Japanese restaurants, grocery stores, martial arts studios or language schools will, naturally, want to choose a Japanese name for their business. Other businesses that specialize in or carry Japanese products, such as art galleries, calligraphy or art supply shops, or stores that sell Japanese cooking supplies and other household wares, may want a name that describes their business in Japanese or evokes an image or symbol that represents Japan. North American English-speaking customers will be most likely to remember a name that is short, simple and easy to pronounce.
Actual Japanese Words
Sushi, sashimi, tempura and other foods are now familiar to North Americans. A business may choose to combine the Japanese word with an English one, such as “Soba Ten” for a soba noodle house on tenth street or “Sushi Central” for a sushi restaurant located downtown. Karate, judo, aikido and kendo are Japanese martial arts. Studios teaching these arts will likely include the Japanese name of the art and may also call themselves a “dojo,” which means place of instruction. Martial arts and other Japanese art studios may incorporate words that students of that art will understand. “Takemusu Aikido Association” includes the word “takemusu” which describes an aikido teaching. “Bu-Jin Design” is a martial arts supply company that includes the martial concept of “bu,” and “jin,” which refers to people.
Translations of English Words
Businesses may simply translate the name of their product into the Japanese word. For example, “Yama Dojo” is the name of a martial arts studio, or dojo, in a mountain community, or “yama.” Businesses may include “ichi-ban,” meaning first or number one, in their name. A fish market may include the word “sakana,” which means fish. Businesses that sell eggs, peaches or rice may use the respective Japanese words, “tamago” for egg, “momo” for peach, “kome” or “gohan” for rice.
Businesses may choose a Japanese word that evokes an image they want to associate with their business. The business logo could incorporate a graphic representation of the word to illustrate its meaning. For example, a business name may include “sakura” with a logo of a cherry blossom. Some Japanese inspired business names may have nothing to do with the type of business but may have a sound that is pleasing or easy to remember. For example, Akai is a Japanese electronics manufacturer; “akai” simply means red. Certain words have a symbolic meaning, beyond the literal translation, that may evoke happiness, prosperity or good or bad luck.
English Words for a Japanese Market
Businesses that have a significant Japanese clientele, such as ski resorts and businesses near national parks and other tourist destinations, may consider whether their English business name translates to any word in Japanese with a negative or confusing connotation. Likewise, businesses that choose a Japanese or Japanese-sounding name to appeal to a certain market should ensure the word evokes the image they are seeking. A construction company would likely not want to use the word “tsunami” in its business name. Customers will more readily remember business names that are easily identified with the product and simple words that are easy to pronounce.
Lisa Jensen grows organic food and lives in an adobe house that she built. She teaches aikido, is an experienced back-country skier and backpacker and is active in her community. A graduate of the University of Calgary, Jensen writes about gardening, home projects, social sciences and sports and recreation.