Thanks for the links. I have the same reaction as the writer of the first blog--surprise that Naomi should ever have been thought "foreign-sounding" in Japan. What about Naomi would have been foreign-sounding in 1924? Not "Nao-", it was commonly used in names of the time. The ending "-mi"? It was not unknown, at least for male names, and "-mi" is not a typical ending for Western girls' names anyway. With hundreds of Western names to choose from that would have actually sounded "foreign," why would this author choose the one which fits into the Japanese language as though it had always been there?
Maybe this plot summary holds a clue: "The protagonist, a salary-man named Joji, takes a fifteen-year old downtown waitress under his wing and seeks to transform her into a glamorous Western-style lady modeled on such figures as Mary Pickford." It sounds like the character Naomi is a typical Japanese girl before her transformation, so why would her parents have given her a Western name? Of course I haven't read the book, so this is pure speculation, but maybe the author deliberately chose Naomi for its double origin. It actually is Japanese--albeit a style which was not in fashion at the time; it DOESN'T sound foreign, but at some point in the book, it could be revealed that this name is also used in the West. This would be a much more interesting twist than giving the character a name which is obviously foreign.
Also, if Naomi was too odd and modern to use in the 1920s, something must have happened between 1924 and the post-WWII period to make it and other "-mi" names acceptable. If the popularity of "Chijin no Ai" was such that after twenty or thirty years people were used to Naomi and it started sounding usable, it should have appeared first, then inspired similar names--not followed Akemi and others up the charts. I suspect that Naomi and other "-mi" names weren't really so odd after all, they were just not in fashion at the time.
I'm not sure where to go from here, but it is interesting, anyway!
This message was edited by the author on May 20, 2007 at 3:13:53 PM