A high school boy who was ashamed of his given name "Oji-sama" (Prince) has had his move to change it to the more traditional name "Hajime" legally endorsed by a family court.
Hajime Akaike, 18, from the city of Kofu, west of Tokyo, said his effort would encourage other such people who find their given names peculiar. He urged prospective parents to think twice when naming their children amid a trend among Japanese parents to give so-called "kira-kira" (glittery) names with unusual readings.
Among such names are unconventional ones inspired by anime characters such as "Pikachu" -- composed of the Chinese characters for "light" and "space" -- and "Nausicaa" -- a combination of "now" and "deer" -- who is the protagonist in a popular 1984 anime movie by Hayao Miyazaki.
"If someone dislikes his or her name, it is possible to act (to change it). I would like them to have the courage to do so," said Akaike.
His mother had chosen the name Prince to express her belief that her child was "one and only, like a prince." However, the boy felt that although the name may sound cute during childhood, having it as an 80-year-old would be questionable.
Akaike began to think about changing his name after becoming a ninth grader. Whenever he provided his name to create membership cards, such as for karaoke, shop employees thought it was a fake one and repeatedly tried to confirm its authenticity.
The boy was shocked when female students burst out laughing when he introduced himself during high school. He was never bullied but felt increasingly miserable and decided to change his name on the occasion of his high school graduation.
His mother was unhappy with his decision but his father accepted it, telling him, "This is your life."
Akaike chose his first name at the suggestion of a friend who is a monk, who said his new name should be pronounced as "hajime" or "beginning" to express his desire to "start anew after resetting his past life."
For his new name's Chinese character, he chose one identical to Hajime Kawakami's, a Marxist economist (1879-1946) whom he respected and whose values of supporting the poor he shared.
After Akaike tweeted his name change, the post was retweeted more than 100,000 times and led to numerous requests for advice by others who felt similarly about their unusual names.
Akaike wants to make the most out of his college life starting in April by taking classes in social welfare and playing music in a band. He said that with his name change, he will not feel anxious about introducing himself when meeting new people and that he looks forward to taking the "first step" of this new beginning in the spring.