The Name Game

Husband told me a couple of weeks ago that he did NOT like one of my character’s names. (Not the names of one of the characters I wrote about in my previous post. Haruka and Sakura are extremely common and modern names in Japan. A different name that I am not revealing here.)

I don’t why it took him so long to tell me that. This book has been a work in progress for over three years.  But anyway we argued discussed it. I decided to ask my Japanese teachers their opinion. They agree with him. I asked my son his opinion. He agreed with him. I asked the crow who gets into my garbage. Her name is Berthe Erica Crow and she didn’t have an opinion.

What threw me off with this name is that I once knew a real-life Japanese baby girl who had this name. The mom was Japanese and the dad American. So I assumed it was an actual Japanese name. But it’s not.

The name has a lovely sound in English. And I like the meaning in Japanese. It’s just that, to Japanese ears, it evidently sounds strange as an actual name.

So for the past couple weeks, I have been thinking, and asking questions of people, and researching.  I’ve gotten a  particular suggestion for a new improved name, the same suggestion from two different Japanese people.  But then I was at the library on Sunday and discovered a gorgeous picture book with this particular improved name.

Such a beautiful and creepy book. LOVE IT!

But…I asked the librarians the meaning of the name here in the picture book’s title. The name has the double meaning of “Child Stealer.”  (The picture book is about a yokai, a Japanese ghost, who steals children.)  So I complained to my husband and he said, “Nobody will think of that meaning!”  But my book is all about word play and I just can’t name my lovely non-child-stealing character a name that is a homophone for Child Stealer!!!!  I just can’t do it!!!!!!!!!!!


So I was thinking of other names. I researched on the internet and came up with three names. (Actually one of these is the name of my husband’s now deceased cat. It’s a wonderful name with a beautiful sound to American ears and Japanese ears, and a lovely meaning.)

Then I called my writing assistant who knows nothing about Japan. My mom. She doesn’t know what a mochi is, what an emoji is, what manga is. She pronounces kimono like “kimona.” She’s the perfect assistant.

I gave her the choice of the three names and she chose the cat’s name.  (My husband is okay with me using his cat’s name.)

So this means I will have to change my character’s name.  It hurts but I have to do it.  I don’t want anybody in my book walking around with a sucky name.

After all, last week, popular YA author Rainbow Rowell wrote on her twitter feed: “I find it harder to name characters now that I know how I have to live with those names for years….” (For what it’s worth, I still love my real life son’s name, and he says he likes it, too.)

Tomorrow and Friday I have Japanese classes, so I will ask my teachers their opinions. They are the experts.


My Fictional Daughter


It’s September now, and my summer vacation in Tokyo with niece and son is long over.  But I want to revisit it a bit….

This is near our hotel while my niece, my son, and I were staying in Tokyo for a couple of days.  That’s the SkyTree in the background, the highest structure in Tokyo. I think it’s in the list of top ten highest towers in the world.

This is the reason I want to revisit.  Haruka.  The name of my bad ass female main character.  I was so excited.

(Actually I don’t think she is that much of a bad ass. Just a regular girl. But bad asses are in now, so let’s just say she is a Fukushima version of Katniss.)




It’s a name I had thought about for quite a while when I began my manuscript.  I don’t think that it sounds pretty to American ears–because Americans aren’t pronouncing it right.  It’s not HaROOOOka. (with emphasis on the middle syllable.) It’s a rather flat pronounciation, like most Japanese words.  Think more like: Harka.  It’s a gentle sound like the sound that an angel might make when whispering in your ear.

It’s a beautiful name, a strong name, and it’s a common name.  (When I went through my mental list of names, I thought about names that girls in Japan have nowadays.  I didn’t want an old-fashioned name or a weird name for my main character, who represents “A Typical Japanese Girl.” Haruka is an extremely common name for a girl or young woman nowadays.)

My MAIN reason for choosing the name Haruka, though, was for its meaning.  If you want to know its meaning, you’ll have to read the book!  😉

I gave the name Sakura to Haruka’s best friend.  I again wanted a typical name for a modern girl because Sakura–even though her personality is very different from Haruka’s–also represents a “Typical Japanese Girl.”  I am not sure how I arrived at Sakura…I was thinking of girls I had met and their names.  What’s interesting is that since choosing this name (approximately three years ago, I more) I have noticed it is a common name in books by western writers.  I just finished “Cherry Crush” by Cathy Cassidy.  The main character is Japanese on her mom’s side and Scottish on her dad’s.  Her Japanese name is Sakura and her English name is Cherry.  I’ve seen the name elsewhere, too. I am not sure why this name is so popular with us western writers, but I think it is  because “Sakura” connotes the beauty of a traditional Japan.


MY REAL DAUGHTER? Well, that name is a secret.  It’s not Haruka and not Sakura. I never got to use it because I never had a daughter. My husband chose it.  And I’ll probably never use it in any of my writing!

“Learning How to Write” Japanese Workbooks

Pardon me!

I haven’t been writing my blog because I have been working on my manuscript. (I have more than one. It’s all very complicated. But for now, we’ll just say manuscript.)

I like to write early in the morning, before five. This morning was so pleasant. With the window open, it was dark outside and I could hear the crickets serenading me.  (Once you have read “The Cricket in Times Square,” you never think of crickets the same way again.)

Then when Mr. Husband comes groggily downstairs at 5:30, I stop writing, because my muses are flighty little things and disappear in a bursts of sparkles that only I can see.

I’ve gotten off track. The following post has nothing to do with Fukushima, but I think it is interesting.

I wanted to show some “How to Write Japanese” workbooks. The kind that Japanese parents buy for their Japanese preschoolers at the local bookstore.  These workbooks are all aimed at native speaking children.

By the way, there are three writing systems that Japanese kids need in order to be literate in their language.

They are:



kanji (also known as Chinese characters because they were originally developed in China and Japan borrowed them)

Here is a Kumon workbook for ages two, three, four.  It teaches hiragana.

This was my inspiration for today’s post!  A new–and popular–set of poop-themed workbooks. These teach kanji.

The first page, first kanji.  It means “one.”

Ichi is one in Japanese.

In Kanji:  一

Some other kanji workbooks

These are fart themed!!!!!!!!

First page

My cousin’s daughter has just started high school in the United States. She chose Japanese as her foreign language!!!!!

I sent her the above three workbooks.  I wasn’t sure of her level, so I looked through all the workbooks carefully, and chose ones that I felt would be good for non-native speakers.  (Although none of the workbooks are actually meant for non-native speakers.)

From left:

hiragana, for age two (Please note that very few Japanese kids are literate at age two!  This particular workbook is beginning type “let’s get ready” sort of workbook.)

katakana, for ages three, four, five

kanji, for ages five, six

From top down, the same books. Please note that I chose the easiest ones I could find. No poop or fart themed ones, sorry.




Don’t make fun of Chernobyl

I was watching a TV show on Netflix yesterday. Hello Kitty made an appearance, so that was exciting, considering that it is an American show.  The show isn’t exactly for kids (especially little kids) so I won’t name the show.  (ahemrupaulsdragraceahem) But you can look at a photo of my TV screen:

Hello, Kitty!

Anyway, it was quite a funny episode.

However, there was character who plays a Russian woman (he is a comedian.) And he made a joke about going to Chernobyl.  He didn’t say “Moscow” or “Kiev” or “Vladivostok.”  Nope. He said “Chernobyl.”

I think the joke is supposed to be that nobody wants to go to Chernobyl, but he’s going there….HA HA HA ISN’T THAT HILARIOUS.

(If you are a kid, Chernobyl is a part of the Ukraine.  In 1986, there was a nuclear meltdown at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.  The meltdown was caused by human error.  The area surrounding the nuclear power plant was evacuated and is currently non-liveable.)

I have heard jokes about Chernobyl before….I  don’t think they’re funny.  I know next will be the Fukushima jokes, and no, I don’t think they’re funny, either.

So don’t make those dumb jokes.  They’re annoying and offensive and will show you to be an amateur comedian who finishes your comedy act to an audience of one person, who is only there because he fell asleep.



Thinking of you, little Texans….

I have been keeping up to date on the situation in Texas, like a lot of people.  (And there’s flooding in Bangladesh which is getting little coverage. )

Are you a child from Texas who has been affected by the flooding?   It’s probably a scary time for you. Maybe your home is flooded, and you are living in a shelter. Or you are still at home, but running out of food and basic materials.

Please know that people around the world are thinking about you.  It was a comfort after the 3/11 earthquake to know that people around the world were thinking about Tohoku and its victims.

Times WILL get happier.  I promise!

I don’t believe we live in a dystopian world full of woe.  I believe in positivity.  That doesn’t mean everything will be perfect, not at all. But life has high points and low points and we have to struggle through the low points.  It’s just something we gotta do.

So thinking of you, children around the world.

Here’s a cat photo to help cheer you up a bit.

And if you don’t like cats….

Hang in there!  ❤