In most cases, individuals carry around the name they are born with for the rest of their lives. Mark Buckton asked a group of foreign residents married to Japanese about how they dealt with this responsibility.
Student services manager, 40 (American)
We have no intention to live outside Japan so it made sense for the kids to take my Japanese husband’s family name. However, we did want to have a Western name too, so all three of them now have both a Western and a Japanese name. We agreed there would be no weird names, weird spellings or weird kanji. All names had to be easy to say/familiar in both Japanese and English.
Anna Marie Togasaki
Teacher, 34 (Filipino)
My daughter’s name is Maria. At first I wanted a Japanese name using kanji so it carried a meaning, but my hubby wanted it to sound foreign as he wants to give an international impression and have a name written in katakana. He opted for Maria because it is so similar to my own name and takes into account my religion. I hadn’t thought about giving my daughter a Christian name.
Holding company general manager, 27 (American)
My son’s name is Aiden. In part because my wife and I met in university and as she was studying Irish history and I have some links to Scotland and Ireland, I wanted a unique Gaelic name. She wanted Liam but we settled for Aiden as we found kanji that can be used in Japan that means “legendary hero” or “child of fire.”
College Women’s Association of Japan, 53 (American)
My husband was very excited about choosing names, so I decided to let him choose. He wanted their first names to be Japanese and came up with names that included the kanji character in his own name. Our boys, Hiroki and Kenta, never had any problems while living on the U.S. West Coast with Japanese names, and I think both as children and as adults, they love their names.
Recording engineer, 42 (Mexican)
My son’s name is Lenny. My wife chose it together as we were looking for a name that works in both worlds — mine in Mexico and Spanish, and hers in Japan — and the name Lenny is common everywhere. In Japanese we write the name in katakana as that is easy for Japanese people who seem to like names in two or three characters, and Lenny is of course two characters.
Golf professional, 43 (American)
It was a long, hard process that took about six months. At first we believed we would be having a boy, but a later scan showed our baby to be a girl, so we had to readjust all our plans. Finally, to bring the two cultures of the parents — U.S. and Japanese — together, we settled on Marieann Hibiki, which can mean “echo of the queen of the ocean.”
Interested in collecting vox pops in your local area? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.