November 17, 2011

The Dragon Princess

Ryô (龍) means "dragon." Most famously, Ryô was the name of the wife of Sakamoto Ryôma (Japan's 19th century Alexander Hamilton), whose given name ("dragon horse") coincidentally shared the same first kanji.

Sen (千) means "one thousand." Princess Sen (千姫) was the daughter of the second Tokugawa shogun. She was married to her cousin, Toyotomi Hideyori, in an effort to unite the Toyotomi and Tokugawa clans.

The effort failed. These martial connotations may explain why Ryô and Sen are rare names for girls these days. The modern kanji for "dragon" (竜), pronounced ryû, is a boy's name.

The kun'yomi (Chinese reading) of 千 (chi) is more widely used in kanji compounds. In Spirited Away, Sen is the name the witch gives to Chihiro (a common name). The kanji is the same.

The subject of numbers as names for girls immediately brings to mind "Thirteen" and "Seven of Nine." As we'll see later on, numbers remain more popular in names for Japanese boys than girls.

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