Chihayafuru: it’s all in the name…

One thing that seems to have popped up in shipping debates in Chihayafuru, especially after the second season, is how characters address each other. In particular, a few people interested in seeing more Arata x Shinobu bring up the fact that they are on a first name basis in a country where most people are not.

All-in-the-name

Let me just make a few observations here, starting from outside the world of Chihayafuru.

Whilst it is true, especially in major cities and amongst people who don’t know each other that well, for surnames to be used as the standard way of addressing another, there are a few exceptions. Amongst good school friends (usually of the same sex), it’s quite standard to be on first name basis, but there are certainly a few places where first names are also commonly used between boys and girls. One of these is Okinawa, where people usually took their surnames from localities, which resulted in many people having the same name. For example, there were four Miyazato-senseis at my school one year, so staff and students alike all referred to them and addressed them largely by their first names. As for the student body, we pretty much referred to them all by their first names. Most of the rest of Japan is a lot less ‘friendly’ than Okinawa in this sense, even in what are seemingly quite rural prefectures such as Ehime – I found out when I visited a former student there once – so even then, perhaps first names would be unusual in a place like Fukui.

But let’s look at what actually observe in Chihayafuru then. The scenes we get of interactions amongst Fukui people are quite few and far between, but we definitely see younger people like Arata address elders by their surnames, and older people address and refer to children by their first name. Perhaps Arata’s use of “Shinobu-chan” comes from his grandfather’s way of referring to her (see chapter 65, S2 episode 9). However, amongst friends of the same age group, they largely seemed to be on first name basis:

Chihayafuru2

Chapter 66, S2 episode 9

Interestingly enough, this wasn’t the case back in middle school, when Shouji was crowing about beating Arata to Class A (chapter 22, S1 episode 13). But even more interestingly, whilst Shouji was still calling Arata “Wataya” at that point, Yuu knew him as “Shouji”! And we know that she is interested in Arata…

Even more telling though, in my opinion, is Arata himself as a child. I think most people remember when Arata decided to use Chihaya’s first name, back when he and Taichi were searching for her (chapter 2, S1 episode 2). However, do we remember when Arata first used Taichi’s first name? It wasn’t the snowball scene where he asked Chihaya to call him “Arata”. Rather, it was during the three vs. three karuta match at the Shiranami Society!

chapter 3, S1 episode 3

chapter 3, S1 episode 3

I found the latter example particularly interesting when I realised it a few days ago. In fact, Arata had been calling Taichi “Mashima” just a few moments before, when he’d taken the wrong long-shot card previously. And he didn’t change back after the end of the match: when the three of them decided to try for the team tournament a short while later, Arata observes “There’s no doubt that I’ll win, but Taichi and Chihaya, can either of you do the same?” In other words, Arata was calling Taichi and Chihaya by their first names long before they used his!

So, let’s not jump to any conclusions just yet, shall we? And if anyone could tell me what this aspect of Japanese society is actually like in different places around Japan (recall that in Sakamichi no Apollon / Kids on the Slope, Kaoru, Rit-chan and Sentarou all started addressing each other quite familiarly by the end of the first episode – even though Sentarou didn’t actually use “Kaoru” until much later), I’d be incredibly grateful.

About karice
MAG fan, translator, and localization project manager. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

One Response to Chihayafuru: it’s all in the name…

  1. Pingback: For the record: かるたしょっさ | HOT CHOCOLATE IN A BOWL

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