Japan’s Seven Grasses of Autumn Part 1

The Japanese have long had a keen awareness of the seasons and a sensitivity to the things that make each time of year distinct. So it’s no surprise that so many furoshiki and tenugui and Japanese textiles in general celebrate the seasons in their motifs.

Over the years though, as I’ve discovered more and more designs to include in my shop, I’ve been struck by how ubiquitous autumn designs are. Why should this be?

One answer might simply be that artists have so many symbols to choose from when they create fall scenes. The case could also be made that autumn is closest to the hearts of many Japanese, and perhaps not coincidentally it’s a time of year when it seems that seasonal delicacies are most abundant and savored.

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It’s true of course that spring is well represented, but so much of that as far as textile design goes seems to center on the ephemeral cherry blossoms, or sakura as they’re called in Japanese.

Autumnal motifs on the other hand seem to offer more variety. Even though some themes may dominate, these motifs are often made up of a variety of different patterns and scenes in a single composition.

It’s a delight to focus on a design and give it a chance to reveal itself. When it comes to fall season motifs plants play a central role, and there are actually a set number, seven to be exact, that are known as the grasses of autumn that I’d like to introduce this time.

These have had a prominent role in the way Japanese represent and think about the season since classical times and their names are ubiquitous in literature. They are:

  • Hagi
  • Kuzu
  • Obana
  • Ominaeshi
  • Nadeshiko
  • Fujibakama
  • Kikyo

This post and the next will focus on the three that in my experience are most commonly seen on furoshiki and similar Japanese fabrics, obana, hagi and kikyo.

You’ll soon see that the term ‘grasses’ is used in a general sense here and includes a variety of plants. My favorite, hagi, is the one I’ll introduce this time. It’s in peak form in early autumn, usually at some point between the first half of September to the first half of October depending on the place.

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Below is a closeup of bush clover from a furoshiki cloth. Bush clover leaves grow in clusters of three oval leaflets. This motif depicts the plant in a typical way with some of the leaflets dissected by a vertical line, which reminded me of coffee beans years ago when I first saw a piece of fabric with a similar scene!

Hagi are known as bush clover or Japanese clover in English. It’s one of many plants I’ve become aware of only since moving to Japan. Until I sat down to write this, I wasn’t sure if it’s even found back home in the states. It turns out that it is, but it has mostly been thought of in the US in practical rather than decorative terms. It’s sometimes used as cover for pastures and as fodder for livestock and in fighting erosion, and even in greening up abandoned mining sites. As it’s a member of the pea family and spreads quickly, it’s well suited for such purposes. So if you live in a zone that’s favorable, this harbinger of autumn might be the perfect choice for your garden, as long as you take care not to let it go unchecked.

Rabbits are also a symbol of autumn and often are shown with autumn grasses, as on the textile below:

If you look you’ll notice bush clover along with another of the seven grasses-can you name that one as well? No worries if you can’t-that’ll be the focus of anther post!

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Originally posted 2016-08-18 14:37:33.

Japanese Cotton Fireman’s Sashiko ‘Hikeshi Banten’ Hanten Jackets: Wearable Art

When I came upon this antique fireman’s hanten(jacket) from the Meiji(1868-1912) or early Taisho(1912-1926)period, it prompted me to do some research on these rugged, well crafted and often whimsically decorated coats. It also prompted me to open my wallet, but that’s another story!

Sashiko hanten like this are called ‘hikeshi banten’ in Japanese, literally ‘fireman’s jacket.’ Its heavy cotton was meant to absorb a good deal of water to help protect its wearer from the fire. After being soaked in water, they were worn with the plain side facing out, with the design as the lining. It must have been quite heavy with all that water weight added to this thick fabric!

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In the days before electricity came into widespread use, it was all too common in Japan for fires to break out on account of candles and lanterns, and as Japanese houses are traditionally made of wood and paper, it’s not hard to imagine how formidable and common a foe fire was in the daily lives of the citizenry.

As such, the role of the fireman in the community was vital and the rudimentary tools that they relied on along with the factors mentioned above stacked the odds in favor of the fire more often than not. Firemen were therefore seen as courageous men of valor and honor who would without hesitation sacrifice themselves in the interest of coming to the aid of their community.

After the fire was put out, the firemen would take off their jackets and wear them inside out to to show off the elaborate designs that had been hidden from view until then. To see firemen wearing their jackets in such showy fashion was to know that the danger was past and they had come through the battle unscathed, or at least well enough to fight again.

They’d then walk through town on the way perhaps to a local drinking establishment, attracting the gaze of admiring townsfolk appreciative of their courage and envious of their distinctive jackets, in a victory lap of sorts.

The theme of the work is referred to as ‘Hi no tamashi ni mukao wakamusha’ in Japanese, which means ‘A Young Warrior Confronts the Spirit of the Fire.’

These are always a pleasure to come across, and if you’re interested in seeing a range of intriguing motifs, a quick net search should yield interesting results.

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Originally posted 2015-09-22 14:30:03.

Star Wars Tenugui Cloths Make Great Gifts!

If you’re hunting for a gift for the Star Wars fan in your life, there are of course a zillion choices. And that’s the problem! But if the giftee in question has an affinity for things Japanese as well, then the choices get narrowed considerably.

And to my mind, in the realm of Japanese gifts for Star Wars fans, prime candidates are a line of made in Japan fabric cloths called tenugui that have lively and fun Star Wars themes that also incorporate various aspects of Japanese culture.

Aside from the cool factor, Japanese Star Wars tenugui cloths are quite light and compact when folded. Accordingly, you won’t pay much for shipping if you buy them online, and the so-called ‘free shipping’ that many sellers offer won’t mean inflated pricing for the tenugui itself to cover their own high shipping costs.

And of course in turn if you plan on sending a tenugui to someone, you won’t get dinged much for postage. And since these are flat, wrapping them for mailing is a cinch.

What is a tenugui?

I’ve answered that question at length in a separate post, in case you care to delve into the particulars-it’s a good read if you’re thinking about buying a tenugui and are curious about not just these designs, but the fabric as well.

Along with a long, rich history in Japan, tenugui cloths have certain distinct characteristics that you should be aware of before you make a purchase.

And you can pass along your new knowledge along with your gift, to give it some context and enhance its already considerable charm. Everyone loves a good story after all, and people who are into Japan and its culture will appreciate knowing more about these very Japanese textiles.

Though these fabrics were used as hand towels and headbands in the past, these days they are most often used as decor and look great on walls.

Having said that, these designs also do make great headwraps, similarly to how bandanas are used in the west, though the shape is a bit different, so please keep that in mind as well.

People who practice martial arts sometimes wear them during workouts, etc. and I’ve heard of folks who cover their heads with tenugui when they’re doing yard work.

A natural, lighthearted blend of cultural references

I did a double take when I first saw these star wars tenugui designs, and then of course it made perfect sense- George Lucas after all, has always cited Japanese cinema as a major influence. So this mashup is far from a random pairing.

As you might imagine, there’s a sense of irreverent fun running through these motifs. Some of the designs also incorporate classical kanji character sayings that when referenced in this context take on a fresh and lighthearted tone.

Here are some photos that I took myself of cool tenugui from this collection. All are made in Japan of 100% cotton with traditional dyeing methods and are officially licensed Star Wars products.

Click on a tenugui title above any of the Star Wars tenugui photos to see it on amazon.

Storm Troopers

It looks like these storm troopers mean business! So far, so normal. Look closely at the sky behind them though and this tenugui’s Japanese accents will come into sharper focus for you.

First of all, you might notice the waves on the right, which are stylized in a traditional way, almost appearing to have fingers, curled as if they’re beckoning you.

If you’re a Japanese textile aficionado, you might well also pick up on a reference to traditional fabric dyeing techniques in those clouds.

Look closely and those clouds are made up of a pattern that resembles shibori, Japanese tie-dye. Though it’s just a representation of that classic look and not the real thing of course, it adds a subtle, elegant reference for those in the know.

The fearsome looking cloud on the left looks like a ‘nyudogumo’ or thunderhead cloud, a fixture of Japanese summers. It’s got to be hot and humid out there-no wonder those storm troopers are peevish!

R2D2 and C3P0 Under the Sakura Cherry Blossoms

This tenugui features C3P0 in a philosophical mood, and who can blame him?

In this scene, after all, as he stands with R2D2, the sakura cherry blossoms are at their peak and petals are blowing in the breeze.

It’s just the sort of moment that over the centuries has inspired so many to wax poetically about the ephemeral beauty of life.

Cherry blossom viewing parties, known as hanami, are a fixture of early spring in Japan. They celebrate this transience with frivolity and fun along with food and drink served potluck style on blankets under the blossoms.

Darth Vader and Cherry Blossoms

Darth Vader caught in a contemplative moment, hoping that a delicate cherry blossom petal will waft its way into his outstretched, gloved hand.

Four kanji characters, pronounced gyoku seki kon kou, are written in the traditional vertical style on the right.

They constitute a classical expression which refers to a mix of disparate elements that aren’t often seen together, and are valued differently. Rocks and jewelry, for example….or Darth Vader and cherry blossoms, in this case!

R2D2 and C3P0 Take a Japanese Onsen Hot Spring Bath

C3P0 and R2D2 are seen here indulging in one of the highlights of a trip to Japan-a hot spring bath. This one’s especially inviting, as it’s outdoors with a beautiful view of Mt. Fuji in the fading light.

That’s a drawing of a ‘noren’ split curtain with the stylized mark of a public bath on it at the top of the tenugui, with steam coming out of it. You’ll see such noren curtains in front of onsen, as well as sento, which are public baths meant for everyday use.

Onsen like the one depicted are thought of as a special treat in that they’re often in scenic countryside locals away from the hustle and bustle of cities.

They’re also known for their spring water, which is often promoted as having medicinal properties, depending on the locale and the lore surrounding it.

These two are clearly up on public bath etiquette, as they’re taking care not to let their small bath towels get in the water! You can perch your towel on your head as R2D2’s doing.

And when you’re out of the bath, perhaps walking from one bath to another, your towel will likely come in handy, especially if you’re the modest type!

Darth Vader and Yoda

Darth Vader and Yoda square off with traditional Japanese waves.

The kanji characters written vertically are pronounced riki sen fun tou. that refers to a desire to fight with all your might, to give it all you’ve got.

This classical expression has a long and rich history and is most associated with battles in feudal times when there was little if any mercy shown to the vanquished and losers often didn’t have a chance to fight another day.

With the stakes so high in this epic clash between Darth Vader and Yoda, this sentiment seems entirely appropriate!

Darth Vader and Flames

A triumphant Darth Vader emerging from a wall of flames. Above him is a classical expression that conveys a sense of being in high spirits, full of power.

The second of the four kanji characters literally means ‘fire’ and this design clearly takes its cue from that! The kanji characters are pronounced ki en ban jyou.

May the force be with you in your search for something (inter)stellar. Star Wars tenugui might be just what you’re after!

Kyoto Collection is part of the Amazon Associates program, which means I earn a small amount of money every time you click on a link I provide and purchase something on Amazon. It will be put to very good use the next time I take my family to the neighborhood revolving sushi joint, and we thank you!

Originally posted 2019-11-23 21:49:12.

Japanese Cat Names List, Tips and Culture Notes!

Popular pet names in Japan in general are an interesting window onto the culture, and Japanese cat names are certainly no exception!

Are you looking for a cute Japanese cat name for your kitten?(kitten in Japanese is koneko, literally ‘child cat’).  Or maybe you’ve seen a famous cat or two in manga or anime and are curious about what sort of names Japanese people choose for their feline friends.

Whatever the basis for your curiosity, I’ll do my best to share what I’ve learned as an animal lover living in Japan since 1997. I’ve enlisted the help of Japanese friends in this pursuit, to be sure that my understanding squares with theirs, and ended up learning a lot about what great cat names are made of in the process!

Let’s look at some Japanese pet names for cats, both male and female. More than just giving a name with a translation,  I want to pass along some related information that will give you a better idea of naming conventions in Japan so that if you’re looking for a name, you’ll have more confidence in going with your inspiration and choosing something whether it’s on a list or not.  We’ll look at some of the most popular cat names in Japan as well as creative choices that follow certain tried and true principles.

I also want to introduce you to katakana, the relatively simple Japanese syllabary that’s most often used to write pet names.  And I’ll mention a point that’s often overlooked, natural intonation. With some points in mind about this,  you’ll feel confident that when you call to your cat, it sounds pretty much the same as it would if the owner were a native Japanese speaker. We’ll also take a look at an important aspect of names in general in Japan, suffixes that add warmth and familiarity when used.

Foreign pet names-It goes both ways

So let’s dive into our search for some great cat names in Japanese. First off, it’s worth noting that In Japan, pet owners sometimes choose a western name over a Japanese one for the same reason you might be considering something Japanese-it’s a novel way to express your interest in a culture outside your own and to be a bit different.

And when Japanese people choose a western name for a pet, it’s often a person’s name.  A Japanese friend once had a dog named John, for example.  I never asked her why she it, but I’d bet she liked an actor or singer by that name.  The most famous Japanese cat with a western name is probably Michael of ‘What’s Michael?‘ fame. The manga was such a hit that it spawned a long running animated TV series in the 80’s.

Japanese people sometimes choose the names of Japanese celebrities for their pets as well.  So if there’s a Japanese actor or musician you like, you might consider using a version of their name.  Ichiro isn’t likely to be offended if you’re a baseball fan and name your cat after him!
Speaking of stars, Leo the Lion isn’t just a constellation, he’s also one one reason why there are so many cats in Japan with the name, pronounced ‘Lay-Oh.’

In similar fashion, the Japanese word for tiger, Tora, works quite well as a name because it’s short and it’s no stretch to imagine most cats as mini tigers, especially if they have stripes. Most cat names in Japan seem to be two syllables, with some three-syllable monikers in the mix.  Keeping it short and sweet is a good angle to approach things from, it seems.

Cute Japanese girl cat names from flowers and plants

Flowers and plants are another source of inspiration. Japanese girls are often named after flowers and cats are, too. The Japanese word for flower is hana, and Hana is a very popular girl cat name.

You might well already know some Japanese plant names like Sakura (cherry) and Ume(plum).  Momo(peach) and Sakura are also among the most popular female cat names in Japan.  But don’t stop there-other flowers such as Kiku(chrysanthemum) are also prime candidates! Mums have a rich, regal history in Japan and are associated with the Imperial family. Good girl cat names abound.

Don’t forget to play with fruit names for cats. I thought up some names of fruits in Japanese and ran them by some Japanese friends, wondering if they would work as cat names. These are the ones that passed muster as cute, easy to say possibilities for female cats-Ichigo(strawberry), Suika(watermelon), Anzu(apricot), and Mikan(mandarin orange.)

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Think of various aspects of these names and others. If for example, you got your cat in summer or she was born then or just strikes you as having a summery personality, referring to her as the Japanese word for watermelon might hit just the right note.

Another fruit name that got the thumb’s up from Japanese friends was Ringo(apple), but I nixed it because though it’s indeed catchy, a die-hard Beatles fan might mistakenly assume they’ve found kindred spirits in you and your cat. And while this is certainly not a bad thing, you might soon get fed up with explaining the real meaning behind the choice.

On the other hand, if you are a Beatles fan with an interest in Japan, perhaps you could name your cat Yoko, which is in fact a very common name for Japanese ladies of a certain age, as it was once near the top of popular names for girls in Japan. Then again, if you blame Yoko for the band’s breakup, just keep on reading.

Great names for cats in Japanese: Use your kitty’s appearance as inspiration

When it comes to considering what makes for a good cat name in Japanese, another fertile field to plow when it comes to names is your cat’s coloring.  Not a big surprise, really, as this is a universally popular source of inspiration when it comes to this pleasant but often perplexing task!

In Japan, the words for black(kuro) and white(shiro) are both standard choices for cats and dogs of both sexes.

Neko is the Japanese word for cat. So black cat in Japanese is kuro neko.  These two words are uttered together countless times across Japan each and every day, because they also happen to be the name of one of the country’s top two parcel delivery companies!

black cat silhouette return address label

And if you’re on the prowl for a Japanese white cat name, Shiro is a safe bet and a good name to start your list of possibilities with.

If you happen to have a calico cat, you might consider the name Mi-ke. I added the hyphen to try and differentiate it from the common western name Mike, as it’s pronounced Mee-kay.  It literally means ‘three-hair’ and refers to the three colors of fur that calicoes sport.

Japanese calicoes are usually predominantly white along with two other colors, and are a very popular breed in Japan and abroad. Many Japanese cat owners in fact name their calico Mi-ke, just as countless western dog lovers over the decades have named their pooches Spot.

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Is your cat small?  Then maybe something like ‘Mame (Mah-may) would be just right.  Mame means bean in Japanese, and has a cute, diminutive sound to it.  You might know this word already, as it’s part of the word for soy beans, edamame(literally, branch bean). In a similar way, the name Mikan mentioned above has an endearing connotation, as it brings to mind something small and round.
Speaking of beans, the most popular female cat name in Japan taken from something edible might be ‘Azuki.’  Azuki is a type of bean that’s often used in Japanese cuisine, especially in making traditional sweets.  The notion of eating beans in sweets seems odd to many westerners, but take my word for it, bean based sweets are delicious and you shouldn’t come to Japan without trying some!

So naming your female cat Azuki, pronounced ‘Ah-zu-key, would be a great choice if you’re looking for a name that is ‘authentic’ in the sense that Japanese cat owners favor it.  And as with Mame, being a type of bean it carries with it the same cute, petite connotation, which makes these top choices for the most adorable cat names in Japan. Since azuki beans are reddish brown, this name would work especially well if your cat has similar coloring. Do a net search for ‘azuki’ and you’ll find photos of this culinary staple.

Traditional seafood and sweet names add a wealth of possibilities!

All this talk about food is getting me hungry, so let’s brainstorm with some words from Japanese cuisine that might strike your fancy.  Japanese food names for cats are fun to brainstorm.

Wasabi anyone?  How about Matcha(green tea)? Or Toro(fatty tuna, a delicacy)?  Then there’s Wakame(a variety of seaweed), Ikura(salmon eggs), Saba(mackerel), Awabi(abalone), and the list goes on. In a similar way, many Japanese dog and cat owners choose names like ‘Latte’ and Mocha’ these days. I think that names taken from seafood cuisine can be especially good fits with cat names, since they seem to enjoy such delicacies at least as much as we do!

A case in point is this extra large bag of dried bonito flakes. The word for bonito in Japanese is Katsuo, and so these flakes are known as katsuobushi in Japanese. They are addictive, and people like them at least as much as their feline friends, which is really saying something, because I’ve seen friends’ cats here in Japan devour them. I’ve had bonito flakes many times myself, as they’re served with takoyaki octopus dumplings and as a key ingredient in many Japanese soup stocks and a staple in Japanese cuisine.

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Whether you choose a Japanese name or not, if your cat is at all typical, she will love these. They keep for a long time are are very lightweight, with a smokey scent that will always be connected to Japan in my mind and palate. Though they are referred to as bonito flakes in English, they are thinner and wispier than cereal flakes, more like shavings. Are they as addictive as Cat Crack Catnip!? I dare say they are, but having never tried the latter, I can’t honestly venture an opinion.  Maybe your cat would be willing to do a taste test and enlighten us.

Let’s shift from savory to sweet. I have a sweet tooth, so I’m partial to Mochi(pounded rice cake) sweets of all kinds. I also have a weakness for Dango(usually 3-4 small balls of mochi pounded rice on a stick).  We could go on and on brainstorming with foods, and I encourage you to have some fun with this. But with foods and with this process in general, take care not to get too esoteric, because you might well come to regret choosing a name that only you and a friend or two can remember and understand.

Japanese culture is finely tuned to the seasons and the natural world, and the cuisine reflects that.  You’ll see ample evidence of this focus on nature in names like Sora, the word for sky. It’s a staple on recent ranking lists for popular Japanese cat names and can be used for both males and females.  Note that the ‘r’ in sora is pronounced a bit differently than in English.

Famous Japanese cats

I’ve already mentioned a famous cat, Michael, though he only exists in the world of comics and animation.  Ask about the most famous Japanese cat who’s ever lived, and the name Tama is bound to come up. Perhaps because she gained fame so recently. In any case, she was certainly a phenomenon!

Tama was a female calico who died in 2015 after going viral as the station master at Kishi Station in western Japan.  She gained an international following and was responsible for a huge surge in tourism to the area.  The name Tama is a cat name with a long history in Japan, much as the name Socks is thought of as a traditional cat name in some English speaking countries.  As a name it doesn’t carry any special meaning, its popularity is mainly due to the way it sounds-short, easy to say and somehow endearing.


Sometimes a good name for a cat can boil down simply that.  And having such a common name certainly never held Tama back!  If anything, it made her even more memorable.  Of course the little station master’s cap she wore at a jaunty angle also made her hard to forget!

If you happen to be a fan of the perennially popular manga Sazae-san about a family and their foibles that was first published in the 40’s, you’ll also know that the family’s male cat was called Tama.

japanese cat namesAnd more recently, a traditional Kyoto furoshiki wrapping cloth company named Maeda created a series of furoshiki showing a cat named Tama strolling through various seasonal scenes.

The sakura cherry blossom furoshiki depicting Tama walking up a long flight of stone steps that’s part of that selection is shown on the left.  Click on the photo to see it and other cat furoshiki on amazon.

Japanese Anime cat names

When new pet owners wonder about anime names for cats, they’re almost inevitably hoping for something Japanese.  And though Michael might well be the most well known anime cat, calling your own cat Michael clearly won’t fill the bill.

Another very famous feline with a long history in Japan does have such a name, and it is none other than………Tama. Yes, this name is that popular. It seems to turn up again and again when cats of note are mentioned among Japanese people, attesting to just how well loved this moniker is.

The Tama in question this time is the star of a classic anime called Sanchome no Tama, also sometimes known as Tama and Friends or Uchi no Tama Shirimasenka?(Do you know my cat Tama?) Sanchome is a well known area in Tokyo in Shinjuku that the Tama in question calls home.  My Tokyoite wife knows that area well and though she didn’t watch the show much growing up in the 80’s, she spent a good portion of her allowance on Tama stationary goods.

So it seems that if you call your cat Tama, you can reference the name in various ways depending on who you’re talking to and what they’re interested in, which could well lead to some interesting conversations.
Another Japanese anime cat name possibility lies in referencing a naughty yellow feline called Oyo Neko Bunyan, who also has quite a track record in Japan.  But it seems to me that the name doesn’t really roll off the tongue, at least not this western one. And Bunyan is not exactly a term of endearment, so it might be best to look elsewhere when shopping for a name for your kitty.

Other key cultural notes-pronunciation and suffixes

Now let’s move to some general points about Japanese cat names.

First, intonation for names is basically flat. So all syllables get similar stress. It’s common for native English speakers to pronounce the names of Japanese people as well as pets as they would in English, which often results in unnatural pronunciation. This often happens with three syllable words, as the middle syllable often gets stressed when it shouldn’t get such special attention.  I have a Japanese friend named Yumiko who lives in the states, for example, who is often called ‘Yu-MI-ko with the middle part stressed.  Similarly, Yukiko is known as ‘Yu-KI-ko.’

This tendency doesn’t manifest much in two syllable words, and since most common pet names are short, like Tama, they end up being pronounced pretty much as they should be, with equal stress given to both syllables. But others, like Azuki that we looked at above, can become ‘Ah-ZU-ki’ if you’re not aware of this aspect of Japanese language.

Then there’s the custom of adding suffixes to names.  This is a key point to keep in mind, as it might steer you toward choosing one cat name over another, depending on how the name sounds in this form.
If you’re an anime or manga fan, you’re probably already well aware of the propensity to add ‘chan’ and ‘kun’ to the end of names.  Kun is basically used for boys and men, and like chan, conveys a familiarity and warmth.  Chan can be used for young boys as well as for girls and women. Adults can use these honorific suffixes with friends to show affection, though it’s rude to use these suffixes to address a superior.  The first three letters of ‘chan’ are pronounced as in the name of the Cuban dance known as the Cha-Cha.

When we consider pet names, chan is the one to focus on, because it covers both sexes when it comes to animals. And since pets are more often than not seen as cute and endearing, it’s very natural to add chan to the end of their names. So, Sora becomes Sora-chan.  Tama is Tama-chan.  Presto! What was a standout among cute cat names to start with gets even more so.

Some Japanese names for cats lend themselves better to the ‘chan’ treatment, in terms of how easily it all rolls off your tongue. Take for instance the sweets mochi and dango I mentioned above as possibilities.  ‘Mochi-chan’  is a bit harder to say than ‘dango-chan’ so based strictly on that, the latter would win out.

One thing to keep in mind with this-chan is usually something you use to refer to someone else’s child or pet, not your own.  It’s not rude or inappropriate to use it for your own pet, but it’s most often a way for others to express a sense of affection and closeness for someone outside their own immediate family. So if you choose a Japanese name for your cat, informing those around you of this ‘chan’ add-on will pay dividends!

Japanese cat names list

Finally, I’d like to make a list of all the names we’ve covered here, it includes my brainstorms and some names that are among the most popular Japanese cat names.

Some work best as female cat names, and others work well as male cat names as well. Just one on the list below is best as a male cat name, and that’s Ichiro. This name is not only the name of a famous baseball player, but Ichiro is a name in Japan that’s almost always reserved for a first born son.

When there’s a meaning, I’ll include that, and I’ll also add the name as it’s written in the katakana alphabet.  Often there is a kanji character for a name, but even then, the katakana is preferred when its used as a pet’s name. I’ve included the kanji characters mainly to illustrate just how simple the katakana is by comparison!
So if you have an interest in what a name looks like when written, don’t make it unnecessarily hard by considering kanji characters.  Katakana characters are not only simple in their minimal number of angular strokes, but they’re also preferred according to convention in this context. Knowing a bit more about Japanese cat names, including not only their meanings but how they’re used can be a great way to delve more deeply into the culture in general. If you’re interested in learning katakana and hiragana quickly and efficiently, I recommend this self-study workbook.

Name
Katakana/Kanji
sex
meaning/reference
Ichiro
イチロー
M
Baseball player
Tora
トラ          虎
M/F
tiger
Hana
ハナ          花
F
flower
Sakura
サクラ      桜
F
cherry, cherry blossom
Ume
ウメ          梅
F
plum, plum blossom
Momo
モモ     桃
F
peach, peach blossom
Ichigo
イチゴ       苺
F
strawberry
Suika
スイカ     西瓜
F
watermelon
Anzu
アンズ
F
apricot
Mikan
ミカン
F
mandarin orange
Kuro
クロ         黒
M/F
black
Shiro
シロ         白
M/F
white
Mi-ke
ミケ        三毛
M/F
calico
Mame
マメ        豆
M/F
bean
Wasabi
ワサビ
M/F
Japanese horseradish
Matcha
マッチャ 抹茶
M/F
Japanese green tea
Toro
トロ
M/F
high grade cut of tuna
Ikura
イクラ
M/F
salmon eggs
Saba
サバ       鯖
M/F
mackerel
Wakame
ワカメ    若布
M/F
seaweed
Awabi
アワビ
M/F
abalone
Mochi
モチ          餅
M/F
pounded rice cakes
Dango
ダンゴ    団子
M/F
skewered pounded rice cakes
Sora
ソラ         空
M/F
sky
Tama
タマ
M/F
——
Kiku
キク         菊
F
chrysanthemum

Main photo of cat with bamboo by Manja Vitolic on Unsplash

Kyoto Collection is part of the Amazon Associates program, which means I earn a small amount of money every time you click on a link I provide and purchase something on Amazon. It will be put to very good use the next time I take my family to the neighborhood revolving sushi joint, and we thank you!

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Originally posted 2017-05-31 14:26:25.