The name “Mr. Miyagi” has become all too engrained in the “Karate Kid” universe, with the canon surrounding the franchise even becoming known as the “Miyagiverse” among fans. The name itself even became a bit of a running gag in the first film, with many characters frequently mispronouncing it as “mi-ya-JEE,” and Miyagi himself, played by the inimitable Pat Morita, having to correct them.
However, despite the iconic status of the “Miyagi” name among “Karate Kid” fans, many may still wonder what exactly the karate sensei’s first name is. The answer is actually a bit more complex than you might think.
Here’s what you need to know.
Miyagi’s Name Changes Throughout the ‘Karate Kid’ Films
Fans might not be surprised to know that Mr. Miyagi’s name is not actually mentioned in the first “Karate Kid” film. However, a potential clue can be briefly seen when the old sensei gives his student Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) a car for his birthday. On the dog tags used as a keychain, Miyagi’s full name is shown as “Hideo Miyagi.” Hideo, according to Baby Names Pedia, means “excellent male child,” and piqued in popularity in Japan around the 1910s and ’20s, around the time Miyagi was born (Morita himself was born a little later, in 1932, according to IMDb).
“Hideo” can also be translated to “hero,” meaning Miyagi’s name could be “Hero Miyagi.” Given the translation, it is entirely possible that “Hideo” could be a nickname of sorts, and not Miyagi’s actual given name. It is also worth mentioning that “Hideo” was also the name of Morita’s older brother, who was born around 1920, according to Morita in an interview.
However, “The Karate Kid Part II” (1986) and Netflix’s spin-off series “Cobra Kai” might throw a curveball into the mix. In “Part II,” his full name is given as “宮城成義,” which translates to “Nariyoshi Miyagi,” according to a Facebook Image posting. This is also the name that can be seen on Miyagi’s gravestone in “Cobra Kai.”
Near the beginning of “The Next Karate Kid” (1994), which, according to “Cobra Kai” co-creator Jon Hurwitz, is considered canon in the “Cobra Kai” universe, Mr. Miyagi is referred to by the name “Keisuke Miyagi.”
So in the end, the answer is ambiguous. Mr. Miyagi’s first name could be Hideo, or Nariyoshi, or Keisuke.
How Miyagi’s First Name Could Still Evolve
When it came to why “Nariyoshi” was selected as Miyagi’s first name for “Cobra Kai,” Hurwitz acknowledged the inconsistencies in Miyagi’s first name in a 2020 interview, but said that he and the writing team ultimately decided to go with the translation from “Part II.” At the same time, he revealed that he learned the signage revealing Miyagi’s name was “sort of a choice that was I think just made randomly by whoever was in the prop department,” and hence likely doesn’t carry much significance.
Hurwitz added that it’s possible that all of Mr. Miyagi’s potential names may be a part of his identity in one way or another, giving the full name “Nariyoshi Kesuke Miyagi” as an example.
Miyagi’s first name is not the only name fans should be interested in, however. According to Sports Illustrated, screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen, who wrote the first three “Karate Kid” films, has said that he named Miyagi after an Okinawan man by the name of Chōjun Miyagi. Chōjun Miyagi was the founder of an Okinawan form of karate called Gōjū-ryū, which Kamen studied under the tutelage of one of Miyagi’s students.
For those interested, Mr. Miyagi is not the only person with a somewhat ambiguous first name. Morita’s real first name is not actually Pat – it is Noriyuki. In an interview, Morita revealed that he chose the stage name “Pat” in part due to comedians Pat Henry and Pat Cooper, as well as the memories he had of a priest he befriended as a child.
Whether or not Hurwitz and the other “Cobra Kai” writers plan to expand upon Miyagi’s name yet again in future episodes of the series is yet to be seen. Be sure to catch season 4 of “Cobra Kai” when it is released on Netflix December 31.