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I am studying Japanese and I am also a bit of an Azur Lane fan (a gacha game). One of my favorite characters is called Kawakaze, based on the real-life IJN Kawakaze (a Shiratsuyu-class destroyer). The kanji that are being used are 江風 which translates to "Bay Wind", even though "River Wind" seems to be much more popular for some reason.

I looked these kanji up and I notice a problem. The first one ("Bay", "Creek", "Inlet") has no reading that translates to "Kawa". The second is "Kaze" meaning "wind".

How's that possible? I did some looking around and her Kancolle (a similar gacha game) counterpart actually has a note on her page that says

Her kanji "江風" would more commonly be read as "Ekaze" instead of "Kawakaze".

There's even a voiceline that goes like this.

Kawakaze : YO ! The 9th Shiratsuyu-class Destroyer, Kawakaze of the revised Shiratsuyu-class. Nice to meet you ! Ah, about the reading of my name, do not get it wrong ! It's KAWAKAZE, not Ekaze !

Myschin : Ekaze and Kawakaze doesn't sound alike at all ! I won't make that kind of mistake but...

So how does this happen? Is this something unique to warships or is there some funkiness going on that I just don't understand. I am a beginner, so this might just be a very simple thing that I just don't understand. Jisho says 江 only has two readings: え and コウ, but not かわ.

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The kanji 江 does mean "river", too, although this meaning is almost obsolete. See this entry. For example, 江 is in the name of 長江 (Yangtze). This page (written in Japanese) explains the differences of three kanji that means "river" (川, 河, 江).

As for the reading, the only "official" kun-reading of 江 is え today, but the readings of kanji were not very standardized in the past. Since 江 meant "river", かわ could have been recognized as a valid kun-reading of 江 in the past. In addition, kanji in proper nouns can have lots of unpredictable readings (sometimes referred to as nanori readings). There are so many place names and person names having such special readings that even native Japanese speakers often cannot read them.

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  • My 漢和辞典 has an entry for [江風]{かうふう} (old school pronunciation, obviously) with the sole listing for its meaning 川風. So, indeed it seems like it shouldn't be a stretch at all to read 江風 as かわかぜ
    – A.Ellett
    May 10 at 3:17

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