Tanaka is a fairly common surname in Japan. But to also have the same first name with the exact same kanji characters — Hirokazu Tanaka, 田中宏和 — is pretty rare, even for a Tanaka.
One of the Hirokazu Tanakas, this one 48 years old and living in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, is fascinated by this and has taken to tracking them down and inviting them to events. The latest was held last month in Tokyo.
Eighty-seven souls named Hirokazu Tanaka with the same kanji, from teenagers up to the age of 75, showed up. Though they couldn’t break the Guinness World Record for the largest gathering of people with the same first and last name, many media outlets came to cover the humorous event. (The current record is held by the 164 Martha Stewarts who gathered in 2005.)
“It’s the first time we’ve met, but there’s this sense of familiarity among us,” one Hirokazu Tanaka said.
“We’ll try again in three years to top the record,” said the 48-year-old Tanaka who hosted the event.
He first came up with the idea of searching for other Hirokazu Tanakas in 1994 when he saw that a baseball player with the same exact name was selected during the first round of the draft.
At first he tried to find others through friends and publications. As the internet became prevalent, his task became easier.
Because they can’t distinguish each other by name, they come up with nicknames based on their profession or other characteristics. Hobo kanji (almost organizer) is the host’s nickname. Others include Doctor, Composer, Engineer, Camera and Small Face.
One newcomer to the latest event, a 75-year-old man from Gifu Prefecture, is now nicknamed Shinkansen because to get to the event he rode a bullet train for the first time.
The group has launched a website, wrote a song titled “A Song of Hirokazu Tanaka,” and published a book, “Tanaka Hirokazu-san (Mr. Hirokazu Tanaka),” penned by 14 Hirokazu Tanakas.
There are 137 Hirokazu Tanakas registered on his website and so far he’s met more than 100 of them.
The youngest was a 6-month-old in Yamaguchi Prefecture.
“When I held him in my arms, it felt like my own. He was cute,” Tanaka smiled.
His ambition, however, goes far beyond the Tokyo event.
“When people with the same first and last name gather in one place and do something, that itself becomes art,” he said. “I hope one day we can hold a ‘Hirokazu Tanaka exhibition’ at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.”