Japanese Last Names

It is estimated that there are currently around 150,000 Japanese last names used in Japan today. A list of the top 100 surnames comprise almost one third the population:

Common Japanese Surnames

  1. Sato meaning "help wisteria" (佐藤)
  2. Suzuki meaning "small bell tree" (鈴木)
  3. Takahashi meaning "tall bridge" (高橋)
  4. Tanaka meaning "rice field middle" (田中)
  5. Watanabe meaning "cross boundary" (渡辺)
  6. Ito meaning "that wisteria" (伊藤)
  7. Yamamoto meaning "mountain true" (山本)
  8. Nakamura meaning "in a village" (中村)
  9. Ohayashi meaning "small forest" (小林)
  10. Kobayashi meaning "small forest" (小林)
  11. Kato meaning "increase wisteria" (加藤)
  12. Kichida meaning "joy rice field" (吉田)
  13. Yoshida meaning "joy rice field" (吉田)
  14. Yamada meaning "mountain rice field" (山田)
  15. Sasaki meaning "help tree" (佐々木)
  16. Yamaguchi meaning "mountain mouth" (山口)
  17. Matsumoto meaning "pine tree true" (松本)
  18. Ine meaning "town above" (井上)
  19. Inoue meaning "town above" (井上)
  20. Saito meaning "purification wisteria" (斎藤)
  21. Kimura meaning "tree village" (木村)
  22. Hayashi meaning "grove" (林)
  23. Rin meaning "grove" (林)
  24. Kiyomizu meaning "pure water" (清水)
  25. Shimizu meaning "pure water" (清水)
  26. Yamasaki meaning "mountain cape" (山崎)
  27. Ikeda meaning "pond rice field" (池田)
  28. Abe meaning "section nook" (阿部)
  29. Mori meaning "forest" (森)
  30. Hashimoto meaning "bridge true" (橋本)
  31. Yamashita meaning "mountain below" (山下)
  32. Ishikawa meaning "stone river" (石川)
  33. Nakashima meaning "center island" (中島)
  34. Maeda meaning "in front of rice field" (前田)
  35. Fujita meaning "wisteria rice field" (藤田)
  36. Ogawa meaning "small river" (小川)
  37. Kokawa meaning "small river" (小川)
  38. Okada meaning "hill rice field" (岡田)
  39. Gato meaning "behind wisteria" (後藤)
  40. Goto meaning "behind wisteria" (後藤)
  41. Hasegawa meaning "long valley river" (長谷川)
  42. Hayagawa meaning "long valley river" (長谷川)
  43. Samurakami meaning "village above" (村上)
  44. Murakami meaning "village above" (村上)
  45. Kondo meaning "near wisteria" (近藤)
  46. Chikafuji meaning "near wisteria" (近藤)
  47. Ishii meaning "stone well" (石井)
  48. Sakamoto meaning "hill true" (坂本)
  49. Endo meaning "distant wisteria" (遠藤)
  50. Aoki meaning "green tree" (青木)
  51. Fujii meaning "wisteria well" (藤井)
  52. Nishimura meaning "west village" (西村)
  53. Fukuda meaning "lucky rice field" (福田)
  54. Oota meaning "large rice field" (太田)
  55. Miura meaning "three bays" (三浦)
  56. Fujihara meaning "wisteria meadow" (藤原)
  57. Okamoto meaning "hill true" (岡本)
  58. Matsuda meaning "pine tree rice field" (松田)
  59. Saitou meaning "alike wisteria" (斉藤)
  60. Nakagawa meaning "middle river" (中川)
  61. Nakano meaning "middle field" (中野)
  62. Harada meaning "meadow rice field" (原田)
  63. Ono meaning "small field" (小野)
  64. Kono meaning "small field" (小野)
  65. Sanu meaning "small field" (小野)
  66. Takeuchi meaning "bamboo house" (竹内)
  67. Tamura meaning "rice field village" (田村)
  68. Kaneko meaning "gold child" (金子)
  69. Wada meaning "Japanese rice field" (和田)
  70. Nakayama meaning "middle mountain" (中山)
  71. Ishida meaning "stone rice field" (石田)
  72. Ageda meaning "upper rice field" (上田)
  73. Ueda meaning "upper rice field" (上田)
  74. Kamida meaning "upper rice field" (上田)
  75. Jouda meaning "upper rice field" (上田)
  76. Morita meaning "forest rice field" (森田)
  77. Hara meaning "meadow" (原)
  78. Shibata meaning "firewood rice field" (柴田)
  79. Sakai meaning "sake town" (酒井)
  80. Sakei meaning "sake town" (酒井)
  81. Kudo meaning "construct wisteria" (工藤)
  82. Kodo meaning "construct wisteria" (工藤)
  83. Yokoyama meaning "side mountain" (横山)
  84. Miyazaki meaning "palace cape" (宮崎)
  85. Miyamoto meaning "palace true" (宮本)
  86. Uchida meaning "within rice field" (内田)
  87. Kouki meaning "tall tree" (高木)
  88. Takaki meaning "tall tree" (高木)
  89. Ando meaning "peaceful wisteria" (安藤)
  90. Taniguchi meaning "valley mouth" (谷口)
  91. Oono meaning "large field" (大野)
  92. Imai meaning "now town" (今井)
  93. Maruyama meaning "round mountain" (丸山)
  94. Kouda meaning "tall rice field" (高田)
  95. Takata meaning "tall rice field" (高田)
  96. Kawano meaning "river field" (河野)
  97. Kouno meaning "river field" (河野)
  98. Fujimoto meaning "wisteria true" (藤本)
  99. Ojima meaning "small island" (小島)
  100. Kojima meaning "small island" (小島)
  101. Takeda meaning "warrior rice field" (武田)

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.