicious stroke counts.

I will say it was fun learning about this! If anyone's got a real person, from history or pop culture, or a fictional character whose name you'd like to see, feel free to ask (no kanji required: if they're famous enough I can find them on my own). It's fun plugging stuff in to see what comes up. :)

1 comment:

Kelly Maple said...

This is great! I've been wondering about how stroke counts figure in ever since I saw 'Itazura na Kiss', when the parents were trying to come up with a name for Kotoko's baby. (They eventually went with Irie Kotomi. Is that lucky?)

It was really funny, Kotoko's crazy mother-in-law rejected her husband's suggestion of 'Shigetarou' right off the bat, insisting that the baby would definitely be a girl! Well, in the end she was right though. ^.^