If you answered chocolate, move to the back of the class.
I was talking with some of my English students last night about their names. What would be a good Japanese name for me? I asked them. Tsuyoshi, replied one. Tsuyoshi means strong and powerful–this is in line with “Big Chris,” which is what everyone at Mugenjuku calls me now to distinguish me from Crampton-sensei. I probably would have thought this was flattering about 15 years ago, but as a matter of fact it doesn’t reflect my personality very well.
I told them I rather like Tokinari, which is true. Tokinari is the name of one of my former English students. When I asked about his name, which I had never heard before, his mother told me in a sort of embarrassed way that it was an old name, like a samurai-style, and that his father had picked it because his father liked stuff like that. I think this is the kanji: 時成 and Jim Breen says the name means “unthought of; unexpected; unseasonal; unscheduled”. This was a good name for this kid.
Anyhow, when I told them I like Tokinari, they said, oh that’s an old name, like a samurai name. So there you have it. And when I asked about the girl’s name, Sachiko, she replied that, yes, her name was old too. Apparently, any girl’s name that ends in “ko” is old. In my class, there were Yuko, Sachiko, Nobuko, and one more I can’t remember. This is Kyoto. But they hastened to add that there are so many new, hip names now, like “Mocha,” as in the chocolate coffee drink…
Yes. Mocha. Sachiko says it sounds a bit like a name for a dog, but she wasn’t ready to dismiss hip new Jinglish names.
Mocha. This is the end. Young people in Japan are just projections of American imagery.
I realized in this class that I am privileged to be in Japan in one its final decades. Soon the people will have almost no connection to their traditional culture. It’s sad, but it’s their choice.