Fun With Names: Hachikuji Mayoi (八九寺 真宵)
- By hoshi-kun
- On 27/06/2018
- 0 comments
Welcome to Fun With Names, where I will be dissecting the names of anime, anime characters and assorted named things in anime! Today's episode of Fun With Names will be covering the character Hachikuji Mayoi from the Monogatari Series. As a fan of this series, I'm well aware of the author NisioisiN's artistry with words and being the dialogue-rich series that it is, it isn't surprising that there are various junctures where meaning is twisted and played with. Names are no exception, and one day I'll explore the puns that go into the titles of each story of the Monogatari Series. Hachikuji is first introduced in the first iteration of the series, Bakemonogatari, as one of the many oddities that main character Araragi Koyomi deals with.
PLEASE BE AWARE THAT THIS WILL REQUIRE SOME SPOILERS. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK
Bakemonogatari follows Araragi Koyomi, a high school senior who survives a vampire attack and subsequently possesses remnants of vampiric ability as a result. With the help of an eccentric man named Oshino Meme, who lives in an abandoned building, Araragi was able to overcome the incident; however, he is constantly exposed to various supernatural apparitions in his encounters with several other characters. The series covers Araragi's interactions with these characters as he tries to help them overcome the supernatural phenomena that affect their lives.
Hachikuji Mayoi is the titular character of the "Mayoi Snail" arc of Bakemonogatari, which explores Koyomi's first interaction with her, as well as the identification of the supernatural apparition that she represents. She was an 11-year-old girl from a broken home who, on Mothers' Day, left her father's place to visit her mom but was run over by a truck on her way there. Unaware of her own passing, Mayoi became a wandering spirit, looking for her mother's home but never ever getting there. She remains lost, which is where we get her given name: Mayoi, which bears the connotations of being "lost", or "astray". However, it isn't written that way. That's a prime example of how Japanese names can be read in several different ways, depending on the characters used.
"Mayoi", written 真宵, is written with the characters for "true" and "night", which would be pronounced "Masho" but given that there are often several readings for Kanji, "Mayoi" becomes the selected reading. This is what inspires the name of the arc, as well as the apparition - the Lost Snail. The snail is also visually represented by Hachikuji's massive backpack and hair darting out of her head much like snail antennae.
Now to visit her last name, the subject of many of Araragi's jokes whenever he interacts with Hachikuji Mayoi. Her last name is written 八九寺, with 八 being the number 8 - "Hachi", 九 being the number 9 - "Kyuu", which in context is read "Ku", and 寺 being "temple", read out of context as "tera", and in context as "ji". Those familiar with points of interest in Japan will be aware of the Kiyomizu-dera in Kyoto, one of the most celebrated temples in Japan. All together, the three parts of "Hachikuji" can be seen as "89ji" or "89temple". This is where Araragi has most of his fun, as he changes her name from Hachikuji to "Hachi-hachi-ji", then to "Hachi-shichi-ji" and finally, "Hachi-roku-ji", in which "hachi", "shichi" and "roku" are the numbers 8, 7 and 6 respectively. The banter is that Araragi is making fun of Mayoi by "devaluing" her name each time.
There's more to Araragi's playfulness than the mere shifting of number - the Japanese 88-Temple Procession is a 1200km pilgrimage around the Shikoku Island. A Buddhist trope sees 88 as a wholesome lucky number, while 89 would be going beyond the bounds of said good luck, eliciting misfortune. With Hachikuji being "89ji", her name bears the connotation of being unfortunate. However, the "Hachiku-" part of her last name which is the "89" can be read as "yaku", which is "misfortune" in Japanese (厄). Together with the Buddhist ideology applied to the name, as well as her unfortunate death on Mothers' Day, "Hachikuji" becomes a last name which says quite a lot about the character as well as the situation surrounding her untimely death at a young 11 years old.
The final aspect on which I stand to be corrected is the "ji" in Hachikuji. In Japanese, when telling the time, the word "ji" from "jikan" (時間) is "time". The character 寺 is the same as the one in "jikan" apart from a missing radical, which gives the impression of time; however, a conception of time divorced from the clock. This is fuelled by the missing radical being (日), which is "day". I find this significant given that her first name, Mayoi, can be read as "true evening" - perhaps between 8 and 9. Name and surname together, Hachikuji Mayoi in this case gives the conception of misfortune being the true night - darkness, but not in a more poetic sense. Reaching? Perhaps. However, this wouldn't be fun if we didn't consider every single possibility.