Relationship between Chinese zodiacs and changes in baby name popularity in Japan today

Zodiac

NOTE: PLEASE BE AWARE THAT THIS POST WAS CREATED BACK IN OCTOBER OF 2015. SOMETIME IN JUNE OR JULY OF 2016, namaejiten.com HAS UPDATED THEIR WEBSITE AND EXTENDED THE END YEAR TO 2009. THE BIRTH COUNTS FOR EACH NAME FROM 1997-2003 HAVE BEEN INCREASED, SO THE NUMBER OF COUNTS FOR A CERTAIN NAME IN THOSE YEARS THAT ARE SHOWN IN THE PAGES PROVIDED ARE OLD.

Not much has been researched or even looked on about the relationship between Chinese zodiacs and the way Japanese parents choose the kanji for their babies & changes in baby name popularity.
The most I could find about this are from Issendai (about early Edo period female names – I don’t know exactly where she got the info for the zodiacal names from, but I would presume she got it from the second source listed at the bottom) and Tamahiyo (in Japanese – observations of names with zodiacal kanji go back to 2010, when they’ve made an observation about the increasing usage of 虎 and 琥* since that year was the year of the tiger).

Shown below are a series of posts featuring research that I’ve done a while back which looks at the relationship between years where zodiacs/symbols belong to and changes in baby name popularity in Japan today with source(s) listed in these sub-pages:

I will warn you right now that there is quite a lot of data to sift through in the sub-pages below, so please bear yourself for that. One more note I should make on these sub-posts and analysis on these, I am putting emphasis on percentages, not the actual number of babies on the Namae Jiten data**, so be aware of that.

The following symbols are not used either because the number of babies with these symbols in their names are too small to reach a conclusion, however complicated, or the kanji for these symbols are not jōyō (common use kanji) or jinmeiyō (name kanji):

  • Ox (丑)
  • Monkey (猴/申)
  • Rooster (雞, 鷄/酉)
  • Dog (狗/戌)
  • Pig (豬/亥)

Of the 7 symbols that are used, 4 of them have experienced some sort of, what I call, a ‘rise up, fall below’ pattern in the popularity of a majority of names where a name with a kanji for a particular symbol they rise in popularity in the year of that specified symbol but then fall down below where they were a year before the year of that specified symbol. The data being added in the sub-posts show what I mean by that.

Of the 4 experiencing this pattern, the Tiger is the symbol most likely to exhibit pattern with 90.5% (based on number of names exhibiting the pattern dividing by the number of all the names used in the data). Splitting into two are 100% for 寅/虎 and 80% for Taiga.

According to Your Chinese Astrology:

“People born in the year of the Tiger are friendly, brave, competitive, charming and endowed with good luck and authority.”

That quote only looks at the positive traits but even so, I would think that these two traits alone might encourage parents to use one of the zodiacal kanji related to the Tiger in their child’s name and that might be one of the reasons why names which include 寅/虎 and names that have kanji that make up Taiga will have a strong showing in the charts in 2022.

The other three symbols that have a strong chance of rising next time around are, in order:

          2. Horse (馬, 駿/午 – boy) at 89.5%
          3. Dragon (龍, 竜/辰 – boy) at 78.2% (78.3% for 龍 & 竜, 77.7% for 辰)
          4. Snake (蛇/巳 – boy) at 77.7%

This means that these symbols will have a pretty good chance of exhibiting the ‘rise up, fall below’ pattern in a similar fashion in 2022 (Tiger), 2026 (Horse), 2024 (Dragon) and 2025 (Snake).

Yes, you’ve noticed this by now that all of the four symbols are mainly used for boys. For girls, unfortunately, the remaining symbols may have a meager chance of exhibiting the ‘rise up, fall below’ pattern in the near future.

As always, if you have any thoughts on this and any corrections that needs pointing out, please don’t hesitate to comment below.

technically not a zodiacal kanji and there weren’t any names including this kanji for 1998 (the last year of the Tiger) hence why I did not use it for my research but it has the same radical used for the former

** The data there is only partial since the number of births compiled in this data is fewer than the actual number of live births for any year from 1989 to 2003.
For example, for both genders, there were 1,246,802 live births (Wikipedia) in 1989, yet 903,627 (or 72.476% of) births were recorded in the Namae Jiten data. In 2003, there were an estimated 1,139,000 live births (Wikipedia), yet only 250,727 (or 22.013% of) births were recorded in the Namae Jiten data.

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