Japan Data Archive

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Do Japanese names have meaning?

Until the Edo period (1600-1868), having a surname was a privilege given exclusively to the warrior class.
Common people only had a first name, such as Yakichi or Ume.
However, in 1875 the Meiji government enacted a law requiring all citizens to have surnames.
Some borrowed names of famous warriors or aristocrats, and others used the names of fish because they were fishermen.
A great majority of family names are derived from place names.
Some names represent occupations.
For example, Suzuki and Ono are common for people with ancestors engaged in jobs related to shrines.
Hata and So are names of people from the Asian continent who were nationalized as Japanese citizens.
The ten most common Japanese names in descending order are Sato, Suzuki, Takahashi, Ito, Watanabe, Saito, Tanaka, Kobayashi, Sasaki, and Yamamoto.
There are about 2 million Satos and 2 million Suzukis in Japan.