The 150 most common Japanese surnames and their meaning
Searching popular japanese surnames? You have come to the right place! In Japan there are more than 100,000 different surnames, many more than in any other country in the world.
The Japanese surnames come mostly from the names in use of the family itself or from the nicknames with which they were known, which in their time were registered for pass from generation to generation.
However, as with Japanese names, Japanese surnames are mix of one, two or more kanji, and as such, they have their own meaning.
Related with nature elements, with people's own values, and even some from royalty, it is very curious to discover what each family name really means.
This time we focus on 50 Japanese surnames with the most common meanings in the land of the rising sun and another 100 quite widespread surnames.
The vast majority will sound like from the movies, anime series, or the names of famous women and men from Japan. But others are little known outside the country, and they will seem most curious to you.
Discover what do surnames mean in japanese and delve a little deeper into Japanese culture through the history of typical surnames.
In this article you will find ...
What last name can I give my child in Japan?
Unlike Western countries, Asian surnames began to be used relatively recently. Specifically in Japan, ordinary people did not begin to use surnames until the Meiji period, between 1868 and 1912.
Before the important changes that occurred in the country at the end of the 19th century, only the Japanese imperial surnames.
That is, the only families that had a surname were the emperors, kings and feudal lords, although sometimes some warriors, monks and important merchants acquired a surname to be able to identify themselves.
The first Japanese surnames were related to the place where they lived families, profession or some particular characteristic.
For this reason they are usually words with a simple meaning, composed of the variation of kanjis to be able to more easily differentiate people who have the same name within the same town or region.
In the Meiji revolution it was made mandatory to choose and register a surname. In this way it would be easier to control the population of the entire country.
Some of the most commonly used surnames in Japan today are also the most beautiful, with a very deep meaning who is wearing them for.
How many surnames do Japanese have?
In Japan it is tradition to have only one last name. This will be the name of the family, which are kept throughout the generations.
The most common is that when getting marriedLet the woman take the husband's surname, becoming part of the new family. However, this is not entirely mandatory, and there is the possibility for the husband to take his wife's surname if he so wishes.
It is also common for people in Japan to only have a first and last name. At the time of a formal presentation, or if you have to write the full name, the family name or surname is placed in front, followed by the proper name.
This same custom is followed in other Asian countries such as China, Korea, Vietnam or Thailand. These are usually composed of the family name, followed by a single different proper name for each member of the family.
Most common Japanese surnames
Do you also want to know which are the best Japanese surnames? We cannot list the more than 100,000 surnames from Japan.
However, if we are going to see the Japanese surnames that begin with all the letters and its most typical meanings of the country.
Japanese surnames with A
Although little known, it is a very common Japanese surname. It means 'peace on several occasions', and due to the symbolism of the two kanjis that compose it, it must come from an important family.
Something better known is the surname Ahane, which is the mixture of various elements of nature. 'Ah' means 'second', 'ha' means 'waves', and 'ne' is 'root' in Japanese. Its exact origin is not known, but it must have belonged to a family of farmers.
It comes from the Japanese clan Fuyiwara, and means 'peaceful wisteria'. Wisteria is a plant of great beauty, which in Japan is also known as 'fuji'.
It is a very common surname in the Ryukyu Islands, although little by little it spread throughout the country. It means 'green Tree', and as such, it has its origin in a place where vegetation abounds.
Japanese surnames with B
With a marked Japanese character, this is possibly the most original surname among foreigners. It means 'separate neighborhood', so it refers to a family that lived on the outskirts or in an environment far from civilization.
Although all Japanese surnames are unisex, as is the case in most cultures, Bushida is a familiar name that is associated with boys and young men. It translates as 'samurai' or 'warrior', and it is a pride to be able to use it.
Japanese surnames with C
Chiba is the name of one of the most famous prefectures in the Kanto region, but also one of the rarest Japanese surnames. It means 'thousands of leaves', and although formerly it was used a lot, little by little it is being lost among new families.
Japanese surnames with E
It comes from the famous Fujiwara clan. Specifically from one of the most important branches whose relatives are still very important people throughout the country. Contains the kanji 'far away' and 'wisteria', although between these two words there seems to be no relationship whatsoever.
Japanese surnames with F
Although there are those who confuse it with Japan's most famous volcano, this surname is related with the wisteria plant, which is pronounced the same. Adding an extra 'i' at the end changes the meaning, referring to 'town' or 'community'.
Combine the kanji of the wisteria plant once more, along with the one for 'wara' which means 'prairie' or 'plain'. It refers to a meadow where lush trees of this type so common in Japan grow.
This surname is very common and has a very beautiful meaning. It is the mixture of 'rice field' with 'blessing', for a family that has good fortune in life or that carves out its own blessings through hard work.
Japanese surnames with G
Literally means 'attached to the rice field', and it surely comes from primitive families that cultivated rice decades ago. Today it is very common in cities, but above all it is typical of small japanese towns and remote regions of the country.
Japanese surnames with H
Composed of a single kanji, it is a very simple surname that means 'meadow'. Japanese families love it, because of the way it is pronounced and also because of its symbolism, which is why it is becoming a very popular surname.
Today it is one of the oldest and most used surnames in Japan. Means 'main bridge', by the union of two Japanese symbols of great strength and meaning. For many families it is a tradition to keep it as it is believed to bring good luck.
Although its original pronunciation has up to 3 syllables, in Japan it may be one of the only surnames composed of such a simple kanji. This makes it a very popular surname, which literally means 'forests', in plural.
Surely you have ever heard this last name. But do you know what it means and what the Japanese who wear it think? It translates 'rice field', and although today it is associated with important families, the truth is that it has very humble origins.
Japanese surnames with I
Much more poetic is the surname Ikeda, which means 'rice field by the pond'. Unlike the Japanese surnames associated with farmers, this one has its origin in the feudal lords to whom the farmlands belonged.
It is one of the shortest and possibly also the most beautiful surnames in Japan. Approximately 1 million Japanese wear it with pride, as it is said to come from the Fujiwara clan, one of the most powerful in feudal Japan. Corresponds to the name of a climbing plant called wisteria.
Another surname related to nature, this time with the sea. Iwasaki translates into Spanish as 'stone peninsula'. Its provenance is not fully known. But it is associated with the coastal areas of the country, being a very typical surname of fishing families.
Japanese surnames with K
More than 900,000 Japanese people around the world are called Kato. It also has many other variations when it is written as Katou or Katoh, although the meaning is the same. It translates as 'Add', and is also related to the wisteria or wisteria plant.
Kimura means 'village of trees', and as such, it comes from the ancient families that lived in this type of natural environment. It is one of the most common rural Japanese surnames, which has been passed down from father to son over the years.
Kobayashi means 'little forest', represented by the combination of two Japanese kanji that literally have the shape of trees. This surname comes from families that lived in wooded areas, spreading throughout the country over the years.
Last name of the famous Marie Kondo, it has nothing to do with the order or cleanliness that characterizes this woman. Translated from Japanese means 'near the wisteria', and it is believed that he is also descended from one of the strongest clan, the Fujiwara clan.
Both the kanjis that represent this surname and their translation are simple. Means 'little mountain', and the safest thing is that it comes from a location near a hill, being one of the most repeated surnames in the country.
Much more complex is the surname Kudo, which more than with nature, is related to the work of those who performed important work for the Fujiwara clan. It means 'fuji worker', and there are also those who translate it as 'fuji potter'.
Japanese surnames with M
Translated as 'in front of the rice field', is another of the most common surnames among modest and working families in Japan. Today it is worn with pride, since it has a very important kanji such as the one that represents the 'rice field', a typical element of the country.
Not to be confused with the surname Masuda, which has a different meaning. Matsuda, with interspersed T translates as 'rice field with pines', and refers to a landscape of rice fields next to a pine forest, two of the traditional symbols of Japan.
Does this last name sound familiar to you? It is one of the most traditional and common in Japan. The typical surname that appears in Japanese movies and series. It means 'pine base', and as such it refers to the strength of the trunk of this majestic tree.
As much or more typical than the previous one is the surname Miyamoto. It translates as 'sanctuary book', and it surely comes from the surname of an ancient monk, reaching our days as one of the most traditional Japanese surnames.
One of the most important video game designers in history who works for Nintendo, Shigeru Miyamoto, has this last name.
Written with the same kanji as Miyamoto, Miyazaki contains the Japanese word for 'shrine' or 'palace'. It would be something like 'the end of the sanctuary', or 'the sanctuary of the end'.
It translates as 'upstairs villa', and it is a very modest as well as a common Japanese surname. Due to its simplicity, it is believed that it was one of the first to be coined as a family name among the inhabitants of small towns.
Japanese surnames with N
'Naka' is the kanji to designate a crossroads or the central area of something. In this case it would be translated as central river'when accompanied by the kanji that corresponds to this natural element.
More than 1 million Japanese have one of the most original surnames such as Nakamura. It comes from the Watanabe clan, a family of very important samurai warriors from Osaka city. This Japanese surname means 'cross through a village'.
Means 'in the middle of the field' or 'central field', since it also contains the word 'naka'. Many people throughout Japan have this surname or its variations that refer to the location of the family that carries it.
With great sonority, this surname means 'entrance to the field', and it is a favorite of young people today. It is simple but gives a lot of elegance to the working class that has managed to achieve a good status.
Japanese surnames with O
Another of the most common Japanese surnames among families, it means 'little river'. Its origin is ancient, and it is most possible that it came from a family that lived next to a stream or the source of a spring.
It translates as 'rice field in the mountains', a mixture of two of the most used kanjis for surnames in Japan. It is simple but effective. Also one of the most listened to household names in the country.
Japanese surnames with S
In Japan it is common to find cherry trees distributed throughout the geography of the country. It's no wonder that many surnames contain the word 'sakura'. This one in particular translates as 'cherry blossom village'.
Relative to agricultural work, Sano translates as 'helper of the field'. It is one of the first surnames coined in Japan decades ago, and one of the most common today.
More than 2 million Japanese carry the surname Sato. It is one of the most popular in the country, and possibly the most common among all. Translated from Japanese means 'at your service', so its origin must come from a humble family.
Almost as numerous as the surname Sato, approximately 1.9 million people have this family name. It means 'stacked ears of rice', and comes from the Heian period, being also one of the most legendary.
Japanese surnames with T
Almost a million and a half Japanese have this last name in Japan. However, it is one of the least common among people living abroad. Do you know someone whose last name is like that? It means 'high Bridge', so its origin could come from a family that lived in a high area of the town.
Once again we find the kanji for 'rice field', along with another that translates to 'war'. There is no literal translation for this surname, but it could be something like 'rice field of war'.
Also of humble origin, the surname Tanaka is composed of two kanjis that mean 'rice cultivation'. There are different origins depending on the family. In some cases this surname comes from who worked the field, and in other cases from those who owned the farmland.
Japanese surnames with W
Japanese surnames with W are quite abundant. One of the most common is this, which means 'harmonious rice field'. It is short and simple, but with a very beautiful pronunciation that Japanese and foreigners tend to like.
A million Japanese have this surname which means 'interior town'. It was referring to families from rural settings that decades ago coincided with the same family name.
Japanese surnames with Y
Yamada is the most common Japanese surname in big cities like Tokyo or Yokohama. It is also one of the oldest, and it means 'mountain field'.
Also referring to the location of a family close to the mountain, this surname means 'entrance to the mountain'. Very distributed throughout the country, more and more young Japanese are making it fashionable.
Surely you have heard this last name before, and even know someone who has it. It is the easiest to write and common to find. Their kanji are very simple, and they mean 'from the base of the mountain', referring to a family that lived just in this type of location.
We end up with one of the most tender and kawaii Japanese surnames when it comes to pronouncing them. It means 'lucky rice field', so it is not only adorable for the pronunciation, but also for its translation.
Other common surnames in Japan
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Most original Japanese names and their meaning
Although the Japanese cannot choose which surname to give their children, since they will acquire the family name, they do have total freedom to choose your own name.
On our blog Alternative Japan we have seen the most common boy and girl names in the Japanese country. And also for cats and dogs!
Take a look, because they can give you very good ideas to find female and male names of the most original:
Now that you know the history of Japanese surnames, how family names are used, and which ones are the most traditional, you are one more step away from becoming an expert in Japanese culture. !! Congratulations!!
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