FLF: See Pochi Run! The most popular names for Pets in Japan.

Ok. So this post is not really a fun link but it is a fun topic!

Don't call me 'busu'!

My current job as an English teacher in Japan has taught me many things. One very important thing I have learned is that cultural differences can crop up at anytime and often they lead to amusing misunderstandings.  Recently, I was teaching the grammar point “call” as in “Her name is Danielle but I call her Dani.” There was a cat in the picture we were using for the model conversation and I had to come up with a name for it on the spot. Without missing a beat, I said, “We call the cat Puss.” This was met by an eruption of laughter. I noticed my mistake almost immediately. Puss sounds way too similar to “busu” the Japanese word for ugly. I had made a classic cultural mistake.

Puss is a very common word used in reference to a cat in the US but it does not carry this same cultural significance in Japan. I thought that it might have entered the Japanese lexicon after the popularity of the movie Shrek but apparently I was wrong. None of my students had ever heard the name Puss used in reference to a cat. The story Puss in Boots was even used as the basis for one of Hayao Miyazaki’s early films, Nagakutsu wo Haita Neko, but the cats’ name in the film is Pero, not Puss. (Isn’t that similar to the Spanish word for dog??)

So what are the quintessential pet names in Japan? In the US, the names Rover, Spot and Fido immediately conjure up the image of dog. In Japan, the name Pochi has a similar effect. For a cat, we might use Puss or Pussy cat but if you want to avoid being a laughing stock in Japan, Tama might be a much safer choice. I did a quick internet search in English to see what other names for pets are popular in Japan. This was actually more difficult than I thought it would be.

I found one list of Japanese dog names on Howtodothings.com in an article by Alyssa Murphy who according to her profile is a Tokyo native. The article titled Japaense Dog Names and their Meaning: Unique Dog Names includes a good list of names for dogs that I have often heard in Japan.

Here are a few:

  • Momo: Peach
  • Ringo: Apple
  • Ichigo: Strawberry
  • Mikan: Orange (fruit)
  • Yuzu: Citrus Fruit
  • Mochi: Sticky Rice
  • Anko: Red Bean Paste
  • Sumi: Japanese black ink used for calligraphy
  • Ocha: Japanese tea
  • Sakura: Cherry Blossom
  • Ran: Orchid
  • Hana: Flower
  • Fuji: Type of flower, or Mt. Fuji
  • Tora: Tiger
  • Tenshi: Angel
  • Ryu: Dragon

Pochi or Momo? Actually, Niko!

Most of the these names seem to be very nature related as opposed to the American tendency to give dogs human names or names based on the personality or physical features of the dog. For the sake of comparison here are the top five male dog names and top five female dog names from the United States. These names are from the 2011 list of most popular dog names on dogtime.com.

Male Dog Names

1. Max
2. Buddy
3. Rocky
4. Bailey
5. Jake

Female Dog Names

1. Bella
2. Molly
3. Lucy
4. Maggie
5. Daisy

Since the google search in English ended with only a few results I decided to do a search in Japanese. This led me to Irispet.com (this site is in Japanese) and an article titled 犬の名前ランキング大調査2011 or The Great Investigation of Dog Names 2011. Here are the top ten according to the Japanese site:

  1. Momo (peach)
  2. Sakura (cherry blossom)
  3. Choco (chocolate)
  4. Sora (sky)
  5. Hana (flower)
  6. Maron (chestnut)
  7. Rin (The sound of a bell)
  8. Reo (Leo, the original name of Kimba the White lion)
  9. Coco (Cocoa)
  10. Nana (a girls’ names)

So what about cats? Here is the ranking from irispet.com.

  1. Momo (peach)
  2. Kuro (black)
  3. Sora (sky)
  4. Hana (flower)
  5. Rin (the sound of a bell)
  6. Chibi (small and petite)
  7. Mii (a cute sound: not a name)
  8. Tama (ball)
  9. Kotarou (a boys’ name)
  10. Tora (tiger)
  11. Hime (princess)
  12. Sakura (cherry blossom)
  13. Mimi (Female name)
  14. Miruku (Milk)

Definitely some crossover with the dog names but there are a few that are more cat specific (Miruku!). Repetitive sounds as names such as Momo, Coco, Mimi seem to be very popular for pets in Japan. If you are still curious, I recommend testing out your Japanese skills and checking out irispet.com. They break down their results into most popular names by male and female etc. I learned that searching in Japanese was a much better way to find results for pet names! 

Have a wonderful Friday everyone!

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4 Responses to FLF: See Pochi Run! The most popular names for Pets in Japan.

  1. fifra says:

    I was looking for typical Japanese pet names (just for fun) and this was one of the only lists I found in English that had popular names for Japanese pets, rather than random Japanese names that English-speakers have used for their pets. Thanks!

  2. Yukina says:

    I know someone who named their cat, ‘Busu’. They found it stray on the streets, all scarred and it was very ugly cat. Its very affectionate, a teasing kind of name!

    But those names up there, are so cliche, used a lot! Tama, Tama, TAMA?!

  3. Jasmine C Estrera says:

    In the future if I ever get another cat I’m naming it Shima= Island, Momo=peach, or Choco= chocolate

  4. Nad says:

    Hi there, I put together Japanese dog names list which include also names from popular manga and anime. I hope you will be interested to share it. Here is the list – https://adoginthefog.com/unique-japanese-dog-names-list/. Thank you very much! 🙂

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