Japanese Warship Names

The Japanese language is highly poetical in nature, and it is not surprising that even Japanese warships carried names which were very lyrical. The partial list below was transcribed by Brooks Rowlett. It is arranged in order of date of launching of the vessel in question, class by class. Comments or corrections are welcome. And if anybody out there has a hankering for Japanese calligraphy and wants to conjure up a few of these for me, I'd love to have them.

Names of Battleships

Capital ships were mostly named after provinces, although Kongo-class, being battlecruisers, were named after mountains.

Kongo class
Kongo: "Stability" - "The invincibility of Buddhism"
Hiei: "The Cold" - a monastery and mountain, NE of Kyoto
Kirishima: "Misty Island", a volcano
Haruna: A volcano

Fuso class
Fuso: "Land of Divine Mulberry Trees" (an old name forJapan)
Yamashiro: A province, contains Kyoto

Ise class
Ise: A province, east of Yamato (q.v.)
Hyuga: A province, contains Miyazaki

Nagato class
Nagato: A province
Mutsu: A province, the northern tip of Hokkaido

Tosa (Kaga) class
Tosa: A province, contains Kochi

Kii class
Kii: A province, contains Wakayama, Owari

Yamato class
Yamato: A province, contains Nara and points south. Also, an ancient name for Japan
Musashi: A province, includes Tokyo

Names of Aircraft Carriers

Aircraft carriers and seaplane carriers were mostly named after mythical flying creatures.

Hosho class
Hosho: "How a phoenix dives", implies power

Kaga class
Kaga: "Increased Joy", a province name (Kaga was originally laid down as a battleship)

Akagi class
Akagi: "Red Castle", a volcano in the Kanto area (Akagi was originally laid down as a battlecruiser)

Ryujo class
Ryujo: "Such as a dragon builds", "Sacred Dragon"

Soryu class
Soryu: "Blue-gray dragon"
Hiryu: "Dragon Flying in Heaven"

Zuiho class
Zuiho: "Lucky or Auspicious Phoenix"
Shoho: "Luckbringing Phoenix"

Ryuho class
Ryuho: "Dragon and Phoenix"

Shokaku class
Shokaku: "Crane Flying in Heaven" (also "Happy Crane")
Zuikaku: "Lucky or Fortunate or Auspicious Crane"

Hiyo class
Hiyo: "A Falcon Flying Away"
Junyo: "Wandering Falcon"

Taiho class
Taiho: "Great or Greater Phoenix"

Shinano class
Shinano: A province, containing Nagano City (Shinano was originally laid down as a battleship); also the longest river in Japan

Unryu class
Unryu: "Cloud of a Heaven-flying dragon", "Dragon in Clouds"
Amagi: "Heaven castle," a volcano
Katsuragi "Katsura Castle," a mountain

Chitose class
Chitose: "1000 Years," or, "Long Life", a city
Chiyoda: "That which will live 1000 years or 1000 generations", "Like the Fields" (also the name of the Imperial palace in Tokyo)

Taiyo class
Taiyo: "Greater falcon"
Unyo: "Cloud falcon"
Chuyo "High Seas Falcon"

Kaiyo class
Kaiyo "Sea falcon"

Shinyo class
Shinyo: "Condor"

Mizuho class
Mizuho: Juicy rice ears

Nisshin class
Nisshin: Daily fort patrol

Names of Heavy Cruisers

Large, Heavy or "Type A" Cruisers were named mostly after mountains, but Mogami-class were named after rivers as they were originally laid down as Type-B (light) cruisers.

Furutaka and Aoba classes
Furutaka: "Older Falcon" (a mountain)
Kako: "Captain", a river
Aoba: "Green Leaf", a mountain
Kinugasa: "Silk Parasol", a mountain

Myoko class
Myoko: A volcano
Nachi: A mountain in Kii (q.v.) province
Haguro: A mountain
Ashigara: A mountain

Takao class
Takao: "High Hero", a mountain NW of Kyoto
Atago A mountan near Kyoto
Maya: A mountain north of Kobe
Chokai: "Bird Sea", a volcano in Ugo province

Mogami class
Mogami: A river, divides the Ugo and Uzen provinces
Mikuma: "Three Corners", a river
Kumano: "Snowbell Ringer", a river
Suzuya: A river

Tone class
Tone: "Land Possessor", the river between Musashi (q.v.) and Shimosa provinces
Chikuma: A mountain in Tango province

Names of Light Cruisers

Light, Small, or "Type B" cruisers were generally named after rivers & streams.

Tenryu class
Tenryu: "Heaven's Dragon", a river rising at Lake Suwa, in Shinano (q.v.) province - has famous rapids.
Tatsuta: "Dragon Field", a river in Yamato (q.v.) province

Kuma class
Kuma: "Wounded Valley", a river in higo province
Tama: "Mountain Top", or "Wetlands", a river in Musashi (q.v.) province, also a mountain and a place name
Kitakami: "Territory" - a river and a mountain range in Rikuchu province
Oi: "Greater Fountain", a river
Kiso: "Steep Slope", a region near Nagano

Nagara class
Nagara: "River", a river.
Isuzu: "Clear Water" or "50 Bells" , a river.
Yura: "Sand Region", a river in Tango province
Natori: A river
Kinu: "Planted Field", a river
Abukuma: A river

Naka class
Naka: "Water", a river
Sendai: "Natural lake", a river in Satsuma (q.v.) province
Jintsu: "Wonderful Godly Works", a river

Yubari class
Yubari: "Origin at the Hot Springs", a river

Katori class
Katori: A river, and shrine founded by Jimmu Tenno, the divine first emperor
Kashima: "Ferry Island", a place and shrine in hitachi province
Kashii: "Stream Ford", a place on Hakuta bay, and a shrine

Agano class
Agano: "Slope Water", a river, mouth at Matsusasaki town
Noshiro: "Large Passage Through a Plain" - a river in Ugo province
Yahagi: "Fletcher" (arrow maker), a river in Mikawa province
Sakawa: A river in sagami (q.v.) province

Oyodo class
Oyodo: "Big Standing Water", a river

Names of Destroyers

First class destroyers were named after environmental or calendar names.

Minekaze class
Sawakaze : "Wind from a Swamp" (Lowlands Wind)
Minekaze: "Summit Wind"
Okikaze: "High Seas Wind"
Shimakaze: "Island Wind"
Yakaze: "Wind of an Arrow's Flight"
Hakaze: "Wind from a Wing Stroke", "Following Wind", or "Wind Dancing in Branches"
Nadakaze: "Wind over the Restless (Open) Sea'"
Shiokaze: "Wind and Flame ("Sea Breeze")
Akikaze: "Autumn Wind"
Tachikaze: "Wind from a Swinging Sword", or "Wind From a Sword Stroke"
Yukaze: "Evening Wind"
Hokaze: "Wind on the Sail"
Nokaze: "Wind over Fields"
Numakaze: "Wind over the Marsh"
Namikaze: "High Wave and Strong Wind"

Kamikaze class
Kamikaze: "Divine (God-made) Wind"
Asakaze: "Wind from the Sea after Sunrise" (Sea breeze, Morning Breeze)
Harukaze: "Spring Wind"
Matsukaze: "Wind in the Pines"
Hatakaze: "Flag-flying Wind", "Flag-fluttering breeze"
Asanagi: "Morning Calm" (Cessation of the Asakaze (q.v.))
Yunagi: "Evening Calm" (Cessation of the Land Breeze) (wind from land after sunset)
Oite:Tailwind (Fair or favorable wind)
Hayate: "Storm Gust" (Gale)

Mutsuki class
Satsuki: "Month of First Buds"
Kisarigi: "Second Month"
Yayoi: "Month of Growing Plants"
Mutsuki: "Month (moon) of First Rice-Sowing"
Uzuki: "Month of Blooming Makinos"
Fumizuki: "Month of Rice Ears"
Kikuzuki: "Month of Chrysanthemum Blooms"
Minazuki: "Sixth Month"
Mikazuki: "Sickle Moon"
Nagatsuki: "Month of Long Moonlight"
Yuzuki: "Evening Moon"
Mochizuki: "Full Moon"

Fubuki class
Murakumo: "Gathering Clouds" or "Cluster of Clouds"
Hatsuyuki: "Winter's or Year's First Snow"
Fubuki: "Snowstorm"
Isonami: "Shore Wave" (Surf)
Shinonome: "Morning Twilight" or "Daybreak Clouds"
Usugumo: "Thin Misty Clouds"
Shirakumo: "White Clouds"
Shirayuki: "White Snow"
Miyuki: "Deep Snow"
Uranami: "Waves in a Bay", "Bay Wave"
Shikinami: "Rolling Waves" (Waves Chasing One Another)
Ayanami: "Wave Patterns", "Weave Wave", (Waves whose beauty suggests figures woven in silk)
Asagiri: "Morning Mist"
Sagiri: "Mist"
Amagiri: "Dampening (Dewey) Mist", "Mist in the Sky"
Yugiri: "Evening Mist"
Akebono: "Daybreak (Dawn)"
Oboro: "Mist Veil Through Which Only a Shade of the Moon is Visible", or "Haziness Diffusing the Moonlight"
Ushio: "Tide"
Sazanami: "Curling Waves (Ripples)", or "Pretty, Small Waves Raised by a Zephyr"

Akatsuki class
Ikazuchi: "Thunder"
Inazuma: "Lightning (Thunderbolt)"
Akatsuki: "Dawn"
Hibiki: "Echo"

Hatsuharu class
Nenohi: "New Year Festival of Old Japan"
Hatsuharu: "Spring Rains"
Hatsushimo: "First Frost of Season"
Wakaba: "Fresh Verdure" (Young leaf or leaves)
Yugure: "Evening", "Evening Dusk"
Ariake: "Dawn, But Still the Moon Remains in the Sky", "Dawn Twilight"

Shiratsuyu class
Shiratsuyu: "Shimmering Dew" (White Dew)
Shigure: "The Frequent Rains of Fall and Winter" (Autumn Shower)
Murasame: "Frequent Rain Showers" (Scattered Showers), or just "Shower"
Samidare: "Monsoon Rain Over Land" (Early Summer Rain)
Harusame: "Light Spring Rain Before the Leaves Bud", or just "Spring Rain"
Yamakaze: "Mountain Wind" (Wind From the Hills)
Yudachi: "Evening Thunder Shower in Summer"
Kawakaze: "Winter Wind" (Wind on the River?)
Umikaze: "Sea Breeze"
Suzukaze: "Cool Breeze in Summer"

Asashio class
Asashio: "Morning High Tide"
Michishio: "Flood (Tide Running Full)"
Oshio: "High Tide"
Arashio: "Rough Sea Flood" (Tide)
Natsugumo: "White Summer Clouds"
Yamagumo: "Mountain Clouds (White Clouds in the Hills)
Minegumo: "Summit Clouds (White Cloud on the Mountain Peak)
Asagumo: "(White) Morning Clouds"
Arare: "Hail"
Kasumi: "Haze" (Mist of Flowers)

Kagero class
Shiranui: "Phosphorescent Foam"
Kuroshio: "Black Current" (Warm current from Japan across N. Pacific)
Kagero: "Glimmering Spring Air", or "The Shimmering Mist that Rises from the Earth on a Hot Day"
Oyashio: "Cold Current"
Hatsukaze: "Year's First Wind"
Natsushio: "Summer Tide"
Yukikaze: "Snowy Wind"
Hayashio: "Swift-Moving Tide"
Isokaze: "Wind on the Beach"
Amatsukaze: "Heavenly Wind"
Tokitsukaze: "Favorable Wind"
Urakaze: "Wind on the Sea"
Arashi: "Storm"
Hagikaze: "Wind Before the Horn Clover Blooms"
Nowaki: "Fall Gales"
Tanikaze: "Wind from the Mountain to the Valley"
Hamakaze: "Wind on the Strand"
Maikaze: "Whirlwind"

Yugumo class
Yugumo: "Evening Clouds"
Akigumo: "Autumn Clouds"
Kazegumo: "Clouds Driven by Heaven's Winds"
Makigumo: "Cirrus Clouds" (Rolling Clouds)
Makinami: "Overflowing Waves" (Rolling Wave)
Naganami: "Long Waves"
Takanami: "Pearly Waves" (High Wave?)
Onami: "Billow Wave" (Big Rough Waves)"
Kiyonami: "Clear Waves"
Hayanami: "Quickly-following Waves"
Tamanami: "High Climbing Waves"
Suzunami: "Breaking Waves"
Hamanami: "Beach Waves"
Fujinami: "Growth of Imperial Wisdom"
Asashimo: "Morning Frost"
Okinami: "High Seas Waves"
Kishinami: "Shore Waves"
Hayashimo: "Return to Time of Frost"
Akishimo: "Autumn Frost"
Kiyoshimo: "Clear Frost"

Shimakaze class
Shimakaze: "Island Wind"

Akizuki class
Akizuki: "Autumn Moon"
Teruzuki: "Pale or Lighter Moon, Shining Moon"
Suzutsuki: "Colder Moon"
Hatsutsuki: "New Moon"
Niizuki: "New Moon"
Wakatsuki: "Moon in First Quarter"
Shimotsuki: "11th Month" (Month of Frost, Frost Moon)
Fuyutsuki: "Winter Moon"
Harutsuki: "Spring Moon"
Yoizuki: "Moon Visible as Day Joins Evening"
Hanatsuki: "Blooming Moon"
Natsuzuki: "Summer Moon"

2nd-Class Destroyers

Second-class destroyers were named after plants.

Matsu class
Matsu: "Pine"
Momo: "Fir"
Take: "Bamboo"
Ume: "Apricot"
Kuwa: "Mulberry Tree"
Kiri: "Emperor Tree" (also called Paulownia)
Maki: "Large Interleaved Stone Yew"
Momi: "White Pine"
Sugi: "Pushing Cypress" (Cedar?)
Hinoki: "Sun Cypress"
Kaede: "Fan Horn"
Kaya: "Nut Yew"
Kashi: "Oak"
Sakura: "Cherry Tree"
Tsubaki: "Camellia"
Keyaki: "Japanese Elm"
Nara: "Painted-leaf Oak"
Yanagi: "Willow"

Tachibana class (Matsu Flight II)
Tachibana: "Orange"
Tsuta: "Young Fern", or "Fence Vine"
Nire: "Chinese Elm"
Hagi: "Two-Colored Clover Bush"
Kaki : "Cactus Fuzz"
Sumire: "Manchurian Violet"
Shii: (no English common name, species Schiia Sieboldii Makino)
Nashi: "Ornamental Pear"
Enoki: "Jelly Tree"?
Kusunoki: "Camphor Tree"
Hatsuzakura: "First-Blooming Cherry Blossoms"
Kaba: "Birch"
Odake: "Manlike Bamboos"
Hatsuuna: "First-Blooming Apricot"

Related Links:
Naming Convention of Japanese Navy Ships
Naming Conventions of US Navy Ships, 1940-1945

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