In all seriousness, I could have put up a longer title like ‘Popularity of names for adults and elderly people (most of them likely from the peasant class) in Japan born in the late Edo Period (1828-1868) using passenger lists from FamilySearch’ to be more precise and accurate but I didn’t…
Anyway, this post contains data that I’ve got from passenger lists. Those lists contain the names of Japanese people who immigrated from their homeland to places like Hawaii, California, Brazil and so on and so forth. As this part of the data contains records of people who were born between 1828 and May 1868, most of the people born during this time, who were recorded in these passenger lists available on FamilySearch, immigrated to Hawaii.
Be prepared for this as this post is going to be loooong. Also some bits may be incorrect, so please drop a comment below if you spot any so I’ll be able to correct it.
The post that I’m making today brings me back to 2 threads that I’ve put on Behind the Name a month and a half ago titled:
- ‘Top 50 girls’ names used in the late Edo period in Japan – WDYT?’
- ‘Top 50 boys’ names used in the late Edo period in Japan – WDYT?’
Unfortunately for me, I didn’t go far enough into explaining how the names (especially men’s names / or boy’s names as I called it back then) got into the top 50 in the first place.
Why put an emphasis on men’s names?
Here are some bits of information that I didn’t explain in the BtN threads. In the Edo Period, peasants made up most of Japan’s population at that period of time (around 90%). There are examples of villagers, farmers and peasants in jidaigeki movies like Manzō from ‘Seven Samurai’ and Tahei & Matakichi from ‘The Hidden Fortress.’ With regards to the Japanese immigrating to Hawaii, they were mostly farmers and peasants. They came there after they suffered crop failures back home with most coming from Hiroshima, Yamaguchi and Kumamoto (which may cause a bit of a bias with regards to the name rankings below). So, in that sense, the table below shows how some adults and elders were called back then (not boys and girls as I had somehow put on BtN). Going back to Edo Period Japan, before the formalisation of the naming system in 1868, men changed their names (more often so for upper-class men upon coming of age) for a number of reasons like signifying their higher social status, demonstrating their allegiance to a house/clan, shedding bad luck that was attached to their old, inauspicious name or just simply avoiding being mistaken for a neighbour who has the same name as their old one.
Right, that’s enough of that. Oh, about women’s names, well I’m pretty much confident on that one since they didn’t change their names in the Edo Period as often as men.
Now, here are the rankings that I’ve compiled:
You may be wondering, why so many equals on here, especially for women? Well, there are about 6,629 entries that I’ve included in the data with about 5,556 of them showing the entries for men who immigrated to Hawaii, so that means most of the immigrants are labourers = men. There’s another reason for the huge amount of equals which is that there was a large variety of names (for women) and name elements (for men) to choose from. With lots of combinations to choose from, one might choose a more popular name (like Haru) or a less popular name (like Uta) for a female character. For a male peasant character, one might choose to name him Otokichi or maybe remove -kichi and add -matsu to create Otomatsu to give it a bit more individuality.
With regards to %age of peasants: http://www.grips.ac.jp/teacher/oono/hp/lecture_J/lec02.htm
With regards to Japanese immigration to Hawaii: http://www.hawaiihistory.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=ig.page&PageID=299
With regards to name changing: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_name#Historical_names
Passenger lists: https://familysearch.org/search/collection/1803988 (w/o any images unlike the Ontario Births collection that I’ve used for the popularity of names in Ontario in 1870)
Issendai – Women’s Names in Edo-Era Japan
Edo Kaoe – Jinmei – (in Japanese, archived, rankings page not archived 😦 ) a list containing male and female names used in historical novels (in order – merchants ‘町人’, samurai ‘武家’ and the rest ‘その他’), also includes names of stores/trade names under ‘屋号’