% Hoegberg may have only made a small typo, but I thought a few might be
interested in the following dated item. %
Why is the car giant Toyota not Toyoda?
24 February 2010 Kathryn Westcott
This 1950s Toyota was launched under the brand name Toyopet
main Japanese scripts
Akio Toyoda is in Washington to deal with the crisis at car giant Toyota,
the company set up by his grandfather more than 70 years ago. But why did
the company change its name from Toyoda to Toyota?
The change is largely down to the fact that the word Toyota is associated
with the lucky number eight, according to the company's English-language
Toyota written in Japanese
After learning this, we felt more explanation was needed.
The Toyota Motor Corporation has its origins in a company that manufactured
automated looms for Japan's weaving industry.
"Toyota originated from Toyoda Industries (Kariya) when they started its
automotive division in 1933," explains Dr Seijiro Takeshita, director of
investment banking firm Mizuho International, London.
"Toyoda (in English) and its kanji version were used in the beginning, but
as the company started exporting heavily into the US, it wanted an emblem
that would work in Japanese and English.
"In 1936, the company held a competition for a new name. Toyota was a
popular choice among many. "
According to the company, it received some 27,000 entries.
It says the winning design led to a change in the name of the automobiles
and plants from "Toyoda" to "Toyota."
The name was chosen "because the number of strokes to write Toyota in
Japanese (eight) was thought to bring luck and prosperity," it goes on.
The modern Japanese writing system uses three main scripts:
kanji, which is made up of ideographs from Chinese characters
hiragana, used for native Japanese words, and is phonetic
katakana, which is mostly used for foreign words
A Romanised script is also sometimes used.
The presentation of kanji is highly symbolic, and an art form in itself. The
name Toyoda is represented by two ideographs - the first "toyo" means
"abundant", while da means "rice field".
The kanji for "da" can also be read as "ta".
Translate Toyoda into katakana and the result contains 10 "brush strokes".
But change it to Toyota, and the result in both katakana and hiragana is
eight strokes (see picture).
Akio Toyoda was facing tough questioning at the US Congress
"Eight is a lucky number in Japanese because when you write it in Chinese
characters, the shape of the character is wider towards the bottom,"
explains Mika Kizu, a lecturer in Japanese at London's School of Oriental
and African Studies (SOAS).
"So people think that it indicates a thing or person is gradually
The "lucky eight" theory is certainly an interesting one, says Dr
Christopher Hood, of Cardiff University's Japanese Studies Centre.
He says that it is more usual in Japan to see the company's name written in
the katakana script - unlike, say, Nissan, which is more often written in
He also points out another "eight" link with the company.
The company has strong ties with the Japanese Association football club
Nogoya Grampus Eight football, which is based in Nagoya - about an hour from
Toyota's headquarters in Toyota City - and plays home games at the Toyota
The "eight" part of the team's name comes the maru-hachi (circle eight),
which is the city's official symbol.
While the company's version of the symbolism certainly sounds good, Soas's
Dr Kizu doubts that this would have been the deciding factor in changing
Toyoda to Toyota.
"I personally doubt that the founder of Toyota or his successor chose
"Toyota" rather than "Toyoda" because of the number of strokes. The Japanese
normally care about the number of strokes for the Chinese characters [kanji]
but not for hiragana," she told the BBC News website.
In recent months, Toyota has recalled more than 8.5m vehicles
A number of Japan experts told the BBC news website that the number eight is
culturally not that significant in Japan. It is more of a Chinese phenomenon
(hence the start date and time for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, on 8 August,
at at 8.08), they said.
And Dr Hood said the BBC News website's phone call to him had prompted him
to do "some more digging on the Japanese websites and the eight theory
doesn't seem to get a mention".
"Japanese sites mention more the internationalisation of the company," he
"It was originally called Toyoda, it seems, but later changed to Toyota
(although it was felt that some in America continued to call it Toyoda for
"Timing wise this happened around the same time that the town of Koromo,
where the company was based, changed to be Toyota."
In 1959, the city of Koromo, in the Aichi Prefecture, was renamed Toyota
City, after the company that aided its growth in terms of job creation.
Koromo, which was a major producer of silk, had already been associated with
the Toyoda family via the company's Toyoda Automatic Loom Works.
Another explanation for the name change could be that Toyota simply sounds
"The sound of the word "Toyota" was also deemed more appealing," says the
firm's English-language website.
Dr Kizu concurs: "While there are many "voiced sounds" [such as da] in
Japanese, they are less preferable to voiceless sounds."
The car giant is not the only Japanese firm to have tweaked its name in this
way. The company Bridgestone, for example, was founded by one Mr Ishi
(Stone) bashi (Bridge).
But that is a whole different story.
Additional reporting by Lucy Rodgers.
[© 2017 BBC]
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