250+ Japanese Cat Names

cat japan

As part of our growing, global society, it’s natural to become curious about how we can incorporate other cultures into our everyday lives. We might take up yoga, listen to Chinese pipa music in the morning, or take up a new cuisine that uses ingredients we are unfamiliar with.

japan One fun way that we can gain perspective onto different cultures is by observing and respectfully adopting their names for things, including our beloved pets! Nowhere is this more evident than by the wide array of available cat names that come from Japan.

Once revered for the supposed luck they bring and now beloved for their cuddliness, cats are the dominant pet of choice in Japan. As a result, there are so many Japanese names for cats that us Westerners can look to for inspiration when trying to name our own kitties.

Cats in Japanese History and Folklore

Cats have an undoubtedly special place in Japanese culture, with an interesting history to boot. In the modern world of cat cafes, Hello Kitty and ‘cat islands’ (islands where there are more cats than people…infinite cuddles, anyone?), it can be surprising to learn that cats were not always a part of Japanese society. In fact, cats aren’t even native to the island nation.

Rather, they (along with Buddhism) were imported by way of China in the mid-sixth century. On the voyage from China to Japan, Buddhist monks and traders would bring their cats as a means of protecting important scriptures and wares from being destroyed by rodents. But almost as soon as they arrived, cats were absorbed into the cultural fabric of Japan, soon becoming the subjects of art, literature, folklore, and Japanese Buddhist tradition itself.

Japanse Cat We find the first definite mention of a domestic cat in the diary of Emperor Uda, who described that he kept a black cat which was brought from China in 884. In his diary, Emperor Uda writes:

“On the 6th Day of the 2nd Month of the First Year of the Kampo era. Taking a moment of my free time, I wish to express my joy of the cat. It arrived by boat as a gift to the late Emperor, received from the hands of Minamoto no Kuwashi.

The color of the fur is peerless. None could find the words to describe it, although one said it was reminiscent of the deepest ink. It has an air about it, similar to Kanno. Its length is 5 sun, and its height is 6 sun. I affixed a bow about its neck, but it did not remain for long.

In rebellion, it narrows its eyes and extends its needles. It shows its back.”

Clearly, cat owners have not changed in a millenia. Like Emperor Uda, we understand that it can be hard to not talk about your cat (even when they’re exposing their….needles).

We can see this adoration of these fuzzy felines continue throughout Japanese history. During the Edo Period (1603-1868), for example, cats were the subject of multiple works of art from some of Japan’s most esteemed authors and illustrators. Utagawa Kuniyoshi, a prodigy illustrator, famously depicted cats taking the place of kabuki actors during a time of artistic censorship.

During the later Meiji period (1868 – 1912), the famous author Soseki Natsume wrote the popular fiction novel “I Am a Cat.  Decades later, Hiro Arikawa would build off of the success of Natsume’s story by authoring “The Travelling Cat Chronicles”.

Perhaps one of the most famous cats of Japanese culture is Maneki-neko, or the beckoning cat. Commonly seen waving his golden hand back and forth in storefronts, this ubiquitous cat has its origins in two tales from Japanese folklore. The first tells the story of a brave, lucky cat that saved the life of a samurai during a lightning storm. The other tells of a poor, elderly woman whose cat came to her in a dream and instructed her to craft a clay sculpture of a cat to sell at the market. Following the advice of her cat (as one does), the woman eventually sold more and more statues until she finally retired rich. While these stories are obviously fiction, that doesn’t stop the sales of thousands of these waving cats from rolling in, year after year.

japanese cats However, cats are not exclusively the subject of adoration in Japan. While their “kawaii” (cuteness) cannot be overstated, cats in Japan have also been viewed for centuries as potentially magic creatures. Their physical characteristics don’t help this skepticism – if you learned of the existence of an animal that could dilate the pupils of their glowing eyes, stretch out to very long lengths, walk without making sounds, and seemingly understand and respond to human language, you’d probably be pretty spooked. The fact that cats are not native to Japan and came from “the outside world” only further fueled this skepticism.

The first reported instance of supernatural cats in Japan dates back to the 12th century, when farmers and woodsmen reported that a massive, two-tailed cat had begun snatching up locals and eating them. Tales of supernatural cats continued to flourish during the Edo Period, when stories of shape-shifting bake-neko (monster cat) emerged. According to these new legends, cats could transform into anything you could think of; including human shapes.

The lore goes on to say that cats who live long lives (how about nine of them?) would go on to kill their owners and assume their place. Eventually, these legends morphed into stories about cats who lived entirely alternative, humanistic lives at night, including activities such as acting, playing games, drinking sake, smoking tobacco, etc, before slinking back home at dawn. It’s not so hard to see how a musical like Cats came to be now, is it?

The catlore of Japan is as fascinating as it is detailed, and we’ve only just begun nibbling on the surface kibble here in this article. With such a rich (and fantastical) history behind them, it’s no wonder why Japanese people have so many unique names for these adorable little critters.

Japanese Cat Name Conventions

There aren’t really any hard and fast rules one should follow when picking a Japanese name for their cat, aside from remembering to be respectful of Japanese culture. Much like Westerners, Japanese people often take inspiration from their cat’s physical appearance, objects, names in popular culture, and various other sources when deciding on a name for their little furball.

japan cat names Additionally, the Japanese names of other animals and plants can serve as inspiration for naming your pointy-eared pal. For example, the Japanese word for tiger, ‘Tora’ (虎) is a solid name for male cats. Meanwhile, plenty of female Japanese cats are named after flowers such as the names ‘Hana’ (flower, 花) and ‘Ume’ (plum, 梅).

Speaking of food, there’s plenty of food-based names you can pick from! Although, since we’re talking about Japanese names, you may want to use the names of foods that are commonly consumed in Japan such as ‘Matcha’ (green tea, 抹茶), Saba (mackerel, サバ), ‘Katsuo’ (bonito flakes, 鰹) and others for a more authentic name. However, tailoring the name to Japanese-specific dishes isn’t really necessary! The Japanese word for apple, ‘Ringo’ (林檎), is a common name for male and female cats alike. Similarly, the word for bean, ‘Mame’ (豆) is commonly used as a diminutive to describe cats who are small.

Plus, there are plenty of names from Japanese pop culture that can be lifted for naming your furry friend. One of the most famous cats in Japanese pop culture was the subject of a hit manga series titled ‘What’s Michael?’. The cat’s name? Michael. Drawing from the deep well that is anime and manga, there are a dowry of character names from multiple movies, television shows, and comics that you can pick from. Some might include Jiji (from Kiki’s Delivery Service) or Mello (from Death Note).

In the end, the most important thing to keep in mind when selecting a Japanese cat name is to have fun with it! After all, we’re talking about naming creatures that get scared when they see cucumbers – it only makes sense that they might end up with a silly or tongue-in-cheek name!

Male Japanese Cat Names

cute cats A

Aki – Born in autumn

Akihiro – Great brightness

Akio – Bright boy

Arata – New

Asahi – Morning sunlight

Atsushi – Kindness

B

Banzan – Indestructible mountain

Bassui – High above average

Bento – Boxed lunch

Bishamon – Buddist god of war and fortune

Botan – Peony

Byakuya – White night

C

Chimon – Wisdom gate

Chotan – Deep pool

D

Dai-In – Hidden greatness

Daichi – Great land

Daijiro – Great second son

Daiki – Shining

Daisuke – Great helper

Doryo – Generosity

Dosei – Saturn

E

cute Christmas cat Ebisu – Shinto god of luck, wealth, and prosperity

Eiji – Eternity

Endo – Roadside

Enkai – Deep sea

Eryu – Dragon wisdom

F

Fuji – Unsurpassed

Fujin – Shinto wind god

Fuku – Lucky

Fumihiro – Large sentence

Fumio – Scholarly hero

G

Genkei – Honored

Giichi – One rule

Goku – Aware of emptiness

Goro – Fifth son

H

Hajime – Beginning

Haruto – Soar to heaven

Haya – Falcon

Hiroki – Vast timber trees

Hiroshi – Prosperous

Hiroto – Big flight

Hisa – Long life

Hisoka – Secret

Hitoshi – Motivated person

Homura – Fire

Honcho – Leader

I

Inoue – Above the well

Isamu – Vigorous

Ishii – Stone well

Issey – First-born son

Itachi – Weasel

Ito – String

Iwai – Celebration

Izanagi – First male, the god of creation

J

sleeping cat Jikai – Ocean of compassion

Jiro – Second son

Joben – Enjoys cleanliness

Judo – A martial art form

Junichi – Obedient first son

Juro – Tenth son

K

Kage – Shadow

Kaito – Between pear trees

Kakashi – Scarecrow

Kaname – Vital point

Kane – Gold

Kangiten – Buddist god of bliss

Katsu – Victory

Kazan – Fiery volcano

Kenichi – Strong, healthy first son

Kenshin – Modest

Kenta – Thick

Kichiro – Lucky son

Kitsune – A fox spirit

Kiyoshi – Purity

Koji – Little one

Kotaro – Plump

Kouta – Great peace

Kuebiko – Shinto god of knowledge and agriculture

Kunio – Countryman

M

cat drool Mamoru – Earth

Manzo – Third-born son

Masaru – Victory

Matsui – Pine

Michio – Man on a journey

Mitsuo – Shining hero

Mokusei – Jupiter

Mugen – Infinity

Myojo – Venus

N

Naoki – Tree of truth

Naruto – Maelstrom

Natsuo – Birth of summer

Nintendo – Leave luck to heaven

Nobu – Faith

O

Oki – Blue water

Osamu – Discipline

R

Raiden – Shinto thunder god

Reo – Wise gentleman

Riku – Clever tiger

Rikuto – Person of land

Ringo – Apple

Rokuro – Sixth son

Ryota – Great refreshment

Ryouichi – Clear one

Ryuunosuke – Noble herald

S

Sake – An alcoholic drink made from rice

Sanji – Praise

Sanjiro – Admired

Satoshi – Fast learner

Seiji – Lawful

Shimizu – Pure water

Shiro – White

Sho – To fly

Suijin – Shinto god of water

Sushi – A bite-sized Japanese food

Susumo – Advance

T

cat looking with eyes Tajimamori – Shinto god of sweets

Takeo – Strong as bamboo

Takumi – Artisan

Taro – Big boy

Tatsuo – Dragon Man

Tenjin – Shinto god of scholarship

Tetsu – Iron

Toshiro – Talented

Touma – Mountain top

Tousen – Otherworldly

Tsukikage – Moonbeam

Tsukiya – White moon

U

Umi – Sea

Unkan – Cloud valley

Usaku – Moonlit

Usui – Mortar well

W

Washi – Eagle

Wataru – Navigation

Y

Yamaha – Mountain Leaf

Yamato – Old Japan

Yami – Darkness

Yasu – Peace

Yoshi – Silent

Youta – Great sunlight

Yuji – Courageous second son

Yukio – Snow boy

Yuma – Calm truth

Yuuto – Gentle person

Z

Zinan – Second-born son

Female Japanese Cat Names

why do cats purr A

Ahmya – Black rain

Ai – Love

Aika – Love song

Aiko – Little love)

Aimi – Beloved

Airi – Jasmine flower

Aiya – Beautiful silk

Akane – Brilliant red

Akemi – Beautiful Sunrise

Akina – Spring flower

Akira – Bright and clear dawn

Amabie – A type of mermaid in Japanese mythology

Amaterasu – Shinto sun goddess

Amaya – Night rain

Ameonna – A female spirit that makes rain

Aneko – Older sister

Anzu – Apricot

Asami – Morning beauty

Asayo – Generation of the morning

Asuka– Fragrance or beautiful perfume

Aya – Colorful

Ayame – Iris

Azume – Safe space

B

Bankei – Ten thousand blessings

Bashira – Joyful

Benten – Buddist goddess of everything that flows

Bunko – Literary child

C

Ceiko – A splendid creature

Chia – Thousand loves

Chibi – Tiny

Chie – Wisdom

Chihiro – Thousand questions

Chika – Scattered flowers

Chinshu – Calm place

Chiyo – Thousand generations

Chizu – One thousand storks

Cho – Butterfly

Chorei – Transparent spirituality

D

chubby cat Dai – Great

E

Eiko – Eternal child

Emi – Blessed with beauty

Ena – Gift from God

Eri – Blessed gift

Eshima – True intention

Etsuko – Child of joy

F

Fumiko – Child of treasured beauty

Fuyuko – Winter child

G

Gen – Spring

Gina – Silvery

Gyo Shin – Heart of dawn

H

Haiku – A form of Japanese poetry

Hana – Flower

Hannya – A female demon

Hayami – Rare beauty

Hekima – Wisdom

Hikari – Radiance

Himari – Ball of light

Hina – Good vegetables

Hiromi –Abundant beauty

Hoshi – Star

Hotaru – Firefly

I

Ichika – One thousand flowers

Ima – Present

Ino – Wild boar

Iva – Yew tree

Iwa – Rock

Izanami – Shinto goddess of creation and death

J

Japana – Ambitious

Jin – Tenderness

Junko – Pure child

K

Kabuki – Japanese dance/drama

Kaiyo – Forgiveness

Kannon – Goddess of mercy

Kaori – Perfume

Kasumi – Mist

Keiko – Adored one

Kichi – Lucky

Kiko – Hope

Kimi – Righteous

Kohana – Small flower

Koko – Here

Koto – Beautiful harp

Kukurihime – Shinto goddess of meditation and negotiation

Kumi – Nine seas

Kura – House of treasure

Kyoko – Mirror

M

cat in blanket Mai – Brightness

Maiya – Rice valley

Mana – Affection

Megumi – Blessing

Midori – Green

Miki – Flower stem

Minako – Beautiful baby

Mio – Waterway

Momo – Peach

N

Nami – Surf

Nana – Green vegetables

Nara – Flower from heaven

Nari – Thunder

Nishi – West

Noriko – Child of law

Nozomi – Hope

O

Ohara – Small field

Orino – Worker’s field

R

Rei – Spirit

Reiko – Thankful child

Rini – Little bunny

Risa – Growing flowers at home

Ruri – Semi-precious stone

Ryoko – Bright child

Ryuji – Dragon child

Ryuk – Gift from God

S

Sachi – Blessed

Sachiko – Child of bliss

Sai – Intelligent

Sakura – Cherry blossom

Sango – Coral

Sara – Music

Sato – Sugar

Satome – Beautiful

Sen – Fairy of wood

Shinju – Pearl

Shion – Aster

Shiori – Poem

Suki – Beloved

Sunako – Dark side

Suzu – Bell

Suzume – Sparrow

T

Takara – Treasure

Takashi – Noble

Taki – Waterfall

Tamayo – Generation jewel

Tamiko–MeansA beautifulCreature

Taru – Barrel

Tatsu – Dragon

Tennin – An angelic being in Japanese Buddhism

Tora – Thunder

Tori – Bird

Tsuki – Moon

U

Ukemochi – Shinto goddess of food

Umeko – Plum blossom child

Umiko – Child of the sea

Utano – Field of songs

W

Wakana – Harmony

Wakumi – Spring of water

Y

cat Yasuko – Child of peace

Yoko – Positive

Yori – Public servant

Yoru – Dark

Yōsei – A fairy

Yuka – Friendly blossom

Yukari – Destiny

Yumi – Archery bow

Yuri – Lily

Yuriko – Lily child

Yuuna – Gentle

Z

Zakuro – Pomegranate

Zen – Peace

We know that you’re the type of pet owner who goes above and beyond to make sure that your cat has everything they need to remain happy and healthy (and cultured, clearly). That’s why we hope you’ll keep coming back to learn more about how to best care for your cat! We hope you found this article helpful and if your dog ever gets any cuts, abrasions, ear infections or ringworm, we hope you keep Banixx Pet Care in mind.

Sources

  • https://web-japan.org/nipponia/nipponia26/en/animal/animal01.html
  • https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/japans-love-hate-relationship-with-cats-180975764/
  • https://fineartamerica.com/featured/3-cats-parody-of-kabuki-utagawa-kuniyoshi.html
  • https://lithub.com/on-sosekis-bitingly-critical-novel-i-am-a-cat/
  • https://japancraft.co.uk/blog/decoding-the-lucky-cat/
  • https://www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends/beware-cat-tales-wicked-japanese-bakeneko-and-nekomata-part-1-004471
  • http://yabai.com/p/2318
  • https://www.rd.com/article/why-cats-afraid-of-cucumbers/