Explanations of Japanese company names updated

About half changed in the last week or so:

Japanese company names explained


Why ToyoTa cars but Mr ToyoDa?

Thoroughly (and amusingly) dealt with by Language Log here. More company names of JapanExplained here.

Why does no one understand when I talk about Baskin Robbins?

This is one I’d been wondering about on and off for a while, then by chance came across the answer to.

According to Confucius Lives Next Door,the company chose to call itself “31” in Japan as that is easier to pronounce, although as in Japanese it is written as サーティワン (saati wan) they were at best half successful. Like most written English, the words Baskin Robbins, which although not the official name are plastered all over the stores, are totally ignored

Why do some Japanese company names end in Co. Ltd?

In American it would just be Corp, so that suggests they are following the British system. But the short form for a Limited Company in British English is just Ltd, and I don’t think I’d even seen Co. Ltd. before I came to Japan. Some total guesses:

It is set in Japanese law as the official English translation of yugen kaisha (有限会社- lit. ownership limited company), like the also odd Diet and Prefecture.


It used to be that in British English, and has changed in the UK but not in Japan.

Both me and my Japanese students are dying to hear more theories on this one.

Why is it SMBC in English but MSBC in Japanese?

… or more properly SMBC in English but Mitsui Sumitomo Ginko (三井住友銀行) in Japanese.I’m guessing that when the two banks merged there was some kind of bureaucratic haggling that meant they got to have their name at the front in one language each.

Why is Isuzu spelt いすゞ and not いすず?

That last little sqiggle in the name is not normal hiragana, unlike the rest of the name. And it’s not just the truck company either, dentists and suchlike with the same (family) name always have the same last syllable. Could it be a kanji??? Totally stumped on this one, so any help gratefully received.

Why is Kannon (the Buddhist goddess of mercy that Canon is named after) male in some countries but female in others like Japan?

“he is generally with so tender an expression on his face that, in the Japanese imagination, he has undergone a sex change” Read the rest of this entry »