According to Japanese surname researcher Hiroshi Morioka, the most common full name in Japan is “Minoru Tanaka” (Minoru is the first name, Tanaka is the surname).
Japanese names are written in kanji, or Chinese characters. Morioka believes that many families like to chose first names with kanji that are complementary to the kanji in the surname, and that this is what makes certain combinations particularly popular.
In the name Minoru Tanaka, for instance, the kanji can be interpreted as “to ripen in the rice field.” “This reflects the close traditional relationship the Japanese have with rice and agriculture.”
The second most common full name, Shigeru Suzuki, “incorporates the Chinese characters for “tree” and “to grow thick,” another fitting name combination inspired by agriculture.”
The third and fourth most common full names are Minoru Suzuki and Kiyoshi Sato, but my source didn’t mention what the kanji in these names might mean.
A few months ago, Nintendo released Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, a remake of the original Ocarina of Time from 1998.
Who did they feature in the commercials for the new Ocarina? None other than Robin Williams, who named his daughter, Zelda, for Princess Zelda from the series. (Zelda Williams was in the commercial, too.)
Robin bought his first Nintendo Entertainment System in 1987 and became “completely immersed.” “When my wife was pregnant, my son Zachary mentioned that Zelda would be the perfect name for his new little sister.” Robin and his wife agreed, so when the baby girl was born on 31 July 1989, she was named Zelda Rae.
Were other parents inspired to use the name Zelda as well around this time? Perhaps a few, though the numbers stay fairly flat:
1985: 13 baby girls named Zelda
1986: 16 baby girls named Zelda
1987: 12 baby girls named Zelda
1988: 17 baby girls named Zelda
1989: 19 baby girls named Zelda
1990: 18 baby girls named Zelda
1991: 22 baby girls named Zelda
How was Princess Zelda named? Game creator Shigeru Miyamoto explains: “Zelda was the name of the wife of the famous novelist Francis Scott Fitzgerald. She was a famous and beautiful woman from all accounts, and I liked the sound of her name. So I took the liberty of using her name for the very first Zelda title.”
[On Late Night with Jimmy Fallon a fews ago, Robin stated that his son Cody is also named for a video game character, but didn’t mention which game/character. My guess would be Cody from Final Fight.]
Yesterday I discovered the “Asian Name Pronunciation Guide,” which was created by California State Polytechnic University (Pomona) to help its students “more accurately pronounce some common Asian first and last names.” What a cool thing for the school to make available.