Ao and Himari were Japan's most popular names given to boys and girls, respectively, between January and September this year, an education service provider said Tuesday.

Benesse Holdings conducted a survey in which it ranked kanji characters most commonly used in naming a total of 297,000 babies born to its customers.

A kanji Chinese character meaning "blue-green," which is most often read as "Ao" but also as "Aoi," topped the boy's name ranking. It was followed by a pair of characters meaning the "sun" and "flying" read as Haruto.

For girls, a combination of two kanji characters meaning "sun" and "hollyhock" most commonly read as Himari but also pronounced Hinata topped the girl's ranking for the seventh consecutive year. It was followed by Rin, using a kanji that means "crisp" or "cool."

The kanji meaning blue-green has been gaining popularity in names for both boys and girls in recent years as it evokes images such as a clear blue sky or the ocean, the company said.

"People are choosing names that represent steadiness and stability amid persistent uncertainties brought by the prolonged impact of the coronavirus," it said.

As 2022 is the Year of the Tiger, names that included the kanji that means "tiger," such as Kotaro, and the name Taiga, which sounds like tiger, advanced in the ranking, the survey also found.