I'm learning how Japanese names work for a story I'm writing and creating names is one of the most fun things I've done in some time. However, it comes with a share of frustrations. One for me is that I don't understand why some kanji are pronounced in a way that is different from both kun-yomi and on-yomi readings.

For example, let's take the name 一馬 (Kazuma). I can't seem to find any kanji dictionary (with English definitions) that state that the character 一 can be pronounced as ka. Most times I've seen the character, it's been romanized as ichi and I don't understand where ka comes from.

Another example is the birth name of kabuki actor Ichikawa Raizo VIII, 亀崎 章雄 (Kamezaki Akio). Neither 章 nor 雄 seem to form the pronunciation Akio, yet that is how the name is read and spoken. Why is this?

Thank you in advance for answering my question! Have a nice day!

  • 2
    If you want a dictionary with Japanese name readings, Jisho has them. For instance, it does list かず and かづ for 一. They're near the bottom of the page. jisho.org/search/%E4%B8%80%20%23kanji
    – Leebo
    Apr 27 '19 at 14:39
  • I wonder if ateji are commonly used for names.
    – Jack Bosma
    Sep 5 '19 at 13:24

There is a third type of reading for Kanji called nanori as was pointed out in a comment on your answer dictionaries frequently have many of these special readings though not necessarily all of them.

Here is a resource on nanori and Japanese naming that may help: https://imabi.net/nanori.htm as well as some more examples on how complex it can be https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_name#Difficulty_of_reading_names

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.