10 Common Japanese Surnames!

10 Common Japanese Surnames!

When you are new to any country, it is hard to know if it is the surname or the given name. Especially in a country like Japan where age and social position really matter, it is preferred to address someone with his or her surname. Although we Japanese have one of the biggest variety of surnames in the world, there are a few that you can keep in mind to avoid the confusion. Here is a list of 10 common surnames in Japan.



 

10 Common Japanese Surnames!

 

1. Sato 佐藤

With its short and pleasant sound, it can sound like a given name. However, it is the most common surname in Japan. Keep in mind that the sound is more like “Sato-h” with a little bit of exhale in the end. If you pronounce abruptly like “Sato,” it is a female given name.

 

2. Suzuki 鈴木

This surname is very popular especially in the eastern part of Japan. It has gained its worldly fame as a motorcycle brand. For some European language speakers, this might be a little bit hard to pronounce. Just remember that the first “S” is a clear sound as opposed to the third letter “Z” which is the stronger sound.

 

3. Takahashi 高橋

Japanese pronunciation is very simple. As some of you might know already, it consists of a consonant and a vowel. Although this name seems a little longer than others, if you pronounce one by one, it is quite easy to pronounce.

 

4. Tanaka 田中

This is one of the most common surnames all over Japan. The meaning is “in the center (Naka)” of “rice field (Ta).” Historically, surnames were only allowed to samurais until late 19th century when Meiji Restoration occurred. Farmers needed to name themselves with surnames, and decided by where they are – in the center of rice field.

 

5. Ito 伊東 / 伊藤

The correct pronunciation is “ee-toh” and not “ai-toh” as many English speakers might pronounce. Like “Sato,” the last “toh” is pronounced with an exhale. It is one of the easiest Japanese surnames to write, read and pronounce when you know it.

 

6. Yamamoto 山本

Meaning “at the foot (Moto)” of “a mountain (Yama),” this is another very popular surname across Japan. When you visit Japan, you will be amazed with the green of our beautiful mountains. When people were ordered to have surnames in 19th century, you can imagine that they named themselves after their beloved beautiful mountains.

 

7. Watanabe 渡辺

Although it is a common Japanese surname, many Japanese people often ask how to write this name in Kanji, or Chinese characters. There are several ways to write this name in Kanji, but if you are only using alphabets, there is no worry. The last letter is pronounced “beh” and not as “bee.”

 

8. Nakamura 中村

As mentioned in the section of “Tanaka,” the word “Naka” means “in the center.” In this case, in the center of “a village (Mura).” This is another name that you will see regardless of the region, but slightly more so in the Western part of Japan.

 

9. Kobayashi 小林

“Hayashi” is quite a common name in Japan meaning “woods.” And when this is combined with the word “little (Ko),” the sound of woods is changed to “bayashi.” This is how this name is constructed. Remember to read the name syllable by syllable to pronounce more correctly and beautifully.

 

10. Kato 加藤

Another of the “toh” series, this is probably the most popular surname in Nagoya and its vicinity. As we have seen with “Sato” and “Ito,” if you see a 2 syllable surname that ends with “to,” the last syllable is pronounced “toh.” The correct pronunciation of this name is “Kah-toh” and not “Kay-toh.”

 

Conclusion

By now, you might be overwhelmed by the variety of common Japanese surnames. However, the most important thing is to ask, make sure, and pronounce correctly. And don’t forget to put “San” at the end!

 

10 Common Japanese Surnames!

1. Sato 佐藤
2. Suzuki 鈴木
3. Takahashi 高橋
4. Tanaka 田中
5. Ito 伊東 / 伊藤
6. Yamamoto 山本
7. Watanabe 渡辺
8. Nakamura 中村
9. Kobayashi 小林
10. Kato 加藤