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Japanese Dog Names

Japanese Dog Names    By Janice Jones   |Published January 14, 2020

If you adore the culture, travel extensively, or are passionate about Asian food, you may think that Japanese dog names would be perfect for your new pup. 

More likely, you’ve fallen in love with a Japanese dog breed such as a Shiba Inu or Japanese Chin, and are aspiring to find just that perfect name that will define your little furball darling. We won’t disappoint, but first, what breeds actually originated in Japan?

Dog Breeds Originating in Japan

Think you're an expert on Japanese dog breeds?

Let's find out.

Japan is known for its spitz-type dogs that have ancient origins.  "Spitz" type dogs, means they tend to have thick fur, pointed ears, and muzzles. Their tails are heavily plumed, curled, and held over their backs. 

Most are larger dogs that won’t be featured on this small breed website, with a couple of exceptions. Many of the native dog breeds in Japan get their names from the region where they originated.   

For example, the Hokkaido-Inu is from Hokkaido. The Shikoku-Inu is from Shikoku.  You’ll find that some Japanese dog breeds end with Inu and others, ken.  Both mean dogs.

Many of the native Japanese dog breeds are extremely rare, even in Japan.  Others, such as the Shiba Inu, are viral, thanks to Kabosu, a top-rated and famous Internet dog.  Other breeds may not have originated in Japan but were introduced and later developed there, such as the Japanese Chin.

The original Japanese dog breeds share many of the same temperament traits, including loyalty, bravery, and cautiousness. Most are affectionate, intelligent, and relatively easy to train.  If you have a Japanese breed puppy, consider our suggestions for Japanese dog names.

Akita Inu

Akita InuAkita Inu

The Akita is a highly regarded dog breed originating from the northern region of Japan. Specifically, from Akita.  Some people think they are just a larger version of the Shiba Inu, but there are more differences than simple appearance.  

There are two varieties of the Akita, the Japanese Akita Inu, and the American Akita.  Both are considered two separate breeds except in Canada and the U.S.

Probably the most famous Akita Inu was Hachikō, a Japanese Akita owned by a professor at the Tokyo Imperial University.  Every day, Hachikō would meet his owner at the Shibuya Station after work.  He continued to do this faithfully even after his owner had died of a cerebral hemorrhage at work one day.

As the story goes, each day, for the next nine years, this dog, Hachikō, awaited Ueno's return, appearing precisely when the train was due at the station. 

These dogs can be independent and wary of strangers.  They may not do well with other dogs, especially those of the same gender.  If you are considering one of these dogs, expect to pay top dollars and spend a considerable amount of time training and socializing.  This would not be a good choice for first-time dog owners.

Shiba Inu

Of all the Japanese dog breeds, the Shiba Inu is the most popular worldwide.  They may look like the Akita or Hokkaido in photographs, but they are actually much smaller.  Still, they were bred and developed to hunt like other Japanese Breeds, but their prey was smaller.

In Japanese, “Shiba” means “brushwood,” which is a shrub that turns red/brown during Autumn – a color similar to their coat color.   They seem to get along better with cats than other dogs and may not be the right choice for families with young children.  They, too, will need early socialization and training but have agreeable personalities.  They are considered average in intelligence, but because they are also stubborn, training may not always go smoothly.

One remarkable trait that these dogs share is what you might hear as the Shiba Scream.  You’ll be likely to listen to this unusual vocalization, whether they are stressed or delighted.

Read more about the Shiba Inu Dog Breed Profile.

Hokkaido Ken

The Hokkaido Inu, also called the Dō-ken, Ainu-ken, Seta, Ainu dog, Hokkaido-Ken, is native to the most northern island, also called Hokkaido and may go by the names Ainu Ken, Seta, and Ainu dog.

Their coats are longer and thicker than other Japanese breeds to help protect them from the cold, harsh winters of the Hokkaido region. 

Although larger than the Shiba Inu and smaller than the Akita Inu, these dogs were also used for hunting in the cold, snowy terrains of Northeast Japan.  

Kai Ken

The Kai Ken is another rare breed even in Japan but considered to be a national treasure to its home and protected by the Nihon Ken Hozonkai (Nippo). 

They were bred to hunt deer, boar, and even bears in the mountainous region of Yamanashi. They are a versatile breed with athletic abilities that include swimming, climbing trees, and of course, hunting.  You might find this breed represented in the Japanese anime and manga.

Shikoku Inu

Shikoku InuShikoku Inu

Another Spitz-type dog that was initially developed in the Shikoku region of southern Japan for hunting.  This is a mountainous region, so successful hunting dogs here needed to be fast, agile and able to endure long hunting treks. 

Though they resemble the Shiba Inu, they are still officially a separate breed that has been recognized with the AKC in its Foundation Stock Services.  It is also recognized with the Japanese Kennel Club and the Canadian Kennel Club.

Kishu Inu or Kisha Ken

The Kishu Ken or Inu is a very ancient breed and may have been bred in Japan for several thousands of years.   Wag Walking, 

True to form, this breed gets its name because it originated in the Kishu region (Wakayama today), and like most of the other original Japanese breeds, the Kishu was used for hunting deer and boar. They are called the “silent hunter” of Japan because of their stealthy methods of hunting—always alert and light on their feet, they can sneak up on their prey before the prey is even aware of their presence.

Japanese Chin

No one knows for sure where these dogs originated.  Some say China and others, Korea. As with other Asian breeds, these dogs could have been the product of Buddhist monks, Chinese emperors, or ancient merchants, but what is known is that the Japanese had a roll in perfecting the breed we recognize today.

They were likely crossed with other small spaniel type dogs until they reached the look of today.  It wasn’t until around 1854 that Japan first reopened trade after 200 years of isolation, thanks to Commodore Matthew Perry, who sailed into Uraga Harbor near Edo — now modern-day Tokyo. 

After that, the Japanese Chin became a popular product and were imported into Britain and the United States.

Today, the Chin is likely the smallest of all the Japanese breeds weighing in between 7 and 10 pounds.  It is also the most cat-like.  The Japanese Chin is catlike in many ways.

Just like cats, the Japanese Chin likes to groom himself by licking his paws and wiping them on his face and head.  They also love to be perched high up, so expect to see one sitting on the back of a sofa or on a table.  

People who have owned Chin say that they are so sensitive that their humans’ emotions tend to shape their own personalities.  This may be true of other small breeds as well. 

For example, Chins in quiet homes tend to be quiet and reserved, whereas those raised in noisy, active homes won’t stay quiet or lazy for long.

Read more about the Japanese Chin Dog Breed Profile

Japanese Spitz

The Japanese Spitz looks very similar to the German Spitz and American Eskimo dog.  As a distinctively Spitz-type dog, they are eager to please, keen to entertain you, and ready to learn. 

It is believed that these dogs were developed from white German Spitz dogs that were introduced into Japan around 1920 through Siberia and China.  As with most dog breeds, history is unknown because most breeding records were destroyed during WWII.

Unlike many of the traditional Japanese breeds, this dog is entirely a companion breed, preferring to be inside, warm, and near your side. Still, they are playful, energetic, and affectionate.  In April 2019, this breed was introduced into the American Kennel Club Foundation Stock Services.

Read more about the Japanese Spitz Dog Breed Profile

Japanese Terrier

The Japanese Terrier is often referred to as the Nippon Terrier and is extremely rare even in Japan. The theory goes that the ancestors of this breed were brought to Japan by Dutch merchant ships and then crossed with fox terriers, pointers, and other indigenous Japanese dogs. 

Much of their history is shrouded in mystery, so we may never know exactly how they came to be one of Japan’s smallest rare breeds.

Read more about the Japanese Terrier Dog Breed Profile

Tosa Inu

The Tosa Inu is another rare dog breed from the region of Tosa, Japan and is often referred to as the Japanese mastiff because of its colossal size.  They were initially bred to be fighting dogs but used today mainly as guard dogs.  The Tosa Inu was developed in the 19th century using the Shikoku Inu, English mastiff, Saint Bernard, English Bulldog, Great Dane, German Pointer, and Bull Terrier.  

They can be found all over the world today, but those bred in Japan are much smaller than their cousins bred abroad.

Any of these native Japanese breeds would love love to have a Japanese Dog Name.

Japanese Dog Names

You can find the perfect Japanese Dog Names by look at the culture of Japan.  Visit place names, food and common words that most western English speaking people will recognize.  Or, find traditional boy and girl Japanese names along with their meanings from the lists below.

Japanese Dog Names Based on Places in Japan

Japanese Dog Names Based on Place NamesJapanese Dog Names Based on Place Names

Ashi – a lake

Fuji – another city in central Japan

Fushimi – a shrine in Kyoto.

Kawasaki – the city, located between Tokyo and Yokohama.

Kobe – the sixth-largest city in Japan

Kochi - the capital city of Kochi Prefecture, situated on the Kagami River

Kyoto – a city located in central Japan.

Oki –a chain of more than a hundred small islands southwest of mainland Japan

Osaka – one of Japan’s  largest cities

Sapporo – Japan’s fifth-largest city

Tokyo – the capital of Japan

Yoko – Yokohama located south of Tokyo

Japanese Dog Names Based on Japanese Food Everyone Can Relate To

Sushi roll showed with chopsticks.Japanese Dog Names Based on Food

Edamame - young soybeans served in the pod after blanching and salting 

Hibachi - Grill used to cook traditional Japanese dishes

Manjū – confection made from flour or rice powder and filled with red bean paste

Miso - soup made with a stock called dashi and other ingredients such as fish and kelp

Natto - made by fermenting soybeans and smells similar to moldy cheese

Pocky - a type of biscuit snack popular with children.

Ramen – a Japanese soup dish.

Rice Cake - Not the best example, but a great name for a white dog.

Ryokucha – a Japanese green tea.

Sake – a Japanese rice wine.

Sashimi – fresh raw meat or fish sliced into thin pieces. Often confused with sushi

Sesame - a common ingredient found in many Japanese dishes

Soba – the Japanese name for buckwheat. It’s commonly used for noodles.

Sushi – A favorite world-wid;  sushi rice, vegetables, raw fish or seafood is combined, 

Tempura – a Japanese meal consisting of thickly battered and fried seafood or vegetables 

Tofu - food made from soy milk that is thickened and pressed into white blocks, sometimes soft, and other times firm.

Udon –wheat flour noodles in Japanese cuisine.

Wasabi - spicy horseradish

Japanese Dog Names for Girls

Ai - pronounced eye meaning love

Aiko – child of love

Airi – love jasmine

Akemi – bright beautiful

Akiko – bright child

Akira – bright/clear

Asami – morning beauty

Asuka – tomorrow perfume, fragrance

Ayame – iris

Ayano – my color

Ceiko – child of splendor

Chieko – child of intelligence, wisdom

Chika – scatter flowers

More Japanese Dog Names for Girls

Chiyo – one thousand generations

Chiyoko – child of a thousand generations

Emi – beautiful blessing

Emiko – beautiful blessing child

Eri – blessed prize

Etsuko – child of joy

Fumiko – child of abundant beauty

Hana – flower

Hanako – flower child

Haru – spring

Haruko – spring child

Haruna – spring vegetables

Hideko – child of excellence

Hikari – light, radiance

Hina – sun vegetables

Hiro – generous

Hiroko – generous child

Hiromi – generous beauty

Hisako – child of long life

Hitomi – the pupil of the eye

Honoka – harmony flower

Hoshi – star

Hoshiko – star child

Hotaru – firefly

Izumi – spring, fountain

Kamiko – superior child

Katsumi – victorious beauty

Kazuko – child of harmony

Kazumi – harmonious beauty

Kei - (Pronounced Kaye) happiness

Keiko – blessed child / respectful child

Kiko – chronical child

Kimi – noble

Kimiko – empress child

Kiyomi – pure beauty

Kumiko – a long-time beautiful child

Kyo – cooperation

Kyoko – respectful child

Madoka – circle, round

Mai – dance

Maiko – child of dance

Maki – true hope

Makoto – sincere

Mami – true beauty

Female Puppy Japanese Dog Names for Girls

Mana – love

Manami – loving beautiful

Mao – dance cherry blossom

Mariko – village child

Masa – just / true

Masumi – true clarity

Mayumi – true gentle beauty

Mi – beautiful

Michi – pathway

Michiko – beautiful, wise child

Mieko – beautiful blessing child

Miho – protected, guaranteed beauty

Mika – beautiful fragrance

Miki – beautiful princess

Miku – beautiful sky

Minako – beautiful child

Minori – truth

Mio – beautiful cherry blossom

Misaki – beautiful blossom

Mitsuko – child of light

Mitsuru – satisfy, full

Miwa – beautiful harmony, peace

Miyako – beautiful night child

Miyu – beautiful gentle

Miyuki – blessing

Japanese Dog Names for Girls:  More Ideas

Momoka – peach tree flower

Moriko – child of the forest

Nana – seven

Nanami – seven seas

Nao – honest

Naoko – honest child

Naomi – honest beautiful

Natsuki – summer hope

Natsumi – beautiful summer

Nobuko – faithful, trustworthy child

Noriko – lawful child

Ren – lotus/love

Rika – true fragrance

Riko – child of truth

Rin – dignified

Rina – jasmine

Still More Suggestions for Japanese Dog Names for Girls

Rio – village cherry blossom

Ryoko – refreshing child

Sachiko – joyful, happy child

Saki – bloom of hope

Sakura – cherry blossom

Satoko – wise child

Satomi – beautiful and wise

Shigeko – growing child

Shika – deer

Shinju – pearl

Shiori – poem

Shizuka – quiet summer

Shizuko – quiet child

Sora – sky

Sumiko – child of clarity

Suzu – bell

Suzume – sparrow

Takako – noble child

Takara – treasure

Tamiko – child of many beauties

Teruko – shining child

More Ideas for Japanese Dog Names for Female Dogs

Tomiko – child of wealth, fortune

Tomomi – beautiful friend

Toshiko – clever child

Umeko – plum child

Wakana – harmonious music

Yasu – peace

Yasuko – child of peace

Yoko – child of sunlight

Yoshi – lucky/righteous

Yoshie – beautiful stream

Yoshiko – child of goodness

Yua – binding love

Yui – bind clothing

Yuina – bind together

Yuka – gentle flower

Yukari – beautiful pear tree

Yuki – happiness/snow

Yukiko – child of happiness

Yuko – a gentle child

Yumi – reason beautiful

Yumiko – reason beautiful child

Yuri – lily

Yuriko – lily child

Yuuna – gentle

Japanese Dog Names for Boys

Akemi – the beauty of dawn

Aki – bright / autumn

Akihiro  - Shining Abroad

Arata  - Fresh 

Botan  - Flower for June

Dai – Beloved and adored one

Eiji – Splendid Ruler

Haru – Born in the spring

Haruki – shining sun

Haruto – sun flying

Hideki – excellent timber trees

Hiroaki – spacious light

Hiroki – vast timber trees

Jiro – Second born son

Joji – Farmer

Jun – Obedient

Juro – Tenth son

Kaoru – fragrance

Katashi – firm

More Japanese Dog Names for Boys

Katsu – Victory

Kenta – Healthy, stout

Kisho – One who knows his own mind

Koji – Happy second-born son

Masa – Good Son

Michi – Pathway

Nao – Honest

Nobu – Faith

Norio – Man of principles

Renjiro - an honest and upright man

Ringo – Apple; Peace be with you

Ryo - Excellent

Seiko - The force of truth

Shima – an Island Dweller

Shiro - fourth-born son

Shun - Quick or smart

Shuu - Responsible man

Still More Japanese Dog Names for Boys

Taiki – great radiance, shine

Takahiro – of great value, nobility

Taashi – prosperous, noble

Tama – a Jewel

Taro - Strong A great son

Tomi – Rich, wealthy, red

Toru Wayfarer

Toyo – Plentiful

Yogi – one that practices Yoga

Yori - Dependence

Yu - Resembling Jade

Yuji – Courageous second son

Yuki - brave spirit

Yuri – To hear

Yuta - strong and masculine

More Familiar Japanese Words That Make Great Japanese Dog Names

Cherry Blossoms in the Springtime JapanCherry Blossoms

Blossom - Iconic Japanese Image

Cherry - as in the iconic Japanese cherry blossoms

Emoji popular symbols used in electronic communications

Haiku - Japanese or Chinese poem

Kimono - traditional dress

Bamboo - Common plant grown in Japan

Bento - take out box lunch

Bonsai - tiny trees

Chopstick - eating utensil

Dojo - classroom or hall for learning martial arts

Futon - mat

Geisha - Female entertainer

Ginkgo - grown in Japan and Chinna that has fan-shaped leaves and yellow fruit

Ichi - means one

Karaoke - where amateur singers sing to recorded music

Karate -a type of martial art

Kimono - a traditional full-length robe worn by women, men, children

Koi - type or ornamental fish; great for an orange and white dog

Ninja - Japanese assassins,

Obi - wide belt tied in the back to secure a kimono

Origami - the art of folding paper into paper sculptures

Rickshaw - human pulled wagon

Samurai - ancient warriors

Sensei - teacher

Sudoku - popular number puzzle

Tsunami - colossal wave caused by earthquakes

Typhoon nasty storm

Zen - quiet meditation

Pin for Future Reference

Japanese Dog Names PinJapanese Dog Names Pin

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About Janice (author and voice behind this site)

Having lived with dogs and cats most of her life, Janice served as a veterinary technician for ten years in Maryland and twelve years as a Shih Tzu dog breeder in Ohio.

Her education includes undergraduate degrees in Psychology with a minor in biology, Early Childhood Education, and Nursing, and a master's in Mental Health Counseling.

She is a lifelong learner, a dog lover, and passionate about the welfare of animals. Her favorite breed for over 50 years has been the Shih Tzu, but she has also lived with Poodles, Maltese, Yorkshire Terriers, Beagles, English Bulldogs, Carin Terriers, and a Cocker Spaniel.

When not writing, reading, and researching dog-related topics, she likes to spend time with her eight Shih Tzu dogs, husband, and family, as well as knitting and crocheting. She is also the voice behind Miracle Shih Tzu and Smart-Knit-Crocheting

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