Hello, Kyra here! This is Onamae wa? #5, our weekly encounter where we pick Anime character’s names and look for anything interesting in them.
This time we’ll head into the mountains and pray to the Bear God in hope that it reveals secrets behind not only one, but two names! Be sure to bring some offerings: fish or anything high-tech works great, so I’ve heard. Be ready to dance some 神楽 (kagura; ancient Shinto music and dancing)!
Our guides into these old rites are 雨宿り(ama.yado.ri) まち (machi) and クマ井 (kuma.i) ナツ(natsu), main protagonists of Kuma Miko, a comedy show currently airing. Due to how strict are these religious traditions, it is recommended to have watched up to Episode 6 to avoid being affected by cursed spoilers.
So, what do we know about 雨宿り(ama.yado.ri) まち (machi)? Our lovely girl is a 巫女 (mi.ko; shrine maiden in Shinto religion). Back in the good old days being a Miko was much like a shaman while in modern Japanese culture it is understood as someone who does all sort of work related to keeping a Shrine, from cleaning to performing sacred cleansing or the 神楽 (kagura), a sacred dance. She was raised with Natsu, a talking bear with whom she keeps a very interesting friendship. Well, I personally see our bear as a Guardian to her. Now 14 years old, she has been bugging Natsu about going to the 都会 (to.kai, “big” city) and leave behind the boring life in the mountains and her duties as the local Miko. While Bear claims she lacks necessary skills to live in the dangerous world that is a big city, he is giving his support by training her (not the best teacher out there, as we have seen on Episode 6). Let’s ask her… Machi-chan, お名前は？
As usual, first will be her Family Name, 雨宿り (ama.yadori):
There is a lot here! Just looking at these two makes me seriously doubt that this is not intentional.
First we have 雨, a very common kanji meaning rain. As a radical it is commonly used in weather related terms like 雲 (kumo; cloud), 雪 (yuki; snow) and 電 (inazuma; flash of lightning). This last one is also used as anything related to electricity, like 電話 (den.wa; telephone) or 電気 (den.ki; electricity). In Kumamiko there is a lot of reference to the rain and the weather, as in ancient times these were believed to be a display of the Gods’ mood. Many times over the series this was emphasized.
“So what, Kyra?”, you might think. Hold on to this and check our next kanji.
宿 has a lot of meanings, all related to one word: shelter. Be it a home, an inn, some natural cave or the womb of a mother, all of those are depicting the act of taking shelter. And why should someone needs to take shelter? Yup, to protect themselves from something, like weather or predators. Hmm.
Oh. What if we put these two together? Turns out that there is already word for that. 雨宿り(ama.yado.ri) itself means the act of taking shelter from rain. By what we saw up there, we could then say that it is also the act of taking shelter from the Gods. To go even further, you probably have heard about Amaterasu, the main goddess of Shinto religion, very often depicted in popular culture, be it games, anime or literature. Her name is written as 天照 (ama.terasu; lit. shining in heaven). 天 here is read as [ama], one possible reading of 雨. So going back to Machi’s family name, we could write it as 天宿り(ama.yado.ri), same reading but now directly pointing out the meaning of taking shelter from the Heavens.
Machi mentions on episode 3 that she is just doing whatever her Grandma told her to do and considering the Kumai Clan story explained on episode 1, it is safe to say that her lineage has been doing this for a long time. While it would be unusual to pick your mother’s Family Name, considering we are talking about Shrine Maidens I could see this same name being used for all of them. At least her mother, Fuchi Amayadori and her Grandma, Etsuko Amayadori, both carry it. Being a shelter from the Heavens sounds like a befitting title for someone who was believed to be able to communicate with the Gods and to ease their wrath. I can see this being the case for all previous Mikos but… what about Machi? From what we have seen, could she instead be the one looking for shelter from the Heavens? And where could she find something like that? A place where Gods would have a harder time reaching her. And where would that be?
There is yet another possibility. 宿る (yado.ru) can also mean to be pregnant, from the idea that the woman carries another one inside her. So when you put 天宿り(ama.yado.ri), we could also be looking at being pregnant from the Heavens. Woah! While Machi herself makes it clear on Episode 1 that Mikos and the virgin who had an offspring with the Bear God are different things, it does ring a bell nicely.
Hmm. Let’s take a look on her Given name, まち(machi)…
Wait, what? Another name without kanji? We just had one on last weekend [Onamae wa?] #4… Amaterasu, please give me strength!
Alright, here are a few words and names that could be read as [machi]:
- 町 (machi; town, neighbourhood)
- 待ち (ma.chi; waiting, waiting time)
- 真地 (ma.chi; name. “True Land”, “Real Land”)
- 真知 (ma.chi; name. “True Wisdom”)
- 麻智 (ma.chi; name “Numb Intellect”… WOAH RUDE)
Hmm. Number 1 is the first word that will come to anyone who knows a bit of Japanese and right away this seems like the best choice. Take a look at the others though. Number 2 seems weird for a name. We don’t know for sure if she has been willing to go to the big city for long. Number 3 has a figurative meaning on what I’ll discuss about 1. Number 4 is out of question, sorry Machi-chan. She is surely trying her best, but I would never put Wisdom in my resume if I were her. On the other hand, Number 5 fits quite nicely into her attempts into showing knowledge about modern life. Not being rude, this is partially because of her upbringing, sorry Machi. Episode 6 hits very hard on this point. Although being a comedy, you can feel that this is a real problem for her.
Before going back to Number 1 and 3, a quick explanation is necessary. Like any language, there are many ways to call a place where a lot of humans live, based on how many inhabitants, city facilities, etc. Kumamiko takes place in a 村 (mura; village) named 熊出 (kuma.de; literally Bears coming out, appearing or origin). Upon hearing about Uniqlo on Episode 2, Machi mentions that there is one in the neighboring 町 (machi; town, city). Then we have her main objective, a 高等学校 (kou.tou.gak.kou; High School, often abbreviated to 高校, koukou) in what is only called as 都会 (to.kai; city). Here we have a simple hierarchy: 村 > 町 > 都会. While there are many other terms in Japanese language, we’ll focus here. One point to note is that while you could never call a 村 (mura; village) by using 町 (machi; town), you could safely call a not very big 都会 (to.kai, city) by using 町.
After reading all of these, check her Full Name again. 雨宿りまち(ama.yado.ri machi). If we swap that まち for 町, we get 雨宿り町, a town/city where you can take shelter from the rain. And just to make it even clearer, it could also be written as 天宿り町, a town/city where you can take shelter from the Heavens. Exactly! Going back to our question up there, what is the best place to run away from your duties as a Miko? What is the best place to hide from the Heavens? In a city, surrounded by concrete walls and building that mitigates the weather, making it easier for one to leave behind her past as a Shrine Maiden and live her life as she pleases. Woah, deep.
huuuuu hei huuuuu hei huuuuu~ (old man’s voice)
Let’s put Machi aside a bit so she can digest our new take on her name and have a short talk with Mr. Bear, クマ井 (kuma.i) ナツ(natsu), starting with his Family (Clan is more suitable here) Name, クマ井(kuma.i). Although having a kanji 熊 (kuma; bear), it is very often presented in katakana, like in Natsu’s case: クマ(kuma). For the sake of our research, here is 熊井:
Well, is is as simple as it looks. Considering it is a village centered around a Bear God, it is just natural that a Clan originated from the legend presented on Episode 1 would be named 熊井 (kuma.i; Bear Community). The use of [well] here is not uncommon either. A very common Family Name in Japan is 井上 (i.noue; above the well, up the well). During Meiji Restoration in late 19th Century, among many other changes, people were able to choose freely their Surname. This led to a huge boon in family name variety in Japan, a stark contrast to how it is in most Southeast Asia countries. In China, most surnames have been used for millennia already! During this relatively recent wave of changes in Japan, many people would just pick easy reference names like 井上 (because they live a little past the well) or 山本 (yama.moto; because they live near the base of a mountain). We probably won’t find much here, as far as deep meaning goes. Let’s move on.
Our bear bears (HAH) ナツ(na.tsu) as his Given Name. We covered a bit of it back in Subaru Natsuki – onamae wa? #4, but here we can just go ahead and say it is probably because of its yellow-orange-brown-more-like-orange-I-guess-fur.
If I wanted to be really picky though, I could point out another trivia, most likely coincidental. Although weather in Japan is a very complicated matter, what is known as Rainy Season happens between June and July and 夏 (natsu; Summer) takes place between May-Aug in Japan. So Natsu is the time when weather is most likely to go bad and thus God’s mood are more prone to be bad as well.
This leads to some interesting food for thought when you think that a girl who bears (WOULD YOU PLEASE STOP THIS JOKE ALREADY?) the Family Name 雨宿り (ama.yado.ri; act of taking shelter from rain) with a Bear whose name is the season with the most incidence of Rain, it just feels right. As it was pictured in the show, Machi and Natsu relationship is something deeply entangled. You could even say they depend on each other. On Episode 6, this idea is even more pronounced on their quarrel, flashback and reconciliation. In other words:
Without Summer, taking shelter from rain loses a lot of its meaning.
Without Natsu, Amayadori loses a lot of its meaning.
Now that we bear-ly made it here (やめてくれよ(yametekureyo; please stop!), let’s review our guests today!
雨宿り(ama.yado.ri) まち (machi), the one looking for shelter from the Heavens in the big city.
クマ井 (kuma.i) ナツ(natsu), the Bear who gives meaning to the Amayadori family.
Thanks for your time, hope you guys enjoyed our trip into the mountains. KumaMiko is currently my second favorite show of Spring 2016 and I really recommend it. Yesterday I wrote about names in Shokugeki no Souma as well, so if you are curious, please go ahead and take a look. See you all next weekend!
kumaaaaaaaaaaaaaa mikooooooooooooo~ (old man’s voice)