When your parents agonized over the perfect name for you, I hope they avoided all the usual pitfalls—initials that accidentally spell swear words, traumatizing nicknames, monikers that belong to disgraced celebrities or lame people they knew growing up—but if they aren’t Japanese, I bet they didn’t think about the numbers.
Wait, what? Numbers? What numbers?
The Japanese believe that the number of strokes in the characters making up your name not only predict your future, they can influence your level of success, your health, and even your personality.
Ahahahaha, crazy, right? (But…now you’re dying to know, aren’t you? I know I was!)
How to find your number:
The numbers are based on how many strokes are used to write the characters in your name (that goes for Western names, as well as Japanese).
A Japanese name usually has two characters in the family (last) name and two characters in the first name.
Each character (or letter) is made up of strokes, and each time the pen lifts from the paper, it’s counted as a separate stroke.
Now let’s adapt the system for names that aren’t in Japanese. First, we’ll count the strokes used to write each letter. Some can be written more than one way, so if you’ve got one of those letters in your name, you can choose which number (and fortune) you like better!
Now write your name and get out your calculator. Here’s how you calculate the luckiness associated with your name:
OK, got your Overall Fortune number? Now scroll through the Japanese fortune telling reference below, find your number, and check what kind of future and level of luck YOUR name predicts!
Note: Like all fortunetelling, this is meant to be a glimpse of what might happen, not what will happen. And the Fortune Level is independent of the traits predicted by the number—for example, a description that’s quite positive but comes with a fortune level that’s moderately unlucky means the person will probably have a great life, but shouldn’t count on luck to lend much of a hand.
The numbers and what they mean:
The number one is where all luck begins, but there’s no prediction connected to the number one, since nobody has a name that’s just a single stroke!
Stop and Start
If the strokes in a name add up to two, it predicts being stuck between activity and suspension. Twos have difficulty integrating and reconciling themselves with a situation. They often experience the hardship of repeatedly moving forward, then stopping. Health problems may also arise, due to stubbornness and disturbances at home. These tendencies can be countered by keeping calm and not being in a hurry. Twos should beware of running from problems, because it’s easy to run the wrong direction and be ruined. Fortune level: Unlucky
This is one of the luckiest name numbers, because it’s the “heavenly number”: the sum of the first two yin (even) and yang (odd) numbers (one plus two). This number is the one from which all change proceeds. If the strokes in a name add up to the number three, it predicts great success due to possessing a good personality and the trust of others. Fortune level: Lucky
If the strokes in a name add up to four, it predicts danger ahead. Fours may experience many disturbances in health and home. Important periods must be approached with great care, or dreams will go unfufilled. There is a chance of health problems, especially in childhood, along with a disturbed home environment. Success may come at an early stage, but without patience and endurance, it’s difficult to sustain it. Fortune level: Unlucky
A sum of 5 strokes is the first harmonic number, and one of the luckiest combinations to have in a name. Five strokes predicts an excellent balance of mind and body, coupled with a tendency to be serious and hard-working. Fives are trusted by others, have a good family, and a wide group of friends and allies. They must take care not to just sit back and enjoy their good luck, however, because even good fortune has a limit. Fortune level: Extremely lucky
If the strokes in a name add up to six, it predicts diligence and caution. Sixes hold firm inner beliefs, and their hopes and dreams tend to be realized through patience and tenacity. Others trust them because they are sincere, kind to others, and promote cooperation. They become respected for these virtues. Fortune level: Lucky
Alone at the top
If the strokes in a name add up to seven, it predicts the holding of strong intentions and beliefs. Sevens’ powerful vitality and their willingness to take action will break through obstacles. Even though they’re not inhumane, they can be stubborn and inflexible, which tends to isolate them. They can earn trust of others by paying attention to conflicts and cultivating tolerance. Fortune level: Moderately lucky
If the strokes in a name add up to eight, it predicts a quiet and hardworking temperament, and an aversion to fighting. Eights will achieve slow and steady progress through persistent and tireless effort. They should be careful in dating relationships, and remember that moderation is important in all things. Those with eight stroke names tend to be much luckier than others. Fortune level: Lucky
If the strokes in a name add up to nine, it predicts sharpened abilities, strong intuition, and clear brain that can be hampered by nervousness. Worrying about the future will hurt the ability to achieve goals in the present, and fretting about adversity can cause mental distress and confusion that impacts family and health. Fortune level: Unlucky
From one extreme to another
If the strokes in a name add up to ten, it predicts a life spent running from one extreme to another, and a tendency to make changes too hastily, with or without a goal. Tens sometimes forget to think before speaking and acting—especially after experiencing a stroke of good luck—so job changes and relocations can be frequent. This lack of stability can lead to problems with family and physical/mental health. Fortune level: Unlucky
If the strokes in a name add up to eleven, it predicts a steady move forward, step by step. Elevens’ hard work is rewarded by support from others. They often end up having a serious obligation to support their families, but can easily do that because they are also successful and beloved by their superiors. Fortune level: Extremely lucky
If the strokes in a name add up to twelve, it predicts talent in the arts and an excellent aesthetic sense, but a weak spiritual life and a tendency to be lonely. This combination can lead to frustration. Men with twelve stroke names tend to be lonely and have few friends who are women. Women with twelve stroke names tend to be have a strong sense of fashion and many female friends, but insubstantial relationships with men. Fortune level: Moderately unlucky
Thirteen is a lucky number of strokes to have in a name, predicting a happy home and plenty of money. Those with thirteen strokes tend to hold responsible positions and enjoy having people rely on them. Fortune level: Lucky
If the strokes in a name add up to fourteen, it predicts being very opinionated. Fourteens work hard to satisfy personal desires, and don’t care if others find their goals a bit strange. They’re particular about things, with a strong desire for money and a lot of luck getting it. They can end up alone, however, because of being so opinionated and this loneliness can impact their health. Fortune level: Unlucky
If the strokes in a name add up to fifteen, it predicts a calm and peaceful demeanor that prefers to shun conflict. Fifteens become ideal leaders quietly, without actively pushing against adversity, and are usually trusted by others. Disliking conflict and being kindly attentive to others may be perceived as weak, but fifteens usually achieve their purposes and enjoy good luck while doing it. Fortune level: Lucky
If the strokes in a name add up to sixteen, it predicts the power to create something from nothing. Sixteens can be a little pushy and annoying, but they make great progress with the help of their superiors. As leaders, they have an innate ability to survive, despite attracting criticism. Fortune level: Extremely lucky
If the strokes in a name add up to seventeen, it predicts a tendency to be humane, with a strong sense of duty. Strong beliefs and hard work bring satisfying results to seventeens. Honest to a fault, they can be a little too straightforward and impatient with others, so the most successful are attentive to the surroundings and listen to others’ opinions. Fortune level: Moderately lucky
If the strokes in a name add up to eighteen, it predicts a mild and gentle temper, and a leadership style that gains trust and respect. Eighteens are often blessed with honor and money, so they can afford to be generous. Strong self-control is required, however, so as not to take good fortune for granted and begin taking foolish risks. Fortune level: Lucky
If the strokes in a name add up to nineteen, it predicts a life where luck can’t be expected, despite the fact that nineteens have clear minds, keen insight, and natural aesthetic sensibility. Those with nineteen strokes have a nervous and impatient side they must always be aware of, because this tendency can easily damage their health and family. Fortune level: Very unlucky
If the strokes in a name add up to twenty, it predicts having strong desires, plagued by alternating periods of steady success and the inability to move forward when turbulence strikes. Twenties can swing from extreme to extreme, causing many physical, social, and family problems, and because of this, family connections tend to be weak. Stubbornness can make things worse. Fortune level: Unlucky
If the strokes in a name add up to twenty-one, it predicts intelligence rewarded by good luck. Twenty-ones work hard, take their beliefs seriously, and expect the same high standards from others as from themselves. By cultivating harmony and cooperation, they can fulfill the goals set by themselves and others, and achieve a high level of success. Fortune level: Lucky
If the strokes in a name add up to twenty-two, it predicts being active in fields that require aesthetics and artistry. Twenty-twos can be lonely because they march to their own drummer, despite being unusually attractive to the opposite sex. They can’t expect luck to help them overcome hardships, and must rely on themselves instead. Some are overly sensitive, and must wrestle with their spiritual side as well as their artistic side. Fortune level: Moderately unlucky
If the strokes in a name add up to twenty-three, it predicts an ability to skillfully seize small opportunities and gain incredible status and honor in one lifetime. Twenty-threes can take powerful leaps over hardships to achieve a goal, but sometimes bear a heavy burden or loss in exchange for success. Fortune level: Extremely lucky
If the strokes in a name add up to twenty-four, it predicts cooperation, kindness, calmness, and a sense of stability throughout life. Twenty-fours have the power to read situations and other people skillfully, with imagination and sensitivity. Many will earn a living through their artistry and skills. By avoiding extremes, they grow polished over time, and face adversity with courage and calm behavior. Fortune level: Lucky
If the strokes in a name add up to twenty-five, it predicts self-reliance, activism and uncomplicated strength. Many twenty-fives are successful in business and sales, because their refreshing personalities make a good impression. They should avoid stepping over the line and saying or doing things too aggressively, however, so as not to annoy others. Inspiring colleagues to cooperate is a more successful strategy. Twenty-fives need to be especially careful when lending money. Fortune level: Lucky
If the strokes in a name add up to twenty-six, it predicts success through strong beliefs, seriousness and effort, but also an ever-present danger of giving in to greed and causing turmoil instead. Maintaining an upbeat attitude brings more rewards than stubbornness. Twenty-sixes need to take plenty of time to consider their words and actions before plunging ahead, so they don’t alienate their friends and family. Fortune level: Unlucky
If the strokes in a name add up to twenty-seven, it predicts a strong reliance on intuition, resulting in the ability to make quick decisions. Twenty-sevens’ strong sense of judgment gives them a pioneering spirit. They have a strong desire to live independently, and the mental power to successfully confront whatever happens to them. Fortune level: Moderately lucky
If the strokes in a name add up to twenty-eight, it predicts natural genius, but a tendency to rely on that instead of assessing the situation and environment. Hardships that arise can thus become a danger to work, personal relationships, love and marriage. Twenty-eights have an especially difficult time when bad luck sweeps their feet out from under them, but the danger usually comes from outside, not from inner obstacles. Fortune level: Unlucky
If the strokes in a name add up to twenty-nine, it predicts clear thinking and the ability to make decisions quickly. Twenty-nines tend to think things through while being mild and unobtrusive. They are patient, compassionate and cooperative, with good judgment from making acute observations. Fortune level: Lucky
If the strokes in a name add up to thirty, it predicts a bright and caring personality, and the ability to make the best of their circumstances, whether good or bad. Thirties are calm, smart and tenacious. They tend to be good at what they do, and succeed by working diligently, even when immature. Fortune level: Moderately lucky
If the strokes in a name add up to thirty-one, it predicts firm convictions and a generous tolerance for human failure. Thirty-ones often serve as leaders in both the public and their families, with wisdom, courage and elegance. They aren’t without worries, but usually prosper in terms of status, honor, and financial luck. Fortune level: Extremely lucky
Ray of light
If the strokes in a name add up to thirty-two, it predicts being blessed with many opportunities and the ability to make something from nothing. This can also bring changes and turbulence, however, and the tendency to hurry and rush to a conclusion can cause turmoil among friends and family. Thirty-twos have an extraordinary amount of luck in all they do, but must take care in their relationships with the opposite sex. They may be accident-prone and have more health crises than others. Fortune level: Extremely lucky
If the strokes in a name add up to thirty-three, it predicts a hatred of losing and the strength to challenge any situation. Honor, advancement and power are obtained by expressing thoughts honestly and moving forward with confidence. Thirty-threes attract a lot of assistance from others around them, making them natural leaders. Fortune level: Lucky
If the strokes in a name add up to thirty-four, it predicts strong beliefs, imagination and a mysterious charm. Thirty-fours show determination from an early age, and achieve successful independence by standing on the shoulders of others. A rebellious spirit and strong self-esteem must be tempered with efforts at cooperation and preparation, so as not to cause trouble in relationships and situations. They achieve status and honor, advancing through harmony with others and solid abilities. Fortune level: Moderately lucky
If the strokes in a name add up to thirty-five, it predicts wisdom and obedience. Seriousness, patience, and tenacity are hidden behind a quiet demeanor, and success is achieved by moving ahead quietly and steadily, with courage and confidence. Thirty-fives are blessed with artistic talent and problem-solving ability, but can be held back by their uncompetitive natures, and an unwillingness to put themselves forward to fight for their ideas. Fortune level: Moderately lucky
If the strokes in a name add up to thirty-six, it predicts a clear, intuitive, and foresighted nature. Thirty-sixes are smart and self-reliant, but can be a little nervous, so are most successful when backed by a team. They tend to make good judgements, listening to other people’s opinions and proceeding in a cooperative manner. Fortune level: Moderately lucky
If the strokes in a name add up to thirty-seven, it predicts a strong sense of responsibility, a high level of adaptability, and an ability to pass on what they know skillfully. Thirty-sevens are characterized by patience, loyalty, and outstanding situational judgment. They tend to make a good impression, because they are modest. With luck and help from others, thirty-sevens often rise to great heights in the world. Fortune level: Lucky
If the strokes in a name add up to thirty-eight, it predicts a gentle and sincere nature, a rich sensibility and a talent for technical work. Thirty-eights can overcome their anxiety by being consistently straightforward and kind, and steadily building their abilities to become masters of their art. Those around them usually help them and give them credit for their achievements, boosting them to the top of their chosen field. Fortune level: Moderately lucky
If the strokes in a name add up to thirty-nine, it predicts thoughtfulness, a calm nature and an unwillingness to compromise. Thirty-nines are sincere, serious and confident, often achieving leadership positions through their sociability, nobility and ability. They create a refreshing and lively atmosphere, and benefit from not narrowing their focus. Fortune level: Lucky
Twists and turns
If the strokes in a name add up to forty, it predicts a future characterized by big swings in every direction. Forties are stubborn and tenacious, but may suffer from a lack of coordination in their efforts to get ahead. They tend to look great and show themselves well, and their quick minds give them an advantage over others because they think and act quickly. They can counteract some of their natural state of upheaval by making steady effort and remembering that humility is important. Fortune level: Moderately lucky
If the strokes in a name add up to forty-one, it predicts patience, happiness, and a life filled with hope, no matter what hardships are encountered. Forty-ones have the strength to survive and achieve their goals by paying attention to their situation and moving ahead with a flexible attitude. If they take care not to become isolated while running stubbornly toward their goals, it will eventually pay off. Fortune level: Extremely lucky
If the strokes in a name add up to forty-two, it predicts a nature that avoids conflict and always does what’s best for others. Forty-twos can appear weak and reluctant, but they have a hidden spirit that is gentle and kind. They can attract an amazing amount of luck by identifying one goal and devoting themselves to achieving it. Fortune level: Moderately lucky
If the strokes in a name add up to forty-three, it predicts independence, a strong will that tolerates being second to none, and an ability to make use of the efforts of those around them. Forty-threes attain independence at an unexpectedly early age, gaining fame, status, and honor. Their downfall can be their stubbornness, but it can be avoided by making an effort to coordinate with others and listen to their opinions. Fortune level: Moderately lucky
If the strokes in a name add up to forty-four, it predicts a nature that is gentle and serious, a steady, hard worker. Forty-fours can be frustrated with how long it takes to achieve their goals, but their steady and sober approach will eventually yield extraordinary opportunities and success. Fortune level: Lucky
If the strokes in a name add up to forty-five, it predicts confidence and a strong will. Forty-fives can gather strength from any situation and use other peoples’ desires to gain leadership, both publicly and privately. They tend to be smart, but can make difficult things more difficult, and although a strong will is an advantage, they must remember not to stubbornly cling to their own ideas, but also listen to others. Fortune level: Lucky
If the strokes in a name add up to forty-six, it predicts a future in which it’s always necessary to be on the lookout for danger ahead. By paying attention to details and being precise, forty-sixes can avoid running aground on situations that might sink them. Fortune level: Unlucky
If the strokes in a name add up to forty-seven, it predicts flexibility, the ability to achieve harmony with others and abundant blooming. Forty-sevens achieve success without opposing others, having faith that creating a quiet and calm environment will result in personal growth and achievement for all. Their inclusive leadership is appreciated and recognized by others, and efforts at larger goals tend to be rewarded with great success. Fortune level: Lucky
If the strokes in a name add up to forty-eight, it predicts a natural sense of balance, wisdom and a strong moral character. Forty-eights are courageous in problem-solving and do it in an orderly way. Once they decide on a goal, they achieve it by being patient and persistent. They are beloved by others, and luck usually smiles on them. Fortune level: Lucky
If the strokes in a name add up to forty-nine, it predicts tenacity and an ability to take advantage of opportunities. Forty-nines can usually turn a situation around in a good way because they attract a lot of help from their superiors, and people are always glad to do them a favor. They also have an uncanny ability to take advantage of rising luck. Fortune level: Moderately lucky
If the strokes in a name add up to fifty, it predicts a precarious future that will shake their firmly held beliefs. When everything is going well, something can mysteriously go wrong, and fifties seldom get a break when everything is going badly. Unexpected opportunities can come their way, however, if they maintain solid effort and refrain from negligence. Fortune level: Unlucky
If the strokes in a name add up to fifty-one, it predicts a serious attitude and luck that steadily improves throughout life. Fifty-ones achieve success by never overdoing it or rushing, and don’t need to stand out in a crowd. They may experience the occasional reversal, which overwhelms them emotionally or results in a financial loss, but if they avoid panic and continue with steady effort, they will get past it without permanent damage. Fortune level: Lucky
The rich get richer
If the strokes in a name add up to fifty-two, it predicts the kind of good judgment and foresight that lead to wealth, status and honor. Fifty-twos are able to face difficulties through courage and positive behavior, and are helped by being lucky. If they take care of themselves while climbing the ladder, they will enjoy good health for the rest of their lives. Fortune level: Lucky
If the strokes in a name add up to fifty-three, it predicts a gentle and diligent nature. Fifty-threes tend to be loved by everyone for their gentle steadiness and straightforwardness, and their careers are advanced by the high evaluations given by others. They are attentive to changes in the social environment and always learning new things, so they are able to take advantage of opportunities and are always surrounded by supportive friends and family. Fortune level: Moderately lucky
If the strokes in a name add up to fifty-four, it predicts extraordinary intuition and an uncanny ability to read people and situations. Fifty-fours have a sharp eye for opportunity, but if they don’t pay attention to frictions around them, they can get into deep trouble by moving ahead too enthusiastically. Fortune level: Unlucky
If the strokes in a name add up to fifty-five, it predicts a mercurial personality and a sense of superiority. Fifty-fives tend to act quickly and decisively, but if they forget to consider right and wrong, can end up with disaster. Their fickle personalities and unstable luck require they make an extra effort to embrace tolerance and patience. Fortune level: Unlucky
If the strokes in a name add up to fifty-six, it predicts a selfish nature and a future plagued with many situations that backfire. Fifty-sixes have a hard time developing positive ambitions, because they tend to be unlucky and their prospects of recovery are few. Fortune level: Unlucky
Through the fire unscathed
If the strokes in a name add up to fifty-seven, it predicts a life characterized by making it through tough situations unscathed. A fifty-seven’s fortunes may rise and fall, but their innate strength will get them past difficulties every time. If they continue to value solidity without allowing it to turn to stubbornness, their financial luck, status, and family will steadily increase, despite the disastrous situations they may encounter. Fortune level: Moderately lucky
Learn from mistakes
If the strokes in a name add up to fifty-eight, it predicts an ability to learn from mistakes and turn struggles into success. Fifty-eights will have their share of difficulties, but each one brings greater wisdom and an increase in luck, health, wealth, family, and friends. If they pay attention to the lessons to be learned, they will be rewarded. Fortune level: Moderately lucky
If the strokes in a name add up to fifty-nine, it predicts impatience and a lack of ambition. Fifty-nines are not naturally not good at possessing the diligence and endurance it takes to achieve a goal, so their challenge is to proceed with the courage to break through and cultivate a comeback, when necessary. Fortune level: Unlucky
If the strokes in a name add up to sixty, it predicts a nature that easily strays off the path and becomes lost. Sixties need to pay special attention to not being distracted from their goals, and cultivate the ability to recognize when they are being led astray. Fortune level: Unlucky
But there’s more!
Naturally, your name’s numbers can predict all kinds of other things too. For example:
Remember, these are just for fun, so don’t be too depressed if your fortune isn’t the most auspicious—unless your parents are Japanese, they can’t really be blamed for not knowing that baby naming ought to be done with a calculator in hand! Thank them instead for not naming you after a character in Game of Thrones who turned out to be less than admirable.
By the way, I’m a 27. What are you?
I translated these onomancy predictions from the Japanese website
The Last Tea Bowl Thief was chosen as an Editor’s Pick for Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense on Amazon
“A wonderful blend of history and mystery.” —Laura Joh Rowland, author of The Iris Fan
Writing mystery books set in Tokyo is mostly what I do, but I also blog about the odd stuff I see every day in Japan. I'm a graduate of Stanford University and the Sendagaya Japanese Institute in Tokyo, and a member of the International Thriller Writers, the Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters In Crime. When I'm not in Tokyo, I live in San Francisco. I also host a travel site called The Tokyo Guide I Wish I'd Had, so if you're headed to Japan and want to check out the places I take my friends when they're in town, take a look!