Hattori and Fukube

Pronouncing the surname "Hattori" (服部) "Fukube" is a classic kanji goof; so much so that chefs with the surname Hattori can get a laugh by naming their restaurant "Fukube". There are allegedly some families that really do pronounce it "Fukube," but I've never run into any myself.

Hattori derives from hata-ori 機織り → hatori, roughly equivalent to the English surname "Weaver." Hence the kanji 服部: 服, which is indeed pronounced fuku in most contexts, means "clothing," and the 部 means "clan" or "house." (There's nothing corresponding to the 部 in the modern pronunciation hattori, but hatoribe was another older version that has died out now.)

In Seishi 姓氏 ("Surnames"), HIGUCHI Kiyoyuki 樋口清之 and NIWA Motoji 丹羽基二 list several subgroups within the general class of Weavers:

  • Kanhatori 神服部, who wove clothes for Shinto priests.
  • Kurehatori 呉服部, who immigrated from the Wu 呉 kingdom on the mainland (this surname survived separately from Hattori, in the form Gofuku 呉服*).
  • Tonhatori 殿服部, who used a kind of horizontal loom (?) called a tanabata (c.f. the festival centered on a mythical weaver and her ox-herding boyfriend).

Higuchi and Niwa also note that, Wu kingdom branch notwithstanding, the Yamato Hatoris were said to be descended from the gods: specifically, Ame no Minakanushi no Mikoto 天御中主命 ("exalted master of the august center of the heavens"), via his great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson Ame no Mihoko no Mikoto 天御鉾命 ("august spear of the heavens"). "No doubt [the Yamato Hatori] were a tribe of some power in ancient times," observe the authors. You just don't fuck with weavers.

Complicating the issue is the fact that fukube is a real word in Japanese — actually, it's a couple. One fukube is an older version of fugu; another means "gourd." Shiki use the latter in one of his sickbed haiku:


The doctor next door (?) made an ikebana stand out of a gourd, arranged a camellia in it and sent it to me. An amusing fellow.
   Here's a screwball for you/ Goes by the name of/ "Gourdhouse Camellia"

I think you had to be there. Probably also wouldn't have hurt to be bored enough by your immediate surroundings to write haiku like "Not even the sound/ of the breadseller's drum/ Long, long day" (パン売の太鼓も鳴らず日の永き).

* Just to clear things up: the character 呉 is pronounced in Chinese, go in Sino-Japanese, and kure in Japano-Japanese. (Back)

Popularity factor: 7


Sure you mean it was pronounced go in Sino-Japanese, not kure?


Whoops! I do. What a terrible place to get that wrong. Fixed, thanks!

language hat:

You say it's fixed, but it's not. Liar, liar, pants on fire!


Going to hit up the rest of the 新撰姓氏録?


Okay... NOW it's fixed.

MMS: Maybe just the interesting bits.


Nice post. Years ago, I not only made the "fukubu" gaff, but I would assume that people named Hattori wrote their name as "hane + tori"

I had a rampant imagination...(actually no I didn't, I was just assuming that it was no different than hatori.)


I could be wrong, but I think that 羽鳥 is also from the same "hata-ori" source, just kanjified more poetically.

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