This post is something I wanted to write since translating episode 1. As a person that’s more comfortable with spoken than written Japanese, I don’t have much problem with hearing and transcribing names.
There was one person that I had problem with: Watanuki.
Watanuki Shinji is one of the Ieji’s coworkers from the 13th department. His name left me dumbfounded when I saw his name for the first time in Japanese subtitles; mostly due to the fact that I had no problem with hearing Watanuki, in contrary to reading Watanuki.
So what’s the deal?
As it is explained by the character himself in the EP06, his name is written using two characters: 四 and 月, which combined together literally mean April. April, however, is not read watanuki, but shigatsu (しがつ). I think this calls for Atsugiri Jason and his famous: “Why, Japanese people!? Why!?“
The funny thing happens when you try googling the name itself. Most of the results are about Watanuki Kimihiro, a character from xxxHOLiC, a manga, anime and drama series. As I learned the other day, Kimihiro’s surname inspired our wonderful QC and English editor Watanuki to use it as a nickname, so I’d like to dedicate this post to her. : )
Coming back to our fictional Watanukis:
Watanuki Kimihiro is written in Kanji as 四月一日君尋. These four Kanji mean “April 1st”. I was born on the first day of a month and this is not how you say it. It should be shigatsu tsuitachi. Then why on Earth Watanuki?
Wikipedia kindly gives us an explanation why (Japanese people).
Family names are sometimes written with idiosyncratic characters, called ateji, that relate indirectly to the name as spoken. For example, 四月一日 would normally be read as shigatsu tsuitachi (“April 1st”), but as a family name it is read watanuki (“unpadded clothes”), because April 1 is the traditional date to switch from winter to summer clothes.
See? I was right. Tsuitachi. Now, onto the meaning.
Weblio lists four names read as watanuki:
- 四月 (as in Watanuki Shinji)
- 四月一日 (as in Watanuki Kimihiro)
- 四月朔日 (also read as tsubomi. “Why, Japanese…”)
It is worth noting that 綿貫 is the closest in meaning to the explanation of watanuki given by the Wikipedia. The first Kanji, “綿“, literally means cotton, and as stated in Wikitionary, this name sounds identical to 綿抜き meaning “getting out of quilted clothing” or “changing into summer clothing”. This change is traditionally associated with April, that’s why not only 綿貫 but also 四月, used in various ways as a surname, is read Watanuki.
Ah, the beauty of Japanese names.