Popular Baby Names
Popular Baby Names 1912 - present
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).
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.