Does anyone know the sorts of items for whose first iteration Japanese people have special names? The only example I can remember at the moment is for the first leader or, to be precise, (and reveal the place I learned it), the first Hokage, 初代. Google Translate gives me a vast number of words, all essentially forms of "progenitor," for that particular kanji combination.

So, are there other "first" things for which Japanese people have special names? I'm aware that the Japanese culture places special importance on the first of anything, e.g., the first sunrise of the year, so I was hoping someone could list the Japanese names of a few of the more famous such things. Looking at counter dictionaries online hasn't helped me find any, and I've now (possibly mistakenly) come to realize that these names are independent of the counter system.

3 Answers 3


The ones you're looking for usually start with 「[初]{はつ・しょ・うい}」 or 「[発]{はつ}」.

初荷 はつに first cargo of the year
初音 はつね first warbling heard in a New Year
発刊 はっかん publish; start (new) publication
発会 はっかい opening a meeting; first meeting


I would like to add [元]{がん} to Ignacio's answer.

元旦 'the morning of the first day of the year'
元年 'the first year of a calender system or an era'

  • 1
    Although some people use 元旦 as the first day of the year, it usually means the morning of the first day of the year. Feb 2, 2012 at 12:51
  • @TsuyoshiIto Thanks for correcting me. I mistook the word.
    – user458
    Feb 2, 2012 at 15:51

Just some random very commonly used ones I thought of

  • 初産{ういざん} First birth
  • 初詣{はつもうで} First shrine visit of the year
  • ファーストキス First kiss
  • 初体験{はつたいけん} First experience
  • 初対面{しょたいめん} First time you meet someone
  • 初婚{しょこん} First marriage
  • 書初{かきぞ}め First calligraphy writing of the year
  • 馴{な}れ初{そ}め How you first met/got to know each other (used a lot at weddings)
  • To add my 2 cents, I've heard "first kiss" はつキス too ^^ Feb 2, 2012 at 7:12
  • Yes, you are absolutely right. For fun, I just wanted to throw in an example where the English loanword is as common as the (half) Japanese one.
    – dainichi
    Feb 2, 2012 at 7:30

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