A couple of weeks ago, photographer Chase Jarvis blogged about the photo book Misao the Big Mama and Fukumaru the Cat by Miyoko Ihara. The book features adorable images of Miyoko’s octogenarian grandmother, Misao, and Misao’s odd-eyed cat Fukumaru.
The book’s description states that Fukumaru’s name is made up of the words fuku, “good fortune,” and maru, “circle.”
That made me wonder what the Japanese names Misao and Miyoko meant.
Turns out Miyoko means “beautiful generations girl” or “beautiful generations child” — mi means “beauty” or “charm,” yo means “generations,” and ko means “child.” (Miyo, “beautiful generations,” is also a name.)
Misao comes from a word that means “chastity” or “fidelity.” One of my sources connected the word misao to women specifically — “honor, chastity, virtue, fidelity of women” — but apparently it’s used as a male name as well. For example, there’s the artist Yokoyama Misao (1920-1973):
He was an illegitimate child who was adopted soon after his birth by Yokoyama Shuhei and his wife. According to people who knew him, it was only at the time of his conscription in 1940 that he learned, to his shock, about his real parents. At the pinnacle of his popularity Yokoyama began telling people that he was the son of his father’s mistress and that his stepmother had named him Misao, which means chastity, as retribution for her husband’s infidelity.
And what about the name Shuhei? Definitions I’ve found include “guards,” “garrison,” and “troops under one’s command.”
- Conant, Ellen P., Steven D. Owyoung, and J. Thomas Rimer. Nihonga: transcending the past: Japanese-style painting, 1868-1968. St. Louis: St Louis City Art Museum, 1995.
- Hepburn, James Curtis. A Japanese-English and English-Japanese Dictionary. 2nd ed. London: Trubner & Co., 1887.
Image: Little More Books