Dean and Sue Zemke

Sapporo, Hokkaido JAPAN

Popular Baby Names

Popular Baby Names   1912 - present

Listings in kanji can be found
here for boys and here for girls.

Popular Last Names (Surnames)

101 Most Popular Surnames downloadable charts: JPG and PDF

It is estimated that there are around 150,000 Japanese last names used in Japan today.

History of Japanese Last Names

Prior to the Meiji period (1868-1912), last names were rarely used except by the Samurais, noblemen, merchants and some artisans. The commoners which made up the vast majority of people in those times were referred to by their given name and the area from which they were from. During the Meiji period however, the government with endorsement from the emperor made it mandatory for everyone to select a family name using a list of preauthorized Kanji (Japanese characters).

Last Name Characteristics

The majority of Japanese surnames consist of one or two Kanji symbols most of which are geographical landmarks such as river (kawa), mountain (yama), or forest (mori) and adjectives describing the landmarks such as one (ichi), small (koba), or bamboo (take). In Japan, it is customary to refer to someone by their last name even among friends. Similarly when writing a person's name the last name always precedes the given name.