Q&A: Did Professor Oak Forget His Own Grandson’s Name in Japanese?

Many weeks and/or months ago, Brandon W. asked a question about the early Pokémon games:

Hi Tomato,

I was wondering, the line in Pokemon red/green and such when you name your rival. it looks like Professor Oak forgot his grandson’s name for a moment. Dose it still look that way in the Japanese version? and if it is, dose that kinda slip look more natural in Japanese?

This sounds pretty simple to look into – it’s literally at the very start of the game! So let’s take a look!

In both versions, the rival is the professor’s grandson. And here’s what the professor says in this particular screenshot:

Japanese Version (basic translation)English Version
…Hrm? What was his name again?…Erm, what is his name again?

So the answer is yep! He indeed forgets his grandson’s name in the Japanese text too! This line comes off about the same in both languages too, so I guess he’s just that forgetful of a guy. In a strange way, it reminds me of Jeff and Dr. Andonuts from EarthBound.

Also, just from the little bit of text in this scene, I learned that Professor Oak is called Professor Orchid in the Japanese version. Neat! I’d love to take a detailed look at this someday, but I’ll need to get the other big comparison projects finished before I take a stab at any new ones.

In any case, since it’s going to be a long time until I can find the time to do a detailed Pokémon comparison, if you know of anything I should look into when the time comes, let me know in the comments here for future reference!

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  1. It’s “Okido” (オーキド), not “Orchid” (オーキッド), though. All the Pokemon characters have standard Japanese names, “Orchid” would hardly be considered such. The anime also gave him a female counterpart named ウチキド.

    1. In the list of possible names for the rival is an English name, “John”. I remember reading that the earlier Pokémon games were meant to take place directly in Japan rather than a fictional country, which has me thinking: is it at all common for native Japanese parents to give their children English names? How much of a social stigma would it be to have an English name? If it is strongly discouraged, then why are English names in the lists of default choices for Red (“Jack”) and Green/Blue (“John”)?

      1. “is it at all common for native Japanese parents to give their children English names”

        The exception of a few names that are both in English and Japanese, like Naomi, or that are close like Jo-ji and George, it’s very, very uncommon.

    2. DoubleXXCross

      It’s likely Ookido’s name is written “大木戸”, which would make part of it “big tree”, and that’s likely where the realisation that it’s a plant name comes from. Certainly all the other Japanese professor names are clearly related to specific plants.

      As evidence, the place-name Uchikido is written “内木戸”, containing the same “tree” character.

      As for the other Japanese names, they’re aaaaaall plant-related.

      Takeshi = “竹” “meaning bamboo” (as well as the homophone meaning “peak”)
      Kasumi = “かすみ草” meaning “gysophilia”, or baby’s breath (as well as its word root “mist”)
      (Bonus pun: Mattis/Machisu = “clematis”, a genus of plants)
      Erika = “ericaceae”, the heather family
      Kyou = “杏” meaning “apricot” (proven by his successor being called Anzu, the other reading)
      Natsume = “棗” meaning “jujube”
      Katsura = “katsura”, Cercidiphyllum japonicum
      Sakaki = “sakaki”, Cleyera japonica

      You’re hardly safe from them in the Indigo League, either:

      Kanna = “canna lily”
      Shiba = “shiba”, Zoysia Japonica
      Kikuko = “菊” meaning chrysanthemum
      Wataru = “綿” meaning “cotton plant”

  2. Also, while these aren’t exactly things I’m personally curious about, if you want to do a couple more Pokemon Red/Blue comparisons, here’s a couple interesting spots that actually DO differ notably in the translation:

    *The old man who won’t let you pass on your first visit to Viridian/Tokiwa City and his granddaughter both had their dialogue censored a bit.

    *Bill/Masaki’s Kansai-ben, and the way the translators handled it. Note that his computer talks the same way he does, too.

    *Giovanni/Sakaki’s dialogue when you first meet him in the Rocket HQ is cut off in the English translation, for some reason. This is just plain bizarre, though it was fixed for the FR/LG remake.

    1. For practice/fun/curiosity/self-torture, I’ve translated a sizable portion of the text of the GBA remake, Pokemon Fire Red.

      As far as I can tell, the English script was very faithful to the original, but there were some little gems, like the minor instance of drug humor!

  3. I remember reading that Red & Blue had to be developed from scratch for the English release because the code was so fragile and the Japanese text couldn’t be changed without breaking anything. If that’s true, then how can you program something that horribly?! Well… EarthBound and Mother 3 sound like they had awful text programmers too…

      1. It’s true. You should look up the “Dokashira Door Glitch” sometime. Only works on the original red and green Japanese versions. And if you’ve ever seen the Japanese version, you’ll notice the list of moves in battle is different from the English version. Changing the window/text position like that is something that probably wasn’t an easy thing to do. I’m sure there are plenty more differences too, but I’ll just have to wait until Mato finishes that blasted FFIV fanboy fest of a comparison and does the greatest game in the entire freaking world, POKEMON!!! Yeah! And America and freedom!

  4. This supports my theory that after mother 3 and the Spoiler: End of the world, Then the world was reborn into pokemon (especially black and white)

  5. This is kind of common in Japanese games, though, isn’t it? Like, at the beginning of Tokimeki Memorial you pick out what Shiori’s birthday is going to be in-game and she asks you “Do you remember my birthday?” I guess it’s just supposed to be more immersive than “PLEASE ENTER RIVAL’S NAME” or whatever.

  6. I did a little digging and looked up the other names of the Pokemon profs. in Japanese from the whole series. After finding the names I then used a dictionary, Denshi Jisho, to see what they translated to.Full disclosure I have no real experience with Japanese so some of these may be incorrect.I thought I’d share what I found though anyway. Here is what I found:

    Prof. Elm = ウツギ博士—> ウツギ = Deutzia crenata (a type of flowering shrub)

    Prof. Birch = オダマキ博士—> オダマキ = Aquilegia flabellata (aka fan columbine; a blue flower in the same family as ranunculus flowers)

    Prof. Rowan = ナナカマド博士—> ナナカマド = Sorbus commixta aka Japanese rowan tree (a type of mountain ash)

    Prof. Juniper = アララギ博士—> アララギ = Taxus cuspidata aka Japanese yew (tree in the family taxacaea)

    Prof. Sycamore = プラターヌ博士—>プラターヌ = plane tree or sycamore in North America

    Conclusions: It seems that there was a plant naming theme going on in Japanese just like in English except instead of trees the Japanese used different types of plants. The only two that reflect their original Japanese seem to be Rowan and Sycamore, however, Juniper is close since it is a tree and it is sometimes confused as being a member of taxacaea instead of the cypress family. These may not be 100% accurate, though, since I had a hard time plugging sycamores name into the dictionary and had to work a similar word suggestion it gave me. I could not find anything for Prof. Ivy at all and so couldn’t even put her on the list. I hope you can maybe look into this at some point in the future because I think it is really interesting if there is actually a naming scheme at work here. 🙂

    TL;DR: Pkmn Profs. names from the series in Japanese all seem to have to do with plants. Sycamore and Rowan seem to be the only 2 that retain their Japanese names in English though.

  7. #LULZ. My friend and I laughed after revisiting that moment we had in #childhood, but not knowing teaching other then, when he bought with a Yoshi card of $10 the Blue version for $9.99 last night. The card he had dropped in the parking lot and we had to go back from my house, after searching around the car and grass, to get, and I spotted it. I beat Blue 3x back as a kid with the #GBC. I got the #BlueVersion somewhat recently as a ROM and SAS that again AHAHA. I learned again the actual #vg name of the main character, is #Red. It is Red there, but different for the manga and different from the anime, different in Japanese too, I learned off him. I’m learning off the wrb now what to call his grandson. #lol. #Yuh. #Cheers. #Pokemon. #Gaming. #Classic. #xD. #xDDDD.


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