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100 Beautiful Japanese Last Names: With Meanings

These popular Japanese last names are rich in history.

Are you taking a trip to Tokyo and need to improve your pronunciation? Want to connect with your ancestry? Or perhaps you’re simply curious about Japanese history and culture? Whatever your reason, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with popular Japanese surnames.

Modern Japanese family names derive from Japan’s previous clan system and are usually based on occupations or geographical descriptions.

Here, we’ve composed an in-depth catalog of Japanese last names. With popularity statistics, famous namesakes, and a language lesson on each, our curated list will leave you feeling inspired and well-educated in no time. So let’s dive right in!

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100 Popular Japanese Last Names

Jump into our jam-packed list of 100 Japanese last names.


Abe combines the Japanese kanji “a,” written as 安 (peace), and “be,” written as 倍 (multiple times) or 部 (part/section). Abe derives from two Japanese clans, one of which descended from Prince Ōhiko. Abe also means “sun festival” in the Ainu language. In English, Abe (AYB) is short for Abraham, while the Frisian Abe (A-buh) is a diminutive of Adalbert.

  • Origin: Japanese, English, Frisian
  • Meaning: Many times peace, father of a multitude, noble
  • Pronunciation: A-BEH, AYB, A-buh
  • Namesakes: Toshiki Abe, a Japanese professional baseball player. Shinzo Abe, a Japanese politician, statesman, and former Japanese prime minister. Natsumi Abe, a Japanese singer, actress, and girl group member.
  • Popularity: Abe ranked in the top 25 surnames in Japan since 2008; in 2010, it was the 10,837th most common surname in the U.S.
Sturdy, Simple, Classic


Aikawa combines the Japanese kanji “ai” written as 相 (together/mutually) or 愛 (love/affection) and “kawa” written as 川 or 河 (river/stream). The anime BLEACH includes a character called Love or Rabu (RA-BOO) Aikawa. This is likely a play on the meaning of the surname. Ranking 574th in 2014, Aikawa is somewhat common among Japanese last names.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Love river, together stream
  • Pronunciation: EYE-ka-wa
  • Namesakes: Ryoji Aikawa, a Japanese former professional baseball player. Yoshisuke Aikawa, a Japanese entrepreneur, businessman, politician, and founder of the Nissan zaibatsu (Nissan Group).
  • Popularity: Aikawa is in the top 1,000 surnames in Japan, and in 2010, it placed 156,044th in the U.S.
Wholesome, Sweet, Youthful


Akabane may have started as a nickname and is a neighborhood in Tokyo’s Kita province. It combines the Japanese kanji 赤 “aka,” meaning “red,” and 羽 “hane,” meaning “feather.” Since はね “hane” is an old dialect word for 埴 “hani” (clay), scholars think Akabane might translate to “red clay.” A popular fictional namesake is Karma Akabane from Assassination Classroom.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Red feather, red wings
  • Pronunciation: A-KA-BA-NEH
  • Namesakes: Kenji Akabane, a Japanese voice actor. Shigeru Akabane, ring name Little Tokyo, a Japanese professional midget wrestler.
  • Popularity: Akabane is pretty uncommon but ranks within the top 1,000 surnames in Japan.
Cool, Youthful, Breezy


Anime lovers might recognize this one from the manga and anime Akagi, featuring the protagonist Shigeru Akagi. Akagi is usually written with the Japanese kanji 赤木, meaning “red tree,” but may also pair 赤 “aka” (red) with 城 “castle” or 来 “future.” Akagi is also a village in Gunma Prefecture, home to a stratovolcano called Akagiyama (Mount Red Castle).

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Red tree, red castle, red future
  • Pronunciation: A-KA-GEE
  • Namesakes: Norihiko Akagi, a Japanese politician. Kei Akagi, a Japanese-American jazz pianist. Kanji Akagi, a Japanese former sprinter.
  • Popularity: Akagi was the 56,588th most common surname in the U.S. in 2010 and remains in Japan’s top 1,000 surnames.
Majestic, Cool, Simple


Akamine pairs the kanji 赤 “aka” (red) and 嶺 “mine” (mountain peak/mountain ridge). As one of the most mountainous nations worldwide, Japan’s sunrises sometimes give their peaks a red hue. Akamine likely stems from this picturesque scene. It’s fairly popular among Japanese surnames, ranking 1,226th. But you’re more likely to hear about Akamine Station in Okinawa Prefecture.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Red (mountain) peak, red (mountain) ridge
  • Pronunciation: A-KA-MEE-NEH
  • Namesakes: Júlio Akamine, a Brazilian Catholic archbishop and the first of Japanese-Brazilian descent. Seiken Akamine, a Japanese politician. Shingo Akamine, a Japanese footballer.
  • Popularity: In 2010, Akamine was the 40,261st most popular surname in the U.S.
Sturdy, Majestic, Earthy


Akiyama is derived from a Japanese samurai kin group whose clan name, like many others, was based on a location. It combines the Japanese kanji 秋 “aki” (autumn) and 山 “yama” (mountain/hill). This one mostly shows up in eastern and southern Japan. Another historical namesake includes Yoshifuru Akiyama, a general in the Imperial Japanese Army.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Autumn mountain
  • Pronunciation: A-KEE-YA-MA
  • Namesakes: Nobutomo Akiyama, a Japanese Sengoku-period samurai and one of the “Twenty-Four Generals of Takeda Shingen.” Akiyama Saneyuki, a Meiji-period Imperial Japanese Navy career officer.
  • Popularity: Akiyama is popular in Japan and is the 3,504th most common surname in the world.
Earthy, Sturdy, Soothing


Amano feels quite peaceful with its celestial meanings. It’s one of those popular Japanese family names you’ll probably encounter if you ever visit Japan. Amano comes from a location and uses the kanji 天 “ama” (heaven) and 野 “no” (field/wilderness/plain). As a feminine epithet, it’s usually written as 雨 “ama” (rain) and 乃 “no” (possessive particle).

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: My rain, heavenly plain
  • Pronunciation: A-MA-NOH
  • Namesakes: Akira Amano, a Japanese manga artist noted for her Reborn! Series. Amano Takashige, a Japanese Sengoku-period samurai. Yoshitaka Amano, a Japanese visual artist, scenic and costume designer
  • Popularity: Amano usually ranks in the top 300 surnames in Japan, and as a given name, there are about 4,087 bearers worldwide.
Wholesome, Spiritual, Soothing


For those who know Japanese, Aoki may conjure lively images of greenery and nature. It pairs the kanji 青 “ao” (blue/green) and 木 “ki” (tree/wood). Because the noun “ao” uses the same character as the Chinese “qīng,” it can refer to blue or green depending on context. The usage of 緑 “midori” for green is a modern development.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Green tree, blue tree
  • Pronunciation: A-OH-KEE
  • Namesakes: Hiroaki “Rocky” Aoki, a Japanese-American restaurateur, offshore powerboat racer, and amateur wrestler. Steven Aoki, a Japanese-American DJ, music producer, and son of “Rocky” Aoki.
  • Popularity: In 2008, Aoki was Japan’s 39th most common surname and remains in the top 50.
Melodious, Classic, Bright


Aoyama is derived from a clan name that describes a location. It pairs the kanji 青 “ao,” historically used to describe blue or green, and 山 “yama” (mountain/hill). Beyond sports and applied sciences, Aoyama is associated with pioneering spirits. Mitsuko Thekla Maria, Countess of Coudenhove-Kalergi, born Mitsuko Aoyama, was one of Japan’s first immigrants into Europe through her marriage.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Green mountain, blue mountain
  • Pronunciation: A-OH-YA-MA
  • Namesakes: Akira Aoyama, a Japanese civil engineer. Shuhei Aoyama, a former Grand Prix motorcycle racer. Shuko Aoyama, a Japanese professional tennis player.
  • Popularity: Aoyama usually falls in the top 300 surnames in Japan, making it popular. It’s also the 5,502nd most common surname worldwide.
Bright, Soothing, Sturdy


Arima begins with the kanji “ari” 有 or 存, meaning “have, posses” and “exist, believe, feel,” respectively. In Japanese, “R” sounds like a cross between “L” and “R.” “Ma” is written as 馬 (horse), 摩 (chafe/polish/grind), 麻 (flax/hemp/linen), or 舞 (dance). Trinidad and Tobago also has a borough called Arima, the Arawak word for “water.”

  • Origin: Japanese, Arawak
  • Meaning: Owns a horse, water
  • Pronunciation: A-REE-MA, uh-REE-muh
  • Namesakes: Ineko Arima, a Japanese film actress. Count Yoriyasu Arima, a Japanese politician. Akito Arima, a Japanese nuclear physicist and politician.
  • Popularity: As a given name, Arima has about 4,565 bearers internationally and is in Japan’s top 1,000 surnames.
Simple, Earthy, Cozy
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Asano is written with the kanji 浅 “asa” (shallow) and 野 “no” (field/wilderness/plain). It originates with the Asano clan, a samurai family from feudal Japan descended from the Minamoto clan. As a given name, it pairs with the kanji 晨 “asa” (dawn/ daybreak/morning) and 野 “no” (area). Still, Asano is more commonly used as a surname.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Shallow plain
  • Pronunciation: A-SA-NOH
  • Namesakes: Aiko Asano, a Japanese singer and actress. Katsuhito Asano, a Japanese politician. Sōichirō Asano, a Japanese businessman and founder of several companies.
  • Popularity: Asano falls just outside of Japan’s top 100 surnames, and in 2010, it ranked the 40,800th most common surname in the U.S.
Classic, Cute, Simple


Written as 千葉 “thousand leaf,” Chiba is derived from a samurai family. The Chiba clan was a branch of the Taira clan descended from Emperor Kanmu Heishi. This clan adopted the title of the area they moved into — present-day Chiba City, now known as Chiba Prefecture. Thus, Chiba is a habitational surname from an ancestral dwelling.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: One thousand leaves
  • Pronunciation: CHEE-BA
  • Namesakes: Ginko Abukawa-Chiba, a Japanese Olympic and World Championship bronze-medalist in artistic gymnastics. Mone Chiba, an award-winning Japanese figure skater.
  • Popularity: Chiba has ranked in Japan’s top 100 surnames since 2008.
Cute, Classic, Breezy


Doi pairs the Japanese kanji 土 “do” (earth/soil) with the kanji for “i,” written as 井 (well/pit/mine shaft), 居 (sitting/being), or 肥 (manure/fertilizer). While the “earthen well” meaning is mainly used in Western Japan, “earth habitation (being)” is more common in the East. Doi (đời), meaning “life,” seems to be a fairly popular Vietnamese gender-neutral epithet.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Earthen well
  • Pronunciation: DOH-EE
  • Namesakes: Takao Doi, a Japanese astronaut and engineer. Isami Doi, a Hawaiian-born Japanese-American printmaker and painter. Misaki Doi, a Japanese professional tennis player.
  • Popularity: Doi usually falls within Japan’s top 200 surnames, making it fairly common.
Simple, Sturdy, Earthy


Egawa comes from a combination of the kanji 江 “e” (bay/inlet) and 川 “kawa” (river/stream). Hidetatsu Egawa is a historical namesake who left his mark on Japanese culture and architecture by bolstering Japan’s coastal defenses in the 19th-century. Egawa is still reasonably popular among Japanese family names in modern times.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Inlet stream
  • Pronunciation: EH-GA-WA, EHY-GA-WA
  • Namesakes: Kosei Egawa, a Japanese bronze-medalist Paralympic swimmer. Atsushi Egawa, a Japanese cross-country skier. Yuki Egawa, a Japanese professional kickboxer.
  • Popularity: Egawa is usually in Japan’s top 1,000 surnames, and in 2010, it placed 139,228th out of 162,253 surnames in the U.S.
Unique, Soothing, Melodious


Fujimori is a combination of the kanji 藤 “fuji” (wisteria) and 森 “mori” (forest). As a first name, the kanji for “mori” may be rendered 盛 (heap/pile) or 守 (protection). It’s sometimes used as a boy’s name in Peru in honor of the former Peruvian president, Alberto Fujimori.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Wisteria forest
  • Pronunciation: FOO-ZHEE-MOH-REE, FOO-JEE-MOH-REE
  • Namesakes: Alberto Fujimori Inomoto, a Peruvian politician and former President of Peru. Natsuko Fujimori, a Japanese professional women’s shogi player. Shizuo Fujimori, a Japanese woodblock printmaker.
  • Popularity: Fujimori is pretty common, ranking in the top 1,000 surnames in Japan.
Pretty, Classic, Soothing


Fujimoto combines the Japanese kanji 藤 “fuji” (wisteria) with 本 “moto” (base/root/origin). Fujimoto is sometimes confused with the more popular Fujiwara. The bearers of Fujimoto likely did descend from the Fujiwara clan, as the “fuji” (wisteria) portion of the surname suggests.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: (One who lives) under the wisteria
  • Pronunciation: FOO-ZHEE-MOH-REE
  • Namesakes: Sou Fujimoto, a Japanese architect. Tsukasa Fujimoto, a Japanese professional wrestler and actress. Miki Shōji, born Miki Fujimoto, a Japanese actress and J-pop idol.
  • Popularity: Fujimoto is common in Japan, but in 2008, it fell out of the top 100 surnames.
Bright, Breezy, Classic


Fujioka is common in Japan and pairs the kanji 藤 “fuji” (wisteria) and 岡 “oka” (hill/ridge). Some have mistakenly implied a connection to Mount Fuji, but it’s more likely related to the prominent Fujiwara clan of the Heian period. A popular anime namesake is Haruhi Fujioka, the protagonist of the Ouran High School Host Club manga and anime series.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Wisteria hill
  • Pronunciation: FOO-ZHEE-OH-KA
  • Namesakes: Jūkei Fujioka, a Japanese actor. Chihiro Fujioka, a Japanese video game designer, composer, and drummer. Shuhei Fujioka, a Japanese potter.
  • Popularity: Fujioka is most prevalent in Japan and is the 9,620th most common surname globally.
Cute, Pretty, Unique


Fujiwara is a combination of the kanji 藤 “fuji” (wisteria) and 原 “wara” (field/plain/wilderness). The Fujiwara began as an influential clan of imperial regents who dominated the imperial court during the Heian period. The bearers of this surname are descendants of the clan, or in some cases, the surname may simply mean “Fujiwara origin.”

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Wisteria field
  • Pronunciation: FOO-ZHEE-WA-RA
  • Namesakes: Fujiwara no Fuhito, an Asuka and Nara-period Japanese imperial court member. Norika Fujiwara, a Japanese beauty queen, model, and actress. Michiko Fujiwara, a Japanese nurse and politician.
  • Popularity: Fujiwara is often in the top 100 surnames in Japan, ranking 56th in 2008 and 1,724th worldwide.
Classic, Refined, Bright


Goda combines the kanji “gō” 合 (connect/join) or 郷 (village/hometown) and 田 “ta” (field/rice paddy). The Ghost in the Shell anime’s antagonist, Kazundo Gōda, is a notable fictional namesake. Goda is also a Hungarian diminutive and a Germanic epithet from “Got” (God). In Lithuanian, Goda comes from “godà” (thought/dream/honor/respect/glory/to perceive).

  • Origin: Japanese, Hungarian
  • Meaning: Connected rice paddies, appropriate peace
  • Pronunciation: GOH-DA, goo-DA
  • Variations: Gōda, Gouda
  • Namesakes: Hiroaki Gōda, a Japanese animator, anime screenwriter, and director. Hozumi Gōda, a Japanese voice actor. Masataka Gōda, a Japanese professional shogi player.
  • Popularity: Goda is most prevalent in Egypt and Japan.
Sturdy, Unique, Earthy


Based on location, Haraguchi is a surname taken from a little-known locality in Kumamoto. It’s written with the kanji 原 “hara” (field/plain) and 口 “kuchi” (mouth/entrance). Ranking 514th in Japan, Haraguchi is pretty popular among Japanese family names.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Mouth of the field
  • Pronunciation: HA-RA-GOO-CHEE
  • Namesakes: Kazuhiro Haraguchi, a Japanese politician. Genki Haraguchi, a Japanese professional football player. Kozo Haraguchi, a Japanese track and field athlete and former record holder.
  • Popularity: Haraguchi is most prevalent in Japan, ranking in the top 1,000 surnames.
Bright, Breezy, Cute
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Although Hasegawa is written as 長谷川, it uses a non-standard reading of the kanji 長谷 (naga-tani). Hasegawa means “long river valley.” Because there was a place in Nara Prefecture called Hase/Hatsuse (初瀬), which is famous for its long valley, the pronunciation of 長谷 (naga-tani) became “hase” through association. The last kanji in Hasegawa is 川 “kawa,” meaning “river, stream.”

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Long Valley River
  • Pronunciation: HA-SEH-GA-WA
  • Namesakes: Ariajasuru Hasegawa, a Japanese professional football player. Nobuhiko Hasegawa, a Japanese table tennis player with multiple World Championship and Asian Games gold, silver, and bronze medals.
  • Popularity: Hasegawa usually ranks in Japan’s top 100 surnames and was 32nd in 2008.
Soothing, Melodious, Classic


Hayashi is a first name and surname, ranking 10,683rd out of 162,253 surnames in the U.S. in 2010. It’s normally written as 林 (forest/woods/thicket). It can refer to the “hayabusa” (peregrine falcon) as a masculine moniker. Otherwise, it’s written as 生やし (growth/cultivation) or used as a kanji for “shi” 志 (goal/aim/will) or 史 (history).

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Forest, woods
  • Pronunciation: HEYE-A-SHEE, HA-YA-SHEE
  • Namesakes: Chiaki Hayashi, a Japanese businesswoman. Chushiro Hayashi, a Japanese astrophysicist. Eitetsu Hayashi, a Japanese musician known for his work with taiko (Japanese drums).
  • Popularity: Hayashi was the 19th most common Japanese surname in 2008.
Youthful, Earthy, Cozy


Hidaka is primarily a Japanese surname from the kanji 日 “hi” (sun/day) and 高 “taka” (high/tall). As a Japanese masculine given name, it could also pair 陽 “hi” (sun/light/male) with “daka,” written as 京 (capital), 夏 (summer), 空 (sky), 高 (tall), 天 (heavens/imperial) or 社 (company/office/shrine). Many other kanji combinations are still possible.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Sun capital, sun high
  • Pronunciation: HEE-DA-KA, kHEE-DA-KA
  • Namesakes: Hatsuo Hidaka, a Japanese officer and ace fighter pilot in the Imperial Japanese Navy. Sumiko Hidaka, a Japanese film actress. Keita Hidaka, a Japanese football player.
  • Popularity: Hidaka is a common surname in Japan, ranking in its top 1,000.
Youthful, Bright, Majestic


Despite its rarity, Himura is famous in anime circles. The manga and anime Rurouni Kenshin features the protagonist Kenshin Himura. In My Hero Academia, Rei Todoroki’s maiden name is Himura. Usually, Himura contains the kanji 緋 “hi” (scarlet/dark red) and 村 “mura” (town/village). In Rei’s case, it’s written as 氷叢 “ひむら” (ice collection/gathering).

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Scarlet village, ice gathering
  • Pronunciation: HEE-MOO-RA, kHEE-MOO-RA
  • Namesakes: Yūki Himura, a Japanese traditional comedian, actor, and voice actor.
  • Popularity: Himura has about 1,103 bearers worldwide, mainly in Japan.
Unique, Soothing, Cozy


Hino is both feisty and sweet. It derives from a noble family which descended from the Fujiwara clan. As a surname, it combines the kanji “hi,” written as 日 (sun/day) or 火 (fire), and 野 “no” (field/wilderness). The feminine epithet may instead pair the kanji 日 “hi” with 乃 “no” (possessive particle).

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Sun field, field of fire, my sun
  • Pronunciation: HEE-NOH
  • Namesakes: Akihiro Hino, a Japanese video game designer and businessman. Kumazō Hino, a Japanese inventor and aviation pioneer. Ashihei Hino, a Japanese writer and soldier.
  • Popularity: Hino falls just shy of the top 100 surnames in Japan.
Cute, Youthful, Wholesome


Hirano is written as 平野, combining the kanji 平 “hira” (flat/level) or (calm/peaceful) and 野 “no” (field/wilderness). This kanji combination can also be read as Heiya (plain/flat land). The Hirano clan was a samurai family that produced Nagayasu Hirano, the 17th-century samurai retainer to the warlord Hideyoshi Toyotomi.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Level field, flat land, peaceful field
  • Pronunciation: HEE-RA-NO
  • Namesakes: Nagayasu Hirano, a Japanese Azuchi-Momoyama period samurai retainer. Ryoichi Hirano, a Japanese principal ballet dancer. Kouta Hirano, a Japanese manga artist notable for Hellsing.
  • Popularity: In 2008, Hirano was the 81st most popular surname in Japan and was 88th in 2014.
Simple, Soothing, Cute


Honda is famous due to the Honda Motor Company, named after its founder. It comes from the Heian-period Honda clan, likely descended from the Fujiwara. Written as 本田 (root rice field), it combines 本 “hon” (root/origin/source) and 田 “ta” (field/rice paddy). As the rarer given name, it’s also written as 大海 “honda” (sea/ocean).

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Original rice paddy
  • Pronunciation: HON-DAH
  • Namesakes: Chieko Honda, a Japanese actress and voice actress. Soichiro Honda, a Japanese engineer, industrialist, and founder of Honda Motor Company. Ishirō Honda, a Japanese filmmaker.
  • Popularity: In 2014, Honda was ranked Japan’s 73rd most common surname.
Refined, Classic, Simple


Hoshino pairs the Japanese kanji 星 “hoshi” (star) with “no” written as 乃 (a possessive particle) or 野 (area/field). It’s a habitational surname taken by the Shintō priests of the Atsuta Shrine. Notable namesakes for Hoshino include the Edo-period samurai and retainer of the Owari clan, Shigenori Hoshino (also known as Kanzaemon Hoshino). Hoshino is rarely a given name.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Field of stars, my star
  • Pronunciation: HOH-SHEE-NOH
  • Namesakes: Yukinobu Hoshino, a Japanese manga artist. Hidehiko “Hide” Hoshino, a Japanese musician and songwriter. Kazuyoshi Hoshino, a Japanese racecar driver and businessman.
  • Popularity: Hoshino fell just outside Japan’s top 100 surnames in 2014, ranking 161st.
Pretty, Youthful, Cute


Igarashi combines the kanji 五十 “i” (fifty), the (unwritten) subject marker が “ga,” and 嵐 “arashi” (storm). Also Romanized as Ikarashi or Isoarashi, it probably originated with the Ikarashi River and the legend of Ikatarashihiko-no-mikoto, who pioneered the region. Igarashi could stem from the Ainu “Inkar-us-i” (overlook-always doing-place). The Deadman Wonderland manga and anime feature the fictional namesake, Ganta Igarashi.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Fifty storms
  • Pronunciation: EE-GA-RA-SHEE
  • Variations: Ikarashi, Isoarashi
  • Namesakes: Aguri Igarashi, a Japanese manga artist. Hiroyuki Igarashi, stylized stage name HIRO, a Japanese dancer and producer. Kanoa Igarashi, a Japanese-American award-winning professional surfer.
  • Popularity: Although Igarashi is most popular in Japan, it falls short of the top 100 surnames there.
Badass, Majestic, Cool


Ikeda stems from the description of a location. It started as a Japanese clan descended from the Seiwa Genji, a line of the Minamoto clan. It’s a combination of the kanji 池 “ike” (pool/pond) and 田 “ta” (field/rice paddy). Thus, it can mean “rice paddy near the lake/pond.”

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Rice paddies and pond, rice paddy near the pond
  • Pronunciation: EE-KEH-DA
  • Namesakes: Kikunae Ikeda, a Japanese chemist and university professor, who discovered and named the umami flavor. Fumiyo Ikeda, a Japanese dancer, actress, and choreographer.
  • Popularity: Ikeda was Japan’s 26th most common surname in 2008 and 2014.
Classic, Cozy, Simple
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Imai comes from a location description and uses the kanji 今 “ima” (now/present) and 井 “i” (water well/mine shaft/pit). This can mean “new place of residence,” but is usually written to mean “new well.” Imai certainly feels fresh and upbeat.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: New well, new residence
  • Pronunciation: EE-MA-EE, EE-MEYE
  • Namesakes: Nobuko Imai, a Japanese classical violinist. Eriko Imai, a Japanese pop singer, actress, and politician. Asami Imai, a Japanese voice actress and singer.
  • Popularity: Imai fell from 76th most common surname in Japan in 2008 to 79th in 2014.
Cute, Simple, Youthful


Inaba uses the kanji 稲 “ina” (rice plant) and 葉 “ha” (leaf). This is one of those common Japanese family names with an unusual meaning, perhaps because it was once a nickname. Inaba eventually became a clan name. This samurai kin group, prominent during the Sengoku- and Edo-periods, descended from Emperor Kanmu through his son, Prince Iyo.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Leaf of the rice plant
  • Pronunciation: EE-NA-BA
  • Namesakes: Atsushi Inaba, a Japanese video game producer and the former CEO of Clover Studio. Koshi Inaba, a Japanese rock vocalist and musician. Akira Inaba, a Japanese professional shogi player.
  • Popularity: Inaba is in the top 1,000 Japanese surnames, and in 2010, it ranked 53,667th out of 162,253 surnames in the U.S.
Simple, Cute, Earthy


Inoue is topographic (describing an area’s physical features). It combines the Japanese kanji 井 “i” (well/mine shaft/pit), the (unwritten) possessive marker の “no,” and 上 “ue” (above/upper/top). This ultimately derives from the Inoue clan, descended from the Seiwa Genji line of the Minamoto clan. The Inoue clan consisted of the head family and two cadet branches.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Above the well
  • Pronunciation: EE-NOH-EH
  • Variations: Inouye
  • Namesakes: Alice Inoue, an American astrologer, author, and life coach from Hawaii. Junya Inoue, a Japanese manga artist known for his manga-turned-anime, Btooom!
  • Popularity: In 2008, Inoue was Japan’s 16th most popular surname and 17th most common in 2014.
Classic, Refined


Ishida is quite popular and is a commonplace name. It consists of the kanji 石 “ishi” (stone) and 田 “ta” (field/rice paddy). In ancient times, the Ishida clan was famous for the samurai and military commander Mitsunari Ishida. In modern times, this surname is associated with the Japanese multinational food packing machinery company, Ishida Co., Ltd.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Stone rice field, rocky rice paddy
  • Pronunciation: EE-SHEE-DA, EESH-DA
  • Variations: Isida
  • Namesakes: Hakyō Ishida, a Japanese haiku poet. Akira Ishida, a Japanese voice actor. Junichi Ishida, born Tarō Ishida, a Japanese actor and TV personality.
  • Popularity: Ishida was Japan’s 58th most common surname in 2008, but fell to 63rd in 2014.
Sturdy, Earthy, Melodious


Ishikawa means “stone river” or “stony river.” It’s written with the kanji 石 “ishi” (stone) and 川 “kawa” (stream/river). The Ishikawa clan, from which this surname derives, descended from the Seiwa Genji line of the prominent Minamoto clan. Ishikawa is topographic (describing an area’s physical features), and there are several places in Japan with the title, most notably Ishikawa Prefecture.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Stone river
  • Pronunciation: EE-SHEE-KA-WA, EESH-KA-WA
  • Namesakes: Shoko Ishikawa, a Japanese award-winning competitive figure skater. Tatsuzō Ishikawa, a Japanese author and the first winner of the Akutagawa Prize.
  • Popularity: Ishikawa has been the 28th most common surname in Japan since 2008.
Soothing, Classic, Refined


Ito is not only highly common, it’s easy to say and spell. The kanji 伊 “i” (this/that one) is paired with 藤 “tō” (wisteria). The Itō clan was a branch family of the Kudō clan, itself descended from a branch of the Fujiwara clan. Hence, the wisteria part of the surname could indicate an association with the Fujiwara.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: One wisteria, this wisteria
  • Pronunciation: EE-TOH
  • Variations: Itō, Itou, Itoh
  • Namesakes: Junji Ito, a famous Japanese horror manga artist. Akihiro Itō, a Japanese manga artist known for his work on the Geobreeders manga series. Aimi Ito, a Japanese handball player.
  • Popularity: Ito is the sixth most common surname in Japan.
Simple, Sturdy, Classic


Iwata combines the Japanese kanji 岩 “iwa” (cliff/rocks) with 田 “ta” (rice paddy/rice field). Iwata is famously connected to Satoru Iwata, a Japanese video game programmer, designer, and producer. Most notably, he was a former president and CEO of Nintendo.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Rocky rice field
  • Pronunciation: EE-WA-TA
  • Namesakes: Manzo Iwata, a Japanese martial artist. Karen Iwata, an actress and former girl group idol. Shinji Iwata, a Japanese professional baseball player.
  • Popularity: Iwata falls shy of Japan’s top 100 surnames, ranking 143rd in 2014.
Earthy, Simple, Sturdy


Although Izumi is also a primarily Japanese feminine given name, it’s more commonly a surname, ranking 5,213th worldwide. It’s derived from the kanji 泉 (fountain/spring). During the Edo-period, a feudal estate was known as the Izumi Domain. Nowadays, there’s Izumi City in Kagoshima Prefecture. The anime Kawaii dake ja Nai Shikimori-san also features the protagonist Yuuki Izumi.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Spring, fountain
  • Pronunciation: EE-ZOO-MEE
  • Namesakes: Shikibu Izumi, a Heian-period Japanese poet. Hiroshi Izumi, a Japanese judoka (judo practitioner) and mixed martial artist. Arata Izumi, a Japan-born professional footballer of Indian-Japanese descent.
  • Popularity: Izumi ranked in Japan’s top 500 surnames in 2014.
Pretty, Cute, Youthful


Kaneko is a feminine epithet and surname. It’s written with the kanji 金 “kane” (gold/money/metal) and 子 “ko” (child). It can also be written as 加 “ka” (add/ addition/increase), 年 “ne” (year), and 子 “ko” (child). It didn’t appear in the top 100 most common Japanese surnames in 2008.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Golden child, metal child
  • Pronunciation: KA-NEH-KOH
  • Namesakes: Noboru Kaneko, a Japanese actor. Akitomo Kaneko, a Japanese gymnast. Genjirō Kaneko, a Japanese politician.
  • Popularity: Kaneko is most common in Japan but placed 22,963rd out of 162,253 surnames in the U.S.
Cool, Majestic, Refined


Kanzaki has a pretty epic meaning. It comes from a location and combines the kanji 神 “kan” (god) and 崎 “saki” (peninsula/cape). Kanzaki is fairly popular and even shows up in Japanese media. One example is Aoi Kanzaki, a supporting character in the manga and anime series, Demon Slayer.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: God peninsula
  • Pronunciation: KAAN-ZA-KEE
  • Namesakes: Daisuke Kanzaki, a Japanese footballer. Masaomi Kanzaki, a Japanese manga artist noted for work on the Street Fighter II manga. Kenji Kanzaki, a Japanese professional shogi player.
  • Popularity: Kanzaki is fairly common in Japan, ranking in the top 1,000 surnames in 2014.
Majestic, Badass, Spiritual
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In Japanese, Kato pairs the kanji 加 “ka” (add/increase) and 藤 “tō” (wisteria). The last character likely indicates a connection to the Fujiwara clan. Kato can be found in several languages beyond Japan. In the Ganda language of eastern Africa, it means “second of twins.” The Norwegian given name Kato is a variant of the Latin Cato, meaning “wise.”

  • Origin: Japanese, Eastern African, Latin
  • Meaning: Many wisterias, second of twins, wise
  • Pronunciation: KAA-TOH, KA-toh, KA-tuu
  • Variations: Katō, Katou, Katoh
  • Namesakes: Moriyuki Kato, a Japanese politician and prefectural governor. Ameril Umbra Kato, a Filipino fighter and founder of an Islamic militant group.
  • Popularity: Kato was the tenth most common Japanese surname in 2008 and the 11th most common in 2014.
Cute, Bright, Simple


Kawakami comes from the Japanese kanji 川 “kawa” (river/stream) and 上 “kami” (above/upper/top). When written as 川神, it means “river God.” The latter is a lot cooler, but both have an atmosphere of closeness to nature. In the world of authentic ninjutsu, Jinichi Kawakami is the last heir of Koka-style ninjutsu and Japan’s last true ninja.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Above the river
  • Pronunciation: KA-WA-KA-MEE
  • Namesakes: Mieko Kawakami, a Japanese author and singer. Masashi Kawakami, a Japanese retired boxer. Saena Kawakami, a Japanese badminton player.
  • Popularity: Kawakami ranked the 125th most common surname in Japan in 2014.
Cool, Majestic, Spiritual


Kawasaki is known as the motor company that produces motorcycles, ATVs, cars, and more. The surname comes from a location, combining the kanji 川 “kawa” (stream/river) and 崎 “saki” (cape/peninsula/edge). It might sound like “KAH-WA-SA-KEE” depending on how individuals say it.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Peninsula river, river cape
  • Pronunciation: KA-WA-SA-KEE
  • Namesakes: Guy Kawasaki, an American marketing specialist and Silicon Valley venture capitalist. Shōzō Kawasaki, a Japanese industrialist, shipbuilder, and founder of Kawasaki Heavy Industries.
  • Popularity: Kawasaki is most prevalent in Japan, ranking the 138th most common surname in 2014.
Breezy, Soothing, Cool


Kimura is a combination of the kanji 木 “ki” (tree/wood) and 村 “mura” (village/town), describing a location. In 2014, it ranked 857th most common surname in the world. Ancient namesakes include Shigenari Kimura, an Edo-period samurai retainer, and Yoshikiyo Kimura, a Sengoku-period military commander.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Tree village, tree town
  • Pronunciation: KEE-MOO-RA
  • Namesakes: Akebono Kimura, a Japanese writer. Buzan Kimura, a Japanese Nihonga (Japanese-style mineral pigment) painter. Hiroyuki Kimura, a Japanese video game director and producer for Nintendo.
  • Popularity: In 2008, Kimura was the 17th most common surname in Japan, and in 2014, it was the 18th.
Classic, Sweet, Earthy


Kishimoto is among the Japanese family names that even many in the West have heard at least once. It pairs the Japanese kanji 岸 “kishi” (shore/beach/bank) with 本 “moto” (origin/base/root). In modern times, Kishimoto is associated with the manga artist who created Naruto, Masashi Kishimoto.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: (One who lives) near the shore
  • Pronunciation: KEE-SHEE-MOH-TOH
  • Namesakes: Cecil Kishimoto, a Japanese model. Junki Kishimoto, a Japanese professional baseball player. Sachiko Kishimoto, a Japanese athlete.
  • Popularity: Kishimoto ranks in Japan’s top 500 surnames, placing 286th in 2014.
Bright, Breezy


Kobayashi sounds simply elegant, associated with an Edo-period Japanese samurai called Torasaburō Kobayashi. It combines the kanji 小 “ko” (small/little) with 林 “hayashi” (forest.) Quite a delightful surname, especially for nature lovers! Unsurprisingly, this last name was chosen for the title character of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Little forest, small forest
  • Pronunciation: KOH-BA-YA-SHEE
  • Namesakes: Aimi Kobayashi, a Japanese classical pianist. Akira Kobayashi, a Japanese actor and singer. Kiyoshi Kobayashi, a Japanese actor, voice actor, and narrator.
  • Popularity: Kobayashi ranked 8th in Japan in 2008 and 8,568th out of 162,253 surnames in the U.S.
Pretty, Sweet, Earthy


Koizumi is descriptive of a location and uses the kanji 小 “ko” (small) and 泉 “izumi” (spring/fountain). Written as 古泉, it means “old fountain.” The Koizumi family has been prominent in Japan’s politics, starting with the Taishō and Shōwa-period cabinet minister, Matajirō Koizumi. Later, his grandson, Jun’ichiro Koizumi, became the prime minister of Japan.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Small spring, old fountain
  • Pronunciation: KAWY-ZOO-MEE, KOH-EE-ZOO-MEE
  • Namesakes: Ariane Koizumi, an American fashion model and actress, notable for playing the lead in the Year of the Dragon. Takashi Koizumi, a Japanese film director.
  • Popularity: Koizumi falls within the top 500 surnames in Japan and was 202nd in 2014.
Melodious, Pretty, Bright


Kubo is usually written as 窪, meaning “sunken ground.” It’s also written with the kanji 久 “ku” (long time ago) and 保 “ho” (protect), which are phonetic. As a given name, Kubo also uses the kanji “ku” 公 (prince/official/governmental) and “bo” written as 方 (direction/alternative). Kubo was the title character of the movie Kubo and the Two Strings.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Sunken ground, long-time preserve
  • Pronunciation: KOO-BOH
  • Namesakes: Noriaki Kubo, professionally known as Tite Kubo, a Japanese manga artist notable for the BLEACH manga series. Ryogo Kubo, a Japanese mathematical physicist.
  • Popularity: In Japan, Kubo is in the top 1,000 surnames, ranked the 1,024th most popular given name in 2014.
Earthy, Sturdy, Unique


Kumagai sounds unusual but is more common than you think, ranking within the top 200 Japanese last names. Kumagai pairs the kanji 熊 “kuma” (bear) with 谷 “gai” (valley). Kumagai has several historic namesakes. These include Nobunao Kumagai, a Sengoku-period samurai and commander, and his ancestor Naozane Kumagai, a Heian-period soldier serving the Minamoto clan.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Bear valley
  • Pronunciation: KOO-MA-GEYE, KOO-MA-GA-EE
  • Variations: Kumagaya, Kumatani, Kumaya
  • Namesakes: Kumagai no Jirō Naozane, a famous Japanese Heian-period soldier serving the Genji (Minamoto) clan. Denice Kumagai, an American actress and comedy group co-founder.
  • Popularity: Kumagai falls short of the top 100 surnames in Japan, ranking 170th in 2014.
Earthy, Cool, Unique


Kurosawa is famously associated with the Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, whose extensive filmography includes Throne of Blood and Seven Samurai. This Japanese surname uses the kanji 黒 “kuro” (black) and “sawa,” written as 沢 or 澤(marsh/swamp). In the “Say I Love You” manga and anime, the secondary protagonist and love interest is called Yamato Kurosawa.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Black marsh, black swamp
  • Pronunciation: KOO-ROH-SA-WA
  • Namesakes: Akira Kurosawa, a famous and influential Japanese filmmaker. Tomoyo Kurosawa, a Japanese actress and singer. Yoshihisa “Kowloon” Kurosawa, a Japanese businessman, essayist, and writer.
  • Popularity: Kurosawa doesn’t crack the top 100 surnames in Japan but ranked 331st in 2014.
Cool, Earthy
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Maeda comes from the kanji 前 “mae” (front/forward) and 田 “ta” (field/rice paddy). The Maeda clan was a prominent Japanese family that descended from the Sugawara clan during the Sengoku-period. In 2010, Maeda placed 13,855th out of 162,253 surnames in the United States. It remains one of the more popular Japanese family names.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Front rice paddy
  • Pronunciation: MA-EH-DA
  • Variations: Mayeda
  • Namesakes: Marquis Toshinari Maeda, a Japanese WWII general. Yuki Maeda, a Japanese enka (stylistically traditional Japanese song) singer.
  • Popularity: In 2008, Maeda was ranked the 36th most common surname in Japan.
Classic, Simple, Earthy


Masaki ranks near Japan’s top 500 surnames. It pairs the kanji 真 “ma” (true/genuine) with “saki” written as 咲 (blossom) or 崎 (cape/peninsula). As a surname based on a location, it uses the characters 正 “masa” (right/proper) and 木 “ki” (tree/wood). There are many other character combinations, and Masaki can even be a given name.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Right (correct) tree, true blossoms, correct peninsula
  • Pronunciation: MA-SA-KEE
  • Namesakes: Gorō Masaki, a Japanese science fiction author. Sōzaburō Masaki, a Japanese Edo-period samurai and potter. Jinzaburō Masaki, an Imperial Japanese Army WWII general.
  • Popularity: Masaki doesn’t make the top 500 surnames in Japan, but it’s still fairly common.
Breezy, Youthful, Bright


The ancient Japanese Matsuda clan was a branch of the Hatano clan, a cadet branch of the Fujiwara clan. It was derived from a location and is also a mountain in Hokkaido. Matsuda is written with the kanji 松 “matsu” (fir tree/pine tree) and 田 “ta” (“field/rice paddy).

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Pine tree rice paddy
  • Pronunciation: MA-TSOO-DA
  • Namesakes: Aoi Matsuda, a Japanese badminton player. Eiji Matsuda, sometimes Romanized Eizi Matuda, a Japanese botanist and naturalized Mexican citizen.
  • Popularity: In 2008, Matsuda ranked the 51st most common surname in Japan.
Sturdy, Earthy, Classic


Matsumoto combines the kanji 松 “matsu” (pine tree/fir tree) and 本 “moto” (base/root/origin). It derives from many Japanese place names. During the Edo-period, a feudal estate was called the Matsumoto Domain. This one is quite common and can be found throughout Japanese media. A well-known fictional bearer is Maki Matsumoto from the Cardcaptor Sakura anime.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: (One who lives at) the base of the pine tree
  • Pronunciation: MA-TSOO-MOH-TOH
  • Namesakes: Daisuke Matsumoto, a Japanese politician. Hideto Matsumoto, stage name Hide, a Japanese musician, singer-songwriter, and record producer.
  • Popularity: In 2008 and 2014, Matsumoto was the 15th most common surname in Japan.
Earthy, Classic, Sturdy


As a surname, Minami is usually written with the kanji 南 (south) as a surname. It’s also a cute and refreshing feminine given name. It can be written as 南海 (south sea), 美浪 (beautiful wave), 三浪 (three waves), or 美海 (beautiful ocean). Many other character combinations can be used. Minami is used liberally in fiction, and the manga Minami-ke follows the Minami siblings.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: South, beautiful wave
  • Pronunciation: MEE-NA-MEE
  • Namesakes: Eiko Minami, a Japanese dancer. Kunzo Minami, a Japanese painter. Omi Minami, a Japanese essayist, columnist, and voice actress known for her role in Excel Saga.
  • Popularity: In 2014, Minami was ranked Japan’s 198th most common surname.
Youthful, Pretty, Melodious


The Miura clan was a prominent branch family of the Taira that resided in a location called Miura and simply adopted the place name. Some claim Miura might have originally meant “August bay.” However, it’s normally written and understood as 三 “mi” (three) and 浦 “ura” (inlet/bay). Depending on who you speak to, you might hear Miura pronounced “MEW-RA.”

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Three bays
  • Pronunciation: MEE-OO-RA
  • Namesakes: Kentaro Miura, a Japanese manga artist noted for the renowned manga series Berserk. Ayako Miura, a Japanese fiction and non-fiction author.
  • Popularity: Miura was Japan’s 47th most common surname in 2008.
Melodious, Classic, Breezy


The Miyagawa family was a cadet branch of the aristocratic Konoe clan, a branch of the Fujiwara clan. It’s a combination of the kanji 宮 “miya” (temple/shrine/palace) and 川 “kawa” (river/stream). Ultimately, it comes from a location. In the Recorder and Randsell manga and anime, the main protagonists are a sibling pair with the surname Miyagawa.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Shrine river, temple stream
  • Pronunciation: MEE-A-GA-WA
  • Namesakes: Chiori Miyagawa, a Japanese playwright, poet, and writer based in America. Tatsuzo (Nyozan) Miyagawa, a Japanese shakuhachi (Japanese bamboo flute) player and scholar.
  • Popularity: Miyagawa is most prevalent in Japan, ranking in the top 1,000 surnames.
Spiritual, Soothing, Wholesome


Miyake usually pairs the Japanese kanji 三 “mi” (three) with 宅 “yake” (home/house). During the Sengoku- and Edo-periods, the Miyake clan became a prominent samurai kin group. They were also classed as a feudal clan. Miyake is common in present-day Japan, but retains a prestigious air due to associations with fashion designer Issey Miyake.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Three houses
  • Pronunciation: MEE-YA-KEH
  • Namesakes: Ryo Miyake, a Japanese fencer and Olympic silver-medalist. Marc Hideo Miyake, an American linguist. Issei (Issey) Miyake, a Japanese fashion designer.
  • Popularity: Miyake falls just shy of the top 200 surnames in Japan.
Simple, Refined


Miyazaki is a household name for many people. It’s heavily associated with the animator and Ghibli co-founder, Hayao Miyazaki. His son, Goro Miyazaki, is also an animator and filmmaker. But Miyazaki comes from a location. It’s the capital city of Miyazaki Prefecture. This surname uses the kanji 宮 “miya” (shrine/temple/palace) and 崎 “saki” (peninsula).

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Shrine cape
  • Pronunciation: MEE-A-ZA-KEE
  • Variations: Miyasaki
  • Namesakes: Hayao Miyazaki, a Japanese animator, filmmaker, mangaka, and Studio Ghibli co-founder. Aoi Miyazaki, a Japanese actress. Osamu Miyazaki, a Japanese professional Grand Prix motorcycle racer.
  • Popularity: Miyazaki ranked the 69th most common surname in Japan in 2008, and 76th most common in 2014.
Spiritual, Youthful, Breezy


Mizuno is written with the kanji 水 “mizu” (water) and 野 “no” (field/ wilderness). This habitational name comes from a village located in present-day Aichi Prefecture. Fictional anime namesakes include Ai Mizuno, a protagonist from Zombie Land Saga, and Kanta Mizuno, the main character of Desert Punk.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Water field
  • Pronunciation: MEE-ZOO-NOH
  • Namesakes: Junko Mizuno, a Japanese manga artist. Ken Mizuno, a Japanese freestyle skier. Eiji Mizuno, a Japanese mixed martial artist.
  • Popularity: Mizuno was the 115th most common surname in Japan in 2014.
Bright, Soothing, Cute
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Mizutani is written with the kanji 水 “mizu” (water) and 谷 “tani” (valley). This surname stems from the Edo-period Mizutani clan. In its home country, it placed 263rd in 2014 among other Japanese family names.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Water village
  • Pronunciation: MEE-ZOO-TA-NEE
  • Namesakes: Yūko Mizutani, a Japanese actress, voice actress, and singer. Jun Mizutani, a Japanese award-winning professional table tennis player and the youngest Japanese national champion.
  • Popularity: Mizutani ranks in the top 1,000 surnames in Japan.
Melodious, Soothing, Pretty


Mori stems from several unrelated Japanese clans, the most famous descended from the Ōe clan. It’s written with the kanji 森 (forest/harpoon) and is also in the top 1,000 Japanese masculine monikers. Mori is a variant of Moro (moor/North African) in Italian. In Persian, it’s a diminutive of Morteza, and in Kurdish, it’s a feminine epithet meaning “pearl.”

  • Origin: Japanese, Italian, Kurdish
  • Meaning: Forest, moor, pearl
  • Pronunciation: MOH-REE, MAW-REE
  • Variations: Mōri
  • Namesakes: Maria Mori, a Japanese singer and actress of American and Japanese descent. Nana Mori, a Japanese actress and singer. Kaoru Mori, a Japanese mangaka noted for A Bride’s Story.
  • Popularity: In 2008, Mori ranked as Japan’s 24th most common surname and is the 799th most common surname worldwide.
Simple, Earthy, Sturdy


In modern times, Nagasawa is written with different kanji than in the past, despite retaining the meaning. It’s a combination of the kanji 長 “naga” (long) and “sawa,” written as 沢 or 澤 (marsh). It shares its origins with Nakazawa. Nagasawa is also a train station in the town of Funagata in Yamagata city.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Long swamp
  • Pronunciation: NA-GA-SA-WA
  • Namesakes: Masami Nagasawa, a Japanese actress and model. Miki Nagasawa, a Japanese voice actress. Nao Nagasawa, a Japanese actress, voice actress, singer, and model.
  • Popularity: Nagasawa is in the top 500 surnames in Japan.
Earthy, Sturdy


Nakai pairs the kanji 中 “naka” (center/middle) with 井 “i” (well/mine shaft/pit). It can also be written with the kanji 中居 or 仲井. Nakai is also a Hawaiian word from “nā” (quieted/pacified) or (the), and “kai” (sea/seas). The Native American Navajo given name Nakai means “one who wanders” and stems from the word “naakaii.”

  • Origin: Japanese, Hawaiian, Native American
  • Meaning: Central well, quiet sea, one who wanders
  • Pronunciation: NA-KA-EE, NA-KEYE
  • Namesakes: Masahiro Nakai, a Japanese TV host, radio personality, actor, and news presenter. Daisuke Nakai, a Japanese professional baseball player. Takenoshin Nakai, a Japanese botanist.
  • Popularity: Nakai is in the top 1,000 surnames in Japan, and ranked 21,633rd out of 162,253 surnames in the U.S. in 2010.
Soothing, Simple, Bright


Nakajima is highly common in Japan and appears throughout the country’s geography. Nakajima village is located in Fukushima Prefecture, and Nakajima Park in Sapporo, Hokkaido. Until 2005, there was also a Nakajima town in Onsen District of Ehime Prefecture. This surname is also Romanized as Nakashima. It’s written with the kanji 中 “naka” (middle/center) and 島 “shima” (island).

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Middle island
  • Pronunciation: NA-KA-ZHEE-MA, NA-KA-JEE-MA
  • Variations: Nakashima
  • Namesakes: Megumi Nakajima, a Japanese voice actress and singer. Emi Nakajima, a Japanese football player. Haruo Nakajima, a Japanese actor and stunt performer.
  • Popularity: Nakajima was the 23rd most common surname in Japan in 2008.
Classic, Sturdy


Nakamura pairs the kanji 中 “naka” (middle/center) with 村 “mura” (town/village). Variants include 中邑, 仲村, and 仲邑. During the Edo-period, there was a feudal district called the Sōma Nakamura Domain, sometimes shortened to Sōma Domain or Nakamura Domain. Notable namesakes include Yutaka Nakamura, one of the animators of Cowboy Bebop, Fullmetal Alchemist, and One Punch Man.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Center village
  • Pronunciation: NA-KA-MOO-RA
  • Namesakes: Kisato Nakamura, a Japanese female track cyclist. Seiji Nakamura, a Japanese politician. Toshimaru Nakamura, a Japanese musician and Japanese onkyo (free improvisation).
  • Popularity: Nakamura is highly prevalent in Japan and was the 7th most common surname in 2008.
Sturdy, Classic


Nakaya combines the kanji for “naka,” written as 仲 (relation/relationship) or 中 (middle), with 谷 “ya” (valley). It can be variously written as 仲谷 or 中矢. The Japanese “N” surname, Nakatani, uses the same kanji as Nakaya.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Middle valley
  • Pronunciation: NA-KA-YAH
  • Variations: Nakatani
  • Namesakes: Ukichiro Nakaya, a Japanese physicist and science essayist. Katsuhiko Nakaya, a Brazilian sprinter. Fujiko Nakaya, a Japanese artist and video artist.
  • Popularity: Nakaya ranked the 742nd most common surname in Japan in 2014.
Breezy, Unique


Nishikawa is a combination of the kanji 西 “nishi” (west) and 川 “kawa” (river/stream). Several places carry this name. Nishikawa Castle was a branch castle of the Saigo clan during Japan’s Sengoku period. In modern times, Nishikawa is a town in Yamagata Prefecture. There was also a town called Nishikawa in Nishikanbara, which was merged into Niigata city.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: West River
  • Pronunciation: NEE-SHEE-KA-WA
  • Namesakes: Takanori Nishikawa, a Japanese musician, record producer, actor, and radio personality. Kazuhiro Nishikawa, a Japanese professional shogi player.
  • Popularity: Nishikawa is a prevalent surname in Japan, ranking 123rd most common in 2014.
Bright, Melodious, Breezy


Ogawa is commonly written with the kanji 小 “o” (small/little) and 川 “kawa” (river/stream). It may also use the characters 小河 (small river) or 尾川 (tail river). In the past, Japan had a feudal estate known as the Ogawa Domain, controlled by Ogawa Castle. Ogawa is a town in Saitama Prefecture and a village in Nagano Prefecture.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Small river, little stream
  • Pronunciation: OH-GA-WA
  • Namesakes: Yoshizumi Ogawa, a Japanese retired footballer and a football club assistant manager. Masataka Ogawa, a Japanese chemist who discovered element 43 (technetium).
  • Popularity: In 2008, Ogawa was the 30th most common surname in Japan
Cute, Simple, Sweet


Okabe comes from a location, pairing the kanji 岡 “oka” (hill/ridge) and 部 “be” (part/section). Historical namesakes include Nagamori Okabe, a Sengoku- and Edo-period Japanese military commander and feudal lord, and Okabe Motonobu, a Sengoku-period samurai. A popular fictional bearer is Rintaro Okabe from the visual novel game and anime Steins;Gate.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Hill section
  • Pronunciation: OH-KA-BEH
  • Namesakes: Jiro Okabe, a Japanese politician. Kenji Okabe, a Japanese WWII ace fighter pilot. Keiichi Okabe, a Japanese musical composer and arranger.
  • Popularity: In 2014, Okabe ranked in the top 500 surnames in Japan.
Sturdy, Simple
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Ono isn’t an expression of shock. It’s a pairing of the kanji 小 “o” (small) or 大 “oo” (big) and 野 “no” (field/wilderness). Though the characters, pronunciation, and meaning differ, Ono and Ōno look so similar that English speakers often lump them together. But to the Japanese, the distinction is clear. Ono is also an Indonesian gender-neutral given name.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Small field, big field
  • Pronunciation: OH-NOH
  • Variations: Ōno, Oono, Ohno
  • Namesakes: Yoko Ono, a Japanese multimedia artist, singer-songwriter, and peace activist. Daisuke Ono, a Japanese voice actor and singer notable for his work as Sebastian Michaelis in Black Butler.
  • Popularity: In 2008, Ono was ranked 54th most common surname in Japan, while Ōno was the 73rd.
Simple, Cute, Classic


Saitō is extremely common in Japan and somewhat popular in Brazil, with a significant Japanese diaspora. It stems from the kanji 斎 “sai” (purification/worship) and 藤 “tō” (wisteria). The latter character might indicate connections to the Fujiwara clan. This is supported by the Saitō clan being descendents of a cadet branch of the Fujiwara called Fujiwara Hokke.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Worship and purification, pure worship connected to the Fujiwara clan
  • Pronunciation: SEYE-TOH, SA-EE-TOH
  • Variations: Saitou
  • Namesakes: Hiroshi Saitō, the Japanese ambassador to the U.S. from 1934 to 1938. Chiho Saitō, a Japanese manga artist, notes for the manga Revolutionary Girl Utena.
  • Popularity: Saitō ranks in Japan’s top 20 most common surnames and placed 7,613th out of 162,253 surnames in the U.S. in 2010.
Wholesome, Classic, Spiritual


Sakamoto uses the Japanese kanji “saka,” written as 阪, or less commonly as 坂, meaning “slope.” The second character is “moto,” written as 本, or less often as 元, meaning “base, origin, root.” A notable ancient bearer includes Ryōma Sakamoto, an Edo-period Japanese samurai and leading political activist. Sakamoto Castle Park is the area where Sakamoto Castle once stood.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: (One who lives) at the bottom of the slope
  • Pronunciation: SA-KA-MOH-TOH
  • Namesakes: Chika Sakamoto, a Japanese voice actress. Kyu Sakamoto, raised as Hisashi Ōshima, a Japanese singer and actor. Kaori Sakamoto, a Japanese championship-winning figure skater.
  • Popularity: In 2008, Sakamoto was ranked the 40th most common surname in Japan.
Classic, Earthy, Sturdy


Sanada is taken from the kanji 真 “sana” (genuine/real) and 田 “ta” (rice paddy/field). The Sanada clan was a 16th-century noble clan that claims descent from the Seiwa Genji, a line of the Minamoto. The family includes the famous Sengoku-period samurai, commonly known as Yukimura Sanada.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Real rice paddy
  • Pronunciation: SA-NA-DA
  • Namesakes: Juzo Sanada, later Shigeo Sanada, a Japanese professional baseball player. Hiroyuki Sanada, a Japanese actor and martial artist.
  • Popularity: Sanada is Japan’s top 1,000 most common surnames, ranking 729th in 2014.
Refined, Simple, Earthy


The ancient Japanese Sasaki clan descended from the Uda Genji, a line of the Minamoto clan, through Emperor Uda. Sasaki is written with the kanji 佐 “sa” (help/aid), “sa” repeated through the iteration mark 々, and 木 “ki” (tree/wood). If it’s written as 鷦鷯, it means “wren.” Other character combinations for Sasaki include 佐咲 and 佐佐木.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Help tree, wren
  • Pronunciation: SA-SA-KEE
  • Namesakes: Daizo Sasaki, a Japanese kickboxer. Eri Sasaki, a Japanese musician. Hideyoshi Sasaki, a Japanese samurai and member of the Minamoto clan.
  • Popularity: In 2008, Sasaki was Japan’s 13th most popular surname and ranked 14th in 2014.
Sturdy, Classic, Pretty


Satō comes from a Japanese nickname turned clan name. It uses the kanji 佐 “sa” (help/aid) and 藤 “tō” (wisteria). This might indicate an association with the prominent Fujiwara clan. As a given name, it can be rendered 郷 (hometown), 慧 (bright), 賢 (intelligence), or 悟 (enlightenment). In Armenian, Sato may stem from the root “սաթ” (sat), meaning “amber.”

  • Origin: Japanese, Armenian
  • Meaning: Help wisteria, helper to Fujiwara, amber
  • Pronunciation: SA-TOH
  • Variations: Sato, Satoh, Satou
  • Namesakes: Akihiro Macieira Sato, a Japanese-Brazilian model. Miki Satō, a Japanese actress who plays Rukia Kuchiki in the BLEACH musical. Satomi Satō, a Japanese voice actress and singer.
  • Popularity: Satō is the most common surname in Japan, ranking 1st in 2008 and 2014.
Simple, Classic, Sturdy


Sawai might rhyme with “Kawai” (river well/well by the river), but the two surnames are unrelated. It uses the kanji “sawa,” written as 沢 or 澤 (swamp/marsh) and 井 “i” (mine shaft/well/pit). In Thailand, Sawai is more popular as a masculine given name meaning “profusely, abundantly,” ranking in the top 500 there.

  • Origin: Japanese, Thai
  • Meaning: Swamp well, abundance
  • Pronunciation: SA-WEYE-EE, SA-WA-EE, zuh-WEYE
  • Namesakes: Kazue Sawai, a Japanese composer and koto (plucked half-tube zither) player. Kōji Sawai, a Japanese anime director and artist. Miyuu Sawai, a Japanese actress, model, and gravure idol.
  • Popularity: Sawai ranks in the top 1,000 surnames in Japan, placing 716th in 2014.
Earthy, Simple


Serizawa is a sing-song surname beginning with S, written with the kanji 芹 “seri” (celery) and “sawa,” written as 沢 or 澤 (marsh). Just barely making it into the top 1,000 Japanese surnames, Serizawa’s meaning might seem somewhat strange. Kamo Serizawa was a late Edo-period samurai and the original lead commander of the Shinsengumi (an elite group of swordsmen).

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Celery swamp, a village near the shallows
  • Pronunciation: SEH-REE-ZA-WA
  • Namesakes: Hiroaki Serizawa, a Japanese singer-songwriter. Ichiro Serizawa, a Japanese fencer. Naoki Serizawa, a Japanese manga artist noted for the series Saru Lock.
  • Popularity: Serizawa just barely ranks in the top 1,000 surnames in Japan, placing 969th in 2014.
Unique, Breezy, Melodious


Shimada is a combination of the Japanese characters 島 “shima” (island) and 田 “ta” (field/rice paddy). The “shima” portion could also refer to a district or area set apart from others. Thus, Shimada likely referred to a rice paddy in a separate location from the rest. It was “an island unto itself.”

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Island rice paddy
  • Pronunciation: SHEE-MA-DA
  • Namesakes: Bell Shimada, an American fisheries scientist. Masahiko Shimada, a Japanese writer. Shigetarō Shimada, a Japanese WWII admiral.
  • Popularity: In 2008, Shimada ranked the 71st most common surname in Japan.
Classic, Earthy


Shinohara is a pairing of the Japanese kanji 篠 “shino” (dwarf bamboo) and 原 “hara” (field/plain). It was once a location in Kaga Province. The Battle of Shinohara in 1183 took place in present-day Kaga city. Nowadays, Shinohara is a railway station in Shiga Prefecture.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Bamboo grass field
  • Pronunciation: SHEE-NOH-HA-RA
  • Namesakes: Chie Shinohara, a Japanese manga artist known for the Red River manga. Kyoji Shinohara, a Japanese boxer. Takashi Shinohara, a Japanese democratic politician.
  • Popularity: Shinohara placed in the top 500 surnames in Japan in 2014.
Breezy, Soothing, Bright
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Shiratori consists of the kanji 白 “shira” (white) and 鳥 “tori” (bird), which translates to “swan.” This one is rarer than other Japanese family names on this list, but it’s great for variety. In the Ranma ½ anime and manga, a side character called Azusa Shiratori is featured.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Swan
  • Pronunciation: SHEE-RA-TOH-REE, SHEE-RA-TAW-REE
  • Namesakes: Tetsu Shiratori, a Japanese voice actor. Yuri Shiratori, a Japanese voice actress and J-pop singer. Toshio Shiratori, the Japanese ambassador to Italy from 1938 to 1940.
  • Popularity: Shiratori is not in the top 1,000 surnames in Japan but ranked within the top 4,000.
Pretty, Unique, Breezy


Sugimoto is a Japanese habitational surname taken from a village near Kamakura. It consists of the kanji 杉 “sugi” (cedar), and 本 “moto” (root/origin/base). The Japanese Sugimoto clan was a samurai family connected to the Minamoto clan. A notable fictional bearer is Saichi Sugimoto, a former soldier in the Golden Kamuy anime.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: (One who lives) beneath the cedar tree
  • Pronunciation: SOO-GEE-MOH-TOH
  • Namesakes: Kimio Sugimoto, a Japanese volleyball player. Sayuri Sugimoto, a Japanese group rhythmic gymnast. Tetta Sugimoto, a Japanese actor.
  • Popularity: Sugimoto fell short of the top 100 surnames in Japan at 103rd in 2014.
Sturdy, Earthy


Suzuki is more than a car company. It consists of the kanji 鈴 “suzu” (bell) and 木 “ki” (tree/wood). But the characters were meant to be used phonetically. The surname comes from the southern Wakayama and Mie dialect “wara-zuka,” meaning “the ears of rice piled up.” The kanji for “bell tree” was used, as there wasn’t a kanji for “wara-zuka.”

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Rice straw piles, bell tree
  • Pronunciation: SOO-ZOO-KEE
  • Namesakes: Michio Suzuki, a Japanese businessman, inventor, and founder of the Suzuki Motor Corporation. Zenkō Suzuki, a Japanese politician and a former prime minister of Japan.
  • Popularity: Suzuki is the second most common surname in Japan.
Melodious, Breezy, Classic


Tachibana is written with the kanji 橘 “tachibana” (wild orange), which might seem strange, but denotes an occupation. There were several unrelated Tachibana clans in Japan. One was a cadet branch of the Ōtomo clan, while another consisted of court nobles. There was also a Sengoku- and Edo-period Tachibana clan consisting of samurai and feudal lords.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Wild tangerine, wild orange
  • Pronunciation: TA-CHEE-BA-NA
  • Namesakes: Keita Tachibana, known as KEITA, a Japanese J-pop lead singer and actor. Masato Tachibana, a Japanese weightlifter. Takashi Tachibana, a Japanese social activist.
  • Popularity: Tachibana ranks in the top 500 surnames in Japan.
Bright, Youthful, Sweet


Takahashi is among the most common Japanese last names worldwide. It can be written with the kanji 高橋 (high bridge), which is the most common way. The Takahashi clan was a noble samurai family who directly descended from Minamoto no Yorisue through his grandson. In modern times, there is a castle town called Takahashi in Okayama Prefecture, Japan.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: High bridge
  • Pronunciation: TA-KA-HA-SHEE
  • Namesakes: Genichiro Takahashi, a Japanese author. Bruna Takahashi, a Brazilian table tennis player. Aaron Takahashi, an American actor known for roles in Welcome to the Jungle and Yes Man.
  • Popularity: In 2008, Takahashi was the third most common surname in Japan.
Classic, Breezy


As a surname, Takao usually combines the kanji 高 “taka” (high/tall/expensive) with 尾 “o” (tail/end/lower slope (of a mountain)). As a masculine moniker, “taka” can be written as 孝 (filial piety) or 隆 (noble/prosperous). Among other things, “o” can be rendered 夫 (man/husband), 士 (warrior/samurai), 生 (live), or 勇 (brave). How manly!

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Prosperous, high mountain slope
  • Pronunciation: TA-KA-OH
  • Namesakes: Erika Takao, a Japanese tennis player. Shinji Takao, a Japanese professional Go player.
  • Popularity: In 2014, Takao ranked among the top 100 given names and the top 1,000 surnames in Japan.
Youthful, Wholesome, Sweet


Takeuchi comes from the pairing of the Japanese characters 竹 “take” (bamboo) with 内 “uchi” (inside). Thus, it means “(one who dwells) within the bamboo.” Some have claimed Takeuchi may also mean “warrior household.” Perhaps this is because of the Takeuchi clan, who were court nobles. Some bearers pronounce the surname Takenouchi (TA-KEH-NOH-OO-CHEE).

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Within the bamboo
  • Pronunciation: TA-KEH-OO-CHEE
  • Variations: Takenouchi, Takeuti
  • Namesakes: Naoko Takeuchi, a Japanese manga artist known for her acclaimed Sailor Moon series. Aina Takeuchi, a Japanese ice hockey player. Gaisi Takeuti, a Japanese mathematician.
  • Popularity: In 2008, Takeuchi was ranked the 48th most common surname in Japan.
Soothing, Breezy, Bright


Tanaka is so common it saturates Japanese media. Consisting of the kanji 田 “ta” (field/rice paddy) and 中 “naka” (middle), meaning “(one who dwells) inside/at the center of the rice paddy.” Less often, it may be rendered 棚夏 (summer shelf), 多中 (many middle), or 棚下 (low shelf). In Zimbabwe’s Shona language, Tanaka means “we are good/blessed.”

  • Origin: Japanese, Zimbabwean
  • Meaning: Center of the rice paddy, we are blessed
  • Pronunciation: TA-NA-KA
  • Namesakes: Chōzaburō Tanaka, a Japanese botanist and mycologist. Chigaku Tanaka, a Japanese Buddhist scholar, preacher, and writer. Kane Tanaka, a Japanese supercentenarian.
  • Popularity: Tanaka ranks in Japan’s top ten most popular surnames, coming 4th in 2008 and 3rd in 2014.
Wholesome, Classic, Simple


Tanik is simple and straightforward. It’s written with the kanji 谷, meaning “valley.” A prominent historical namesake includes Moritomo Tani, a Sengoku-period Japanese military commander and feudal lord.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Valley
  • Pronunciation: TA-NEE
  • Namesakes: Daniel Tani, an American engineer and retired NASA astronaut. Atsuki Tani, a Japanese actor and voice actor known as the Japanese voice for Master Chief in the Halo series.
  • Popularity: Tani ranked in the top 500 most common surnames in Japan in 2014.
Simple, Breezy, Bright


Tomioka combines the kanji 富 “tomi” (wealth/abundance) and 岡 “oka” (hill/ridge). There is a town in Fukushima Prefecture and a city in Gunma Prefecture called Tomioka. Giyu Tomioka from the Demon Slayer anime and manga is a popular fictional namesake.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Abundant hill
  • Pronunciation: TOH-MEE-OH-KA
  • Namesakes: Eisaku Tomioka, a Japanese professional shogi player. Kihei Tomioka, a Japanese cyclist and Asian Games gold medalist.
  • Popularity: Tomioka ranks within the top 1,000 surnames in Japan but fell short of the top 500 in 2014.
Youthful, Bright, Cute
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Tsunoda is written with the kanji 角 “tsuno” (point/corner) and 田 “ta” (field/rice paddy). It’s widely associated with the Formula One racecar driver Yuki Tsunoda. Tsunoda is fairly popular in its homeland and ranked 101,737th out of 162,253 surnames in the U.S. in 2012.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Corner rice paddy
  • Pronunciation: TSOO-NOH-DA
  • Variations: Tsunota
  • Namesakes: Ryūsaku Tsunoda, a Japanese Japanologist. Kazuo Tsunoda, a WWII Japanese officer and ace fighter pilot in the Imperial Japanese Navy. Fusako Tsunoda, a Japanese writer.
  • Popularity: Tsunoda was in the top 500 surnames in Japan in 2014.
Sturdy, Earthy


Ueda pairs the kanji 上 “ue” (upper/top/above) with 田 “ta” (rice field/rice paddy). It comes from a commonplace name and is sometimes written as 植田 (planted rice paddy). The kanji for Ueda can be read as Kamida. Historically, Ueda was a feudal domain centered at Ueda Castle. This castle is located in present-day Ueda city.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Upper rice paddy
  • Pronunciation: OO-EH-DA
  • Variations: Ueta, Uyeda
  • Namesakes: Yōji Ueda, a Japanese voice actor. Bin Ueda, a Japanese writer. Ai Ueda, a Japanese triathlete and World Games gold and silver medalist.
  • Popularity: In 2008, Ueda ranked the 70th most common surname in Japan.
Classic, Simple, Earthy


Wada is written with the kanji 和 “wa” (harmony/peace) and 田 “ta” (field/rice paddy). There’s a noticeable trend of Japanese last names meaning “rice paddy.” It’s a staple with connections to Japanese spirituality. In the East African Cushitic and Oromo languages, Wada means “promise.” In Arabic, it’s a variant of Waddah (love/affection).

  • Origin: Japanese, East African
  • Meaning: Peaceful field, harmonious rice paddy, promise
  • Pronunciation: WA-DA
  • Namesakes: Ei Wada, a Japanese Meiji-era textile worker and memoirist. Kaoru Wada, a Japanese composer and arranger who has scored anime such as Inuyasha and D.Gray-man.
  • Popularity: Wada was ranked the 60th most common surname in Japan in 2008.
Soothing, Wholesome, Simple


Wakabayashi is a long one, but it’s pretty easy to say. It’s a pairing of the kanji 若 “waka” (young/immature) with 林 “hayashi” (forest/grove). Outside of its rich cultural heritage, Japan abounds with lush natural beauty seen in its many rivers, mountains, and forests. Surnames like Wakabayashi capture a feeling of respect for nature, which aligns with Japanese Shinto beliefs.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Young forest
  • Pronunciation: WA-KA-BA-YA-SHEE, WA-KA-BA-YASH
  • Namesakes: Hiroyuki Wakabayashi, a Japanese architect. Raizo Wakabayashi, a Japanese politician and governor for several provinces. Hitoshi Wakabayashi, a Canadian-Japanese ice hockey player.
  • Popularity: In 2014, Wakabayashi ranked the 276th most common surname in Japan.
Youthful, Unique, Bright


Watanabe is one of the most well-known Japanese surnames. The Watanabe clan was a branch of the Minamoto clan, ultimately descended from Emperor Saga. They adopted their name from their location, a river port called Watanabe no tsu. Watanabe uses the kanji 渡 “wata” (cross/ferry) and 辺 “nabe” (area/place), but can also mean “river crossing.”

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Ferry place, crossing area
  • Pronunciation: WA-TA-NA-BEH
  • Namesakes: Jiro Watanabe, a Japanese former boxer with a 26-02 win-loss streak.
  • Popularity: In 2008, Watanabe was the fifth most common surname in Japan.
Classic, Refined


Yamada is so common that Tarō Yamada is essentially the Japanese equivalent of John Smith. Yamada combines the kanji 山 “yama” (mountain) and 田 “ta” (rice paddy/ rice field). The Yamada Clan is an important aspect of the anime and manga Hell’s Paradise story. They are “rōnin” (samurai without a lord), serving as executioners.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Mountain rice paddy
  • Pronunciation: YA-MA-DA
  • Namesakes: Hiroshi Yamada, a Japanese politician. Ayano Yamada, a Japanese beauty pageant titleholder. Bimyō Yamada, born Taketarō Yamada, a Japanese novelist.
  • Popularity: In 2008, Yamada was Japan’s 12th most popular surname.
Sturdy, Classic, Earthy


Yamaguchi pairs the kanji 山 “yama” (mountain) with 口 “kuchi” (mouth/entrance). It comes from the full phrase “yamabayashi no iriguchi,” meaning “entrance to the mountain forest.” In Brazil, Yamaguchi is used for boys in a transferred usage of the Japanese surname.

  • Origin: Japanese, Brazilian
  • Meaning: Mountain entrance
  • Pronunciation: YA-MA-GOO-CHEE
  • Namesakes: Kristi Yamaguchi, an American Olympic and World figure-skating champion. Takahiro Yamaguchi, a Japanese football player.
  • Popularity: In Japan, Yamaguchi ranked 14th in 2008 and 16th in 2014.
Spiritual, Majestic, Classic


Yasuda comes from the Japanese kanji “yasu,” 安 (peace/quiet) or 保 (protect/maintain) and 田 “ta” (rice field/rice paddy). The Yasuda clan was a Sengoku- and Edo-period samurai kin group. In modern history, they are seen as a “financial clan” due to their success in banking with the Yasuda zaibatsu financial conglomerate.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Safe rice paddy, peaceful rice paddy
  • Pronunciation: YA-SOO-DA
  • Namesakes: Akira Yasuda, a Japanese animator, character designer, and game designer. Ken Yasuda, a Japanese actor and voice actor. Satoru Yasuda, a Japanese pole vaulter.
  • Popularity: In 2014, Yasuda was ranked the 114th most common surname in Japan.
Soothing, Sturdy, Sweet


Yoshida is normally written with the kanji 吉 “yoshi” (good luck) and 田 “ta” (field/rice paddy). It could also pair the characters 芳田, meaning “fragrant rice field.” Yoshida could be upbeat or soothing, depending on its reading. Locations called Yoshida include a town in the Haibara District of Shizuoka Prefecture and a (now-absorbed) town in Saitama Prefecture.

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Lucky rice paddy, rice paddy of good fortune
  • Pronunciation: YOH-SHEE-DA
  • Namesakes: Ai Yoshida, an award-winning Japanese sports sailor. Ami Yoshida, a Japanese musician. Isoya Yoshida, a Japanese architect.
  • Popularity: Yoshida was the 11th most popular surname in Japan in 2008, and the 12th in 2014. Yoshida is the 615th most common surname internationally.
Bright, Wholesome, Cute


Yukimura is written using the kanji 雪 “yuki” (snow) and 村 “mura” (town/village). As a given name, the first character can be rendered 幸, read as “kou,” “saiwa,” “sachi,” “shiawase,” or “yuki” (blessing/fortune/happiness). A notable historical bearer of this winter-themed surname is the Sengoku-period samurai, Sanada Yukimura. One of his cooler nicknames was “Crimson Demon of War.”

  • Origin: Japanese
  • Meaning: Snow village
  • Pronunciation: YOO-KEE-MOO-RA
  • Namesakes: Izumi Yukimura, a Japanese singer and actress. Makoto Yukimura, a Japanese manga artist known for his Vinland Saga manga. Eri Yukimura, a Japanese voice actress.
  • Popularity: Yukimura is fairly uncommon in Japan as it does not rank among the top 1,000 surnames.
Soothing, Unique, Cool
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Japanese Surnames FAQs

What Are Some of the Rarest Japanese Last Names?

Hinode is one of the rarest Japanese surnames and means “sunrise” (1). There are about four known bearers in Japan and thirteen in Brazil (2). The only known namesake of this uncommon Japanese family name is Eisuke Hinode, a Japanese politician of the Liberal Democratic Party.

Shinseki is another rare Japanese last name, with about 111 bearers in Japan (3). A notable namesake is Eric Shinseki, a Hawaiian-born retired U.S. Army general. Shinseki is written as 新関, meaning “the new dam” or “the new border/barrier.” However, it’s also a homonym for “shinseki,” written 親戚, meaning “relative.”

What Is the Most Popular Japanese Last Name?

Satō has ranked first among surnames in Japan since 2008 and is the 267th most common surname internationally (4). In the United States, Satō placed 4,956th out of 162,253 surnames (5).

It’s a combination of the Japanese kanji 佐 “sa” (help/aid) and 藤 “tō” (wisteria). Satō can also be romanized as Sato, Satoh, or Satou. To date, Satō has about two million bearers in Japan alone and is especially common in the Yamagata, Miyagi, and Akita prefectures.

What Is the Prettiest Japanese Last Name?

Hoshino and Sakurai are some of the prettiest Japanese last names.

Sakurai means “cherry blossom (water) well,” and paints a peaceful image of pink cherry blossoms falling and blanketing the water’s surface. Meanwhile, Hoshino means “field of stars,” which brings to mind a stunning stretch of stars over the countryside at night.

Hoshino is the 161st most prevalent surname in Japan (6). Sakurai is Japan’s 93rd most common (7). Although Sakurai is more popular, Hoshino has gained increased attention through Ai Hoshino, the protagonist of the Oshi no Ko manga and anime series.

Shiratori, meaning “swan,” gets a special mention!

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About the Author

Leigha Mayers

Leigha-Ceres Mayers is a freelance editor and copywriter from Trinidad and Tobago. Previously a primary school assistant teacher, she went on to acquire a TESOL certification before transitioning to freelancing. Outside of researching baby names, Leigha works alongside her husband, producing and publishing romance sci-fi and fantasy books. As a mum of two, she uses what little spare time she has to create traditional and digital works of art. Her other hobbies include voracious reading, watching anime, and learning new languages.