Names in Japanese
Name Order
Japanese names consist of a family name, followed by a given name. In the West, Japanese names are normally written in the reverse order. For example, the author Kawabata Yasunari is known in the West as Yasunari Kawabata. Note that some authors in the West use the Japanese format.

Family Names (Surnames)
Commoners were not allowed to use family names until after the Meiji Restoration of 1868, when they were allowed to create a surname or borrow an existing one. Family names usually are written with two Chinese characters (kanji), which may or may not have related meanings. For example, "Yamamoto" means "base of the mountain." However, some surnames consist of one or three or more characters. Because there are thousands of kanji and thus millions of possible combinations, Japan probably has more family names than any other country.

Common Surnames
Matsushita (Below the Pine), Saito, Sato, Suzuki (Bell Tree), Watanabe, Yamamoto (Base of the Mountain).

Common Components of Surnames
Japanese English
aka red
aki autumn
-bashi bridge
-da rice paddy
fuji wisteria
fuku good fortune; wealthy
furu old
-gawa river
-guchi mouth
hana flower
hara field; plain
hashi bridge
hira flat; smooth
hon base; main
hoshi star
ichi one
iwa rock
kami god
kami upper, top
kawa river
ki tree
kita north
kuchi mouth
kuro black
marui round
matsu pine
miya Shinto shrine
mori forest
moto base; origin
mura village
nabe pan; pot
naka middle
nishi west
-no field; plain
o (long) large; great
o (short) little
oka hill
saka slope
saki headland, cape
sawa marsh; swamp
shima island
shita lower; below; base
suzu bell
ta rice paddy
taka high
take bamboo
-to wisteria
toku virtuous
toyo plentiful; abundant
ue upper; top
wa peace; harmony
-wara field; plain
yama mountain
yoshi good luck; joy
-zawa marsh; swamp
zen good; virtue

Given Names
The number of possible given names is practically limitless. Some names are exclusively female or male, while others can be either. Note that some names (e.g., Jun) have many different meanings, depending on the kanji used to write it.

Female Given Names
Female names usually, but not always, end in "ko," which means child. Common female names include Akiko (Autumn Child), Haruko (Spring Child), Jun'ko, Keiko, Kiyoko, Michiko, Natsuko (Summer Child), Sachiko, Yoshiko (Good Child), and Yukiko (Snow Child). Note that all names ending in "ko" are not necessarily female. For example, the male name Norihiko.

Male Given Names
Male names sometimes indicate the order of birth, using the suffix -ro, the counter for sons. For example, Ichiro (first son), Jiro (second son), Saburo (third son), Shiro (fourth son), Goro (fifth son), and so on. Common male names include Hiroshi, Ken and its many variants (Kenji, Ken'ichi), Yoshi, etc.

Glossary
-ro counter for sons
kanji Chinese character
myoji family name; surname
namae name; given name

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