Summary: My Buddhist Priest cousin invents a kanji name for me
In my immediate family, apart from my mother, I am the only one who has a Japanese name. My middle name, Asai (浅井), is my mom’s family name (it means “shallow well”).
My middle brother almost got a Japanese first name. My parents debated naming him Kenji, but decided against it at the last minute. So he is named Kenneth.
While poring over and translating our Japanese family tree at Keishoji, I commented that I wished I had a kanji name. My last name, Loftus, would be difficult, since the closest Japanese approximation would be something like, “roh-foo-tah-su”). But my first name, Toby, has sounds readily replicatable in Japanese.
My cousin, the Buddhist priest at the temple where we were doing our family research, overheard this. I noticed him thumbing through a Japanese dictionary and scribbling notes over the next day or two. On the last day of our visit, he handed me a piece of paper with a kanji name he created for me. He used these three characters:
Two of the kanji are quite clear. The first one is associated with flying. The second one, Utsukushii, means beauty or beautiful. That character is in my mother’s name, as well as my Aunt Mika’s and late Uncle Min’s, and I am happy to share part of my name with them.
The third kanji is a bit more difficult to translate. My cousin the priest translated it as “support,” but potential meanings associated with this character are more broad. Another cousin informed me that this character is used in “fiber” (繊維), “maintain” (維持), and “restoration” (維新). By itself, it can mean connect, support, make bigger, and more.
For example, a single thread or piece of yarn (糸) can be wound and spun into something bigger: a rope (維). He also found a cool word, “Ten-i” (天維), which means “An imaginary net that exists to keep heaven (or sky) from falling to the earth.”
Apparently my interest in researching the family tree and strengthening family ties across the Pacific Ocean impressed my Japanese relatives. Everyone in Japan with whom I shared my new name deemed it to be a very good and fitting one for me.
Humbled, I hope to live up to my Japanese name.