There are a lot of Japanese companies that are well-known around the world such as Toyota, Yamaha, and of course Nintendo. I’ve been playing Nintendo games since I was just a kid and the other day I was wondering “What does Nintendo mean in Japanese?”
Since it was a question that I had myself, I figured that a lot of you might also want to know the same thing. So I’ve done some research on the company, the name, and also some other interesting facts that I think you might be interested in.
Let’s dive right in, or as Mario would say, “Let’s-a go!”
The Meaning Behind The Name
When I looked up the full name of Nintendo in Japanese, I saw that it was spelled as 「任天堂株式会社」 in Japanese. Since this is quite a long word, let me break it down piece by piece.
First we have 任天堂 (nintendou) which is the primary name of this company. We will come back to this in just a second since it is the topic of today’s post, but let me quickly go over the other parts first.
The word 株式 (kabushiki) means “stock” and refers to shares of a public company. So if you wanted to say that you “owned share of Walmart” than this is the Japanese word that you would want to use.
The other word is 会社 (kaisha) which is a generic word for “company” in Japanese.
All that being said, these two words are actually combined into 株式会社 (kabushiki gaisha) which means “public company” or more commonly “corporation” in Japanese. Notice the phonetic change from [k] to [g] on the 会社 part when it is combined.
Alright, now that we’re done with the business vocabulary let’s get back to the main part. The name of Nintendo is comprised of three kanji. Here are their meanings:
- 任 (nin) entrust to
- 天堂 (tendou) heaven
Because of this, there is a common belief that the meaning of Nintendo’s name is “leave luck to heaven” but as the History of Nintendo on Wikipedia points out, there aren’t any records we can cite that validate this assumption.
Since this is a Japanese company, I thought that it might make sense to look around the Japanese side of the internet to find an answer.
I found one site that I thought was interesting.
This particular site (gogen.info) also made mention of this common assumption of Nintendo’s name, although in full Japanese it is written as 運を天に任せる.
But what I found interesting was that this site didn’t just stop there. They continued on by saying that there is actually more implicit information included in this saying.
I won’t re-post the exact article here (click on that last link to read it yourself), but instead I will translate and paraphrase it into English. They said that the deeper meaning of the company’s name is (emphases mine):
“Do what you need to do with all your might and then leave your luck to heaven.
In other words, we humans have a responsibility to put all our heart, all our soul, and all our strength into our work and into our daily lives. Beyond that, it’s up to the angels to determine what happens.
I don’t know about you, but personally I think that it is a very beautiful philosophy and one that I would like to adopt into my own life.
The Origins Of This Iconic Company
(Image credit: fuzzcat)
Did you know that Nintendo was founded in 1889? Yeah, you read that right. Nintendo is over 100 years old!
How could that be when video games are a rather recent invention? Well as it turns out, Nintendo has been in the business of bringing happiness to the world for a very long time, and in many different ways too.
When they were first getting started, they actually sold hanafuda cards to people!
They stayed as a playing card game company for a long time until the 60s when they branched out into other types of toys.
Fortunately, in the 70s they got into video games and the world has never been the same since – in a good way!
What Makes Nintendo Unique?
There are two things that I want to talk about when in comes to what makes Nintendo unique as a video game company.
The first is something that an old friend and I talk about often when new consoles are coming out (like right now with the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X).
The thing that has always impressed us with Nintendo is that they are always innovating with new ways to interact with and play video games.
With the Wii, they showed us how to play games we loved with motion control. More recently they have proven that console gaming can be taking mobile with the Switch and it’s incredible versatility.
I’ve owned all three consoles throughout my life, but I have to say that I’ve always had respect for Nintendo’s bravery to go their own way and create consoles that actually change the way that we play video games.
The other thing that makes Nintendo unique is something that my brother talks about. He went to university for video game programming, so he knows a lot more about the gaming industry than I do.
What I learned from him is that back in the day, before we were even born, there was actually something called “the console wars” where video game companies ruthlessly fought one another for profits, market share, and survival.
Something that happened during this time was that a lot, and I do mean A LOT of really crappy games came to the marketplace and consumers suffered because of it.
People lost faith in video games because it was so hard to find anything that was actually worth the price that store’s were charging.
But then Nintendo did something revolutionary. They created the “Nintendo Seal of Quality.”
Did you ever get a Nintendo game with that golden seal of approval on it? I remember seeing it all the time as a kind, but I never really realized the importance of it until much later.
What my video game programmer brother told me is that this was Nintendo’s way of stepping up to the plate and guaranteeing consumers (old school gamers) that the games with this mark were good. That they were worth the price.
This really brought faith back into the video game marketplace because when you saw that mark on a game, you knew that you were going to enjoy it once you popped it in and started playing.
Nintendo is unique in that they create so many of the legendary games that can only be played on their consoles. Games like Mario, Pokemon, The Legend of Zelda, and countless more.
I could go on and on about how incredible Nintendo has been in the handheld gaming arena, but if I did we would probably be here forever. Instead, let me talk just a little bit about how Nintendo has impacted my life before we wrap up this article.
How Nintendo Shaped My Own Life
When I was a kid, I did a lot of things for fun but playing video games wasn’t really one of them. That was until I made a new friend who owned a Super Nintendo.
I can remember playing Super Mario Kart at his house and thinking that this was the coolest thing ever!
Also, when I was still just a little kid something incredible happened. My uncle won a Nintendo 64 in a Taco Bell competition and then gave it to my family!
He was more of a PlayStation guy himself, so he was happy to pass the love on to us.
At any rate, I got to grow up on classic games such as:
- Diddy Kong Racing
- Cruis’n USA
- Mario 64
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
- Star Fox 64
And many, many more.
Basically what I’m trying to say is that Nintendo turned me into a gamer, and I have loved it ever since. For that, I will always be eternally grateful.
How Has Nintendo Impacted Your Life?
Honestly, I hope that this company stays in business forever. They really do so much more than just make video games. They really do make the world a brighter, better place.
We’ve covered a lot about them including their name, their history, and how they have impacted me personally.
Now I would love it if you shared your own thoughts and experience with Nintendo!
How have they affected you? What do you like about them most? Let me know by leaving a comment down below!
Further Resources for Learning Japanese: