How I feel about the name ‘Kenji’ now (+ other Japanese names mentioned in this post)


If you were ever bothered to check out the comments that I’ve left on Behind the Name, you would notice that I’ve made 2 personal impressions about ‘Kenji.’
The first one that I’ve made back in December when I first joined the site as a member reads:

“In my opinion, Kenji is one of the most typical Japanese names out there. So for me, I’d steer clear and choose a different Japanese name or keep Ken, but add a different kanji or 2 different kanji characters.”

The second one that I’ve made last month (June) goes into a bit more detail about why I disliked Kenji:

“Going back to what I’ve said in the previous comment, the most typical names that you and I have encountered in the media (like Kenji) are not necessarily the most popular in terms of how popular it is given to babies in the country of origin.
I would say that Kenji is on par with Ryū (or maybe surpassing Ryū, looking at how many fictional characters named Kenji are listed on Wikipedia and TV Tropes as opposed to Ryū) as one of those Japanese names that the media (like books, comics, TV programs etc.) like to use and that really irks me.”

The first 3 lines of my second comment was backed up by historical data from Meiji Yasuda Life showing the top 10 names from 1912 onwards in which Kenji was never in the top 10.

What I’ve failed to do, however, is check the popularity rankings for names used by all people at Dousei Doumei (which is compiled using data from telephone books). Here is a table showing the kanji combos making up Kenji that are in the top 10000.

Rank Kanji Number Rank Kanji Number
70 健二 39138 741 賢次 6270
107 健治 29733 875 謙治 5256
185 賢治 20524 1159 健児 3972
198 健次 19803 1333 研二 3465
265 健司 15764 1593 謙次 2910
272 賢二 15462 1619 憲次 2854
365 憲治 12088 3013 謙司 1485
486 謙二 9115 4194 研治 1008
510 憲二 8740 6078 研司 616
596 賢司 7772 8600 研次 382
626 憲司 7416 8867 賢児 366

In total, there are around 214,139 males that are given one of these combos, which is more than the number of people being given the kanji 清 (165,439 – 1st), which can be used as either Sei or Kiyoshi. That wouldn’t put Kenji in first place though. If I did the same thing to other names, then Hiroshi would be put in 1st place with a mid-estimate of around 570,000.

So, was I right in putting ‘not necessarily the most popular’ when in fact Kenji is one of the most popular names for all ages despite the fact that it never reached the top 10 from 1912 onwards? My mind is split. On one side, it’s a no. On the other, it’s still a yes.

Then again, why have I put Shigeru and Hiroki on my personal name list (PNL) on BtN? Well, it mostly comes down to two actors that I’ve seen in one of their films. We’ve got Shigeru Amachi (one of them may remember him from The Tale of Zatoichi) and then we’ve got Hiroki Matsukata (you might remember him from the 13 Assassins, though I’ve also seen him in Shogun’s Samurai (The Yagyu Clan Conspiracy)). For some reason, for me, these names fit them and the roles that they play which leads me to liking Shigeru (despite its popularity) and Hiroki.

Reflecting on what I’ve said above on this post, it makes me wonder how my views on Kenji and other stereotypical (note the crossed out ‘stereo’) names, in general, change.

I’m a type of guy who usually shuns popular, classic or typical names and prefers uncommon and unusual ones (though I do have a couple of popular names on my PNL so I wouldn’t go too far off with my preference for unusual names).

So, should I warm up to Kenji? For now, I don’t think so, even if I admire some of Kenji Misumi’s works, but who knows. Maybe one day, I might start to like this name, but that’s a long way off (or maybe I might be contradicting some of my own views in which, in this case, please send a comment so I can have my head checked).


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