List of Japanese surnames 200+ Origin and Meanings

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Looking for a list of Japanese last names? What are the most common Japanese surnames? Do you know the meaning of the main surnames? Why do Japanese people usually have only two names? Why does the Last Name come first in Japan? These and other questions will be answered in this article.

The History of Japanese Surnames

Do you know the history of Japanese surnames? Not long ago, in the Meiji Era (1868-1912) common people did not have surnames. Only people from positions such as nobility, artists, and regional clan chiefs.

Sometimes warriors, doctors, monks, and merchants got a surname by buying. Ordinary people were identified by profession or location, merchants used to use their store name as identification or a surname.

Japanese surnames - how they originated and which are the most common

How did people differ from one another?

If in a city 2 people are called Souta, whoever lived in the mountains ended up being called Yamamoto no Souta which literally means Souta from the foot of the mountain 山本 (foot of the mountain). This is yet another reason why the last name comes before the first name.

For this reason, Japanese names and surnames end up being simple and having common meanings that identify the personality, family origin, place they lived, their social class and history.

In addition, ideograms help Japanese names to be more complex, allowing several ways to read an ideogram and write using other ideograms. Not to mention that a name can have multiple meanings thanks to the kanji.

Research reveals that there are between 100,000 to 300,000 surnames in Japan, making it one of the countries with the highest number of surnames in the world. This seems ironic, because the Japanese has few syllables compared to other languages.

YouTube video

Examples of Japanese surname origins

As mentioned, many Japanese surnames referred to specific locations or characteristics about a particular family, see some popular examples below:

  • Derived from place name – Watanabe, Takahashi, Sasaki, Ishikawa, Hasegawa, Miura, Chiba...;
  • Derived from topography and landscape - Yamamoto, Yamada, Mori, Ikeda...
  • Derived from the relationship orientation or position - Minami, Kita, Tatsumi...;
  • Derived from occupation – Hattori, Shoji, Tokairin, Inukai, Ukai, Kobun...;
Japanese surnames - how they originated and which are the most common

Myouji - Family name in Japanese

Surnames or family names in Japanese are called myouji [名字 or 苗字] sometimes called I know [姓]. In the past, the Japanese surname was called naazana [名字], here are some related words that can help increase your Japanese vocabulary:

JapaneseRomajiMeaning
同姓doubledsame last name
元姓genseiAbout previous name, original
他姓ok I knowanother surname
異姓I knowdifferent last name
宮号miyagouImperial surname
漢姓kanseiChinese surname
名前namae - nameFirst name
ラストネームrasutoneemu Last Name
家名Kameifamily name, house

The most common surnames in Japan

The most common surname in Japan is Satou, more than 1,928,000 people have this surname. Satou is written mainly with the ideograms [佐藤] which together mean field of wisteria. Below you can see a list of the 10 most common surnames in all of Japan, the number of people who have that surname and what it means.

Last namePopulationIdeogramMeaning
1Satou 1.928.000佐藤wisteria field
2Suzuki 1.707.000鈴木bell tree
3Takahashi 1.416.000高橋long bridge
4Tanaka 1.336.000田中In the middle of the rice field
5Watanabe 1.134.000渡辺 / 渡邊Go over
6Itou 1.080.000伊藤Ise's Wisteria
7Yamamoto 1.077.000山本mountain person
8Nakamura 1.059.000中村inside the village
9Kobayashi 1.019.000小林small forest
10Saitou 980.000斉藤 / 斎藤Affectionate Wisteria.

The first character of the name Saitou (斉) can be used to refer to a meal made by monks and priests. It also conveys an image of purity and divided worship.

It is worth remembering the japanese names usually represent their meaning in reverse. The ideograms can be written in the order High(高) Bridge(橋) but they mean High (or Long) Bridge. And we can't always take the literal meaning of the ideogram.

Japanese surnames - how they originated and which are the most common

The article is still halfway through, but we recommend also reading:

Are surnames nicknames?

As we can see throughout this article, surnames are practically nicknames, since the definition is to expose a person's characteristic in an affectionate or pejorative way. Japanese surnames are basically a characteristic of the person and the place where they live.

Since Japanese names are practically nicknames, how do Japanese people affectionately call themselves? This happens by making changes to the name or adding suffixes.

If you want to learn more about Japanese nicknames, we suggest reading our full article by clicking the link below: >> All About Japanese Nicknames!

List of 200 common Japanese surnames

Below, we will leave a short list with the 200 most common names in the Japanese language. This list was shared by Studiare Giapponese and is in alphabetical order.

KanjiRomajiMeaning
阿部Abenice group
秋山Akiyamaautumn mountain
安藤walkedQuiet Wisteria
青木AokiGreen Tree
青山Aoyamablue/green mountain
新井荒井AraiPoço NovoNew Residence
荒木Arakiwild tree
浅野淺野Asanoshallow plain
馬場Grandmotherriding land
千葉ChibaA thousand sheets
遠藤Endoufar from wisteria
藤井FujiiWisteria Well
藤本FujimotoOrigin of Wisteria
藤田FujitaWisteria plantation
藤原Fujiwarawisteria field
福田Fukudarice paddy
福井Fukuigood luck well
福島FukushimaGood Luck Island
古川Furukawaold river
後藤gotubehind the wisteria
萩原Hagiwaraclover plain
浜田Hamadabeach rice paddy
HaraField
原田HaradaPlanting in the Field
長谷川HasegawaLong river that runs through the valley
橋本HashimotoBase/Origin of the Bridge
服部Hattoriclothing alliance
早川Hayakawarapid river
Hayashiwoods
樋口Higuchiwater spout
平井HiraiWell Placido
平野hyranoFlat Field
平田Hiratapacific rice paddy
広瀬廣瀬Hirosewide and shallow
本田Hondaoriginal rice field
本間HonmaName of a clan that ruled the province of Sado
timemoat
星野HoshinoStar Field
市川Ichikawacity river
五十嵐Igarashififty storms
飯田goCooked Rice Husk
池田Ikedaplantation with lake
今井ImaiCurrent Well
井上Inoueon top of the well
石橋Ishibashistone bridge
石田Ishidastony plantation
石原Ishihararocky plain
石井Ishiistone well
石川Ishikawastony river
伊藤ItouIse Wisteria (Mie City)
岩本IwamotoBase of the Rock
岩崎IwasakiEnd of the Rock
岩田IwataRocky Rice Plantation
鎌田KamataRice Field Sickle
金子Kanekolucky son
片山Katayamasingle mountain
加藤KatouKaga Wisteria (Former name of Ishikawa)
川口KawaguchiRiver entrance
川上Kawakamiabove the river
川村Kawamurariver village
川波Kawanamiriver wave
川崎Kawasakiend of the river
菊地菊池KikuchiChrysanthemum LandChrysanthemum Pond
木村KimuraVillage with Trees
木下kinoshiteunder the tree
北村KitamuraNorth Village
小林Kobayashismall forest
小池Koikelittle lake
小島KojimaLittle island
小松Komatsulittle pine tree
近藤KondouClose to Wisteria
小西KonishiLittle West
河野Kouno (Kawano)river with plain
小山Koyamalittle mountain
久保Kubouneven terrain
久保田KubotaRice plantation with unevenness
工藤KudouSkillful Wisteria
熊谷KumagaiBear Valley
栗原KuriharaCastanheiras Plain
黒田KurodaBlack Rice Plantation
前田MaedaIn front of the rice field
丸山Maruyamaround mountain
増田MasudaExpanded plantation
松原MatsubaraPlain of the Pines
松田Matsudarice field with pine
松井MatsuiPinheiro Well
松本MatsumotoPine tree base
松村Matsumuravillage of pine trees
松尾Matsuopine tail
松岡Matsuokapine hill
松下Matsushitaunder the pine
松浦MatsuuraPinheiros Bay
MinamiOn
三浦Miurathree bays
三宅Miyakethree houses
宮本MiyamotoOrigin of the Temple/Palace
宮田MiyataShrine rice plantation
宮崎MiyazakiEnd of the Temple/Palace
水野MizunoWater Field
望月MochizukiFull moon
Moriwoods
森本MorimotoForest Base
森田Moritaplantation in the forest
村上Murakamion top of the village
村田Muratavillage plantation
長井永井NagaiVery LongWell Forever
長田永田Nagatalong rice field
内藤Naitouindoor wisteria
中川NakagawaCentral River
中島NakajimaNakashimacentral island
中村Nakamuramiddle of the village
中西Nakanishimidwest
中野NakanoCentral Field
中田NakataNakadaCentral rice field
中山NakayamaInside the Mountain
成田noseRice field formation
西田Nishidawestern rice plantation
西川Nishikawawest river
西村Nishimurawest village
西山Nishiyamawest mountain
西沢Nishizawaswamp of the west
野田NodaRice plantation in the field
野口NoguchiField Entrance
野村NomuraCountryside Village
小田OdaSmall Rice Plantation
小川Ogawasmall river
岡田Okadahill rice field
岡本Okamotohill base
岡崎Okazakicape hill
奥村Okumuraisolated village
小野OnoSmall Field
大橋Oohashigreat bridge
大石Ooishibig stone
大久保Ookubobig hollow
大森OomoriBig help
大西Oonishigreat west
大野Oonogreat plain
大沢大澤Oosawagreat swamp
大島Ooshimabig island
太田OooFertile rice field
大谷Ootanigreat valley
大塚OotsukaGreat Ancient Tomb
尾崎Ozakiend of the cable
小沢小澤Ozawalittle swamp
斎藤齋藤SaitouAffectionate Wisteria
斎藤 / 齋藤SaitouAffectionate Wisteria
酒井Sakaisake pit
坂本SakamotoBottom of the descent
桜井櫻井SakuraiCherry Well
佐野healthySmall Field
佐々木SasakiSupport Tree
佐藤SatouField of Wisterias
沢田SawadaRice Plantation in the Swamp
関/關Sekibarrier/gate
柴田ShibataPlanting with Sticks
島田ShimadaIsland plantation
清水ShimizuPure water
篠原ShinoharaBamboo grass plain
菅原Sugawarafield of sedge
杉本SugimotoOrigin of Cedar
杉山Sugiyamacedar mountain
須藤Sutou SudouMandatory Wisteria
鈴木Suzukibell tree
田口TaguchiEntrance to the Rice Field
高田Takada Takatatall plantation
高木TakagiTall Tree
高橋Takahashihigh bridge
高野TakanoCampo Alto
高山TakayamaHigh mountain
武田TakedaWarrior's rice field
竹内TakeuchiInside the Bamboo
田村Tamuravillage with rice paddies
田辺田邊TanabeNext to the rice plantation
田中Tanakamiddle of rice field
谷口Taniguchiopening of the valley
土屋TsuchiyaClay house
TsujiCrossroads (Cross Road)
内田UchidaInside the Plantation
内山UchiyamaMountain interior
上田UedaUetaTop/top planting
上野Uenoon top of the plain
和田WadaHarmonious plantation
渡辺Watanabecross the edge
山田YamadaMountain rice field
山口YamaguchiOpening to the Mountain
山本Yamamotobase of the mountain
山中YamanakaMountain Center
山下YamashitaUnder the Mountain
山内YamauchiInside the Mountain
山崎YamazakiYamasakiMountain's Edge
矢野Yanoeighth field
安田Yasudacheap rice paddy
横田Yokotarice field next door
横山Yokoyamabeside the mountain
吉田YoshidaAuspicious plantation
吉川Yoshikawaauspicious river
吉村Yoshimuraauspicious village
吉岡Yoshiokaauspicious hill

How can I find out the meaning of my name?

We recommend picking up an online dictionary like jisho and research the various meanings of each ideogram and try to create a relationship between the 2. It is worth remembering that Japanese names can have different pronunciations and ideograms, so don't get attached to a list without knowing how to spell your name.

If you want to delve into Japanese names, we recommend a JBC's Dictionary of Japanese Names (click for details). Let's leave a video explaining how you can find out on your own the meaning of Japanese names:

YouTube video

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