September 5, 2006

Choosing baby’s name tough task for Japan’s royals

By Isabel Reynolds

TOKYO (Reuters) - Ordinary Japanese couples find it hard
enough to choose a name for a baby -- there are 2,928 permitted
Chinese characters that can stand alone or be combined with
others for shades of meaning.

For Prince Akishino, who may find himself choosing a name
for a future emperor, the task will likely be even harder and
must be completed within a week.

His wife, Princess Kiko, is due to give birth to a baby by
a Caesarean operation on Wednesday, and if it is a boy he will
be the first male born into the imperial household in more than
40 years. Only males are allowed to succeed to the throne under
current law.

Since Akishino is a second son rather than a direct heir to
the Chrysanthemum throne he is permitted to name his own
children rather than leaving the process up to his father,
Emperor Akihito.

The couple's two older daughters -- Princesses Mako and
Kako -- were given two-syllable names to echo their mother's
moniker, the weekly Shukan Bunshun said in its latest edition.

The new baby will likely also be given a name composed of
two characters, said Yasuo Ohara, a classics professor at
Kokugakuin University in Tokyo.

Emperors' names traditionally end with the character
"hito," meaning the highest moral standard, while names for
royal women end in "ko," meaning noblewoman.

Names ending in "hito" are highly unusual for commoners and
while "ko" was once a popular name ending for girls, it is
increasingly rare for new babies.

Akishino's given name is Fumihito, his elder brother is
Crown Prince Naruhito and their grandfather was the wartime
Emperor Hirohito.

In a simple naming ceremony held seven days after the birth
of Kako, Akishino laid a wooden box on the baby's pillow,
containing her name written on a piece of "washi" handmade
paper, the Shukan Bunshun said.

Although the government's list of approved characters for
names does not strictly apply to the royal family, Akishino is
unlikely to choose anything too esoteric.

"He probably won't choose anything complicated, or that
would be difficult for the public to feel familiar with," said
Ohara. "That has been the custom since the Meiji period
(1868-1912)," he added.

Whatever name finds its way into the wooden box next week
could influence a generation of Japanese children.

When Naruhito was born in 1960 he was also given the
childhood title Prince Hiro. That year, four names using the
character for "hiro" made it on to the top 10 list of boys'
names, with "Hiroshi" the most popular.

Following the birth of Naruhito's only daughter Princess
Aiko in 2001, the character "ai" -- meaning love -- became a
popular choice for girls' names, according to Meiji Yasuda
Life, which conducts a survey among its policyholders every