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Japanese Names and their meaning

Japanese Names and their meaning

Want to know more about Japanese Names? Here’s a list of the common and popular names in Japan as well as their meaning and origin.

The naming tradition and customs in Japan have changed a lot in the last centuries, especially after the Meji restoration. Prior to that, in feudal japan, common people didn’t have a surname, and their name was more of a reflection of their social status than what we think of names as today. 

In this article, we take a deep dive into Japanese names as well as looking into more information about how they use names and the meaning behind some of the most popular names in Japan. 

This might be useful no matter if you’re looking for Japanese baby names, want to learn more about the culture, or if you’re traveling to Japan since you’ll learn how to address people properly. 

Japanese Names for Boys/Men

NameMeaningJapanese spelling
Hiroshi“tolerant, generous”
Takashi“noble, prosperous”
Haruto“spring, person”春人
Shunsuke“sagacious help”
Tadashi“loyal, faithful, correct”ただし
Satoshi“intelligent history”さとし
Hiroki“big, great, brightness”大輝
Yoshio“good”, “joyful”, “lucky”, “fragrant”義雄

Most popular Japanese boy names in 2018

This is from the latest statistics about the most popular boy names in Japan in 2018.

  • Haruto
  • Sota
  • Yuto
  • Haruki
  • Riku
  • Shou
  • Yuuto
  • Daiki
  • Takumi
Japanese boy names

Photo: miya227/Shutterstock

Japanese Names for Girls/Women

Keiko“lucky/blessed child”
Hiroko“rich child”
Noriko“child of ceremony; law; order”
Hiromi“generous beauty”
Yui“only, alone, sole”
Mayumi“truth, bow”
Yuka“reason, beautiful”
Yumi“archery bow”
Yoshiko“good child”
Hanami“blossom view”

Most popular Japanese girl names 2018

This is from the latest statistics about the most popular girl names in Japan in 2018. 

  • Sakura
  • Yui
  • Akari
  • Hana
  • Mei
  • Yuuka
  • Misaki
  • Natsuki
  • Nanami
japanese girl names

Photo: milatas/Shutterstock

List of common surnames in Japan

In Japanese culture, the surname is often the one used when addressing a person. That is why you often hear a Japanese person saying Mister or Miss before the last name when speaking about them, instead of their given name. 

For the same reason, -san is also added if addressing someone by their first name. For example, if someone addressed me in Japan and wanted to do it in a western way, they would say Alexander-san, which means Mr. Alexander. 

Below is a list of the most common Japanese surnames, ranked by popularity. 


More about names in Japan

Every Japanese has a given name and surname, which is commonly written with the surname first and given name second. Middle names are not recognized in Japan, and the practice is only for foreigners.

A person’s surname is inherited by the father and common practice is that when a woman marries a man, she will change her surname into his family name. There are more than 100,000 surnames in use in Japan today but the three most popular Japanese surnames are Satō (佐藤), Suzuki (鈴木), and Takahashi (高橋) which all has more than 1 million people bearing each of those.

The only family in Japan without a surname is the Japanese imperial family, who has no surname by tradition. The custom of having a surname is relatively new here, and before the Meiji Restoration, most common people didn’t have a surname. 

information about japanese names

Photo: dimakig /

In feudal Japan, names were often reflecting the social status of a person and one person could go by many different names. This was especially true for Japanese male names, which are recorded as changing more frequently than female names in Japan during this period in history.  

Many given names in Japan can be spelled with various kanji characters, giving it a different meaning for each character. Foreign names are often written in Katakana unless it has a Japanese origin. 

Japanese male names are often ending with hiki, suke, hei but they can also end with “o” or shi. Female names in Japan on the other hand often end with e, yo, mi or ko. 

Unlike western traditions where the first name is used when addressing people, this is rarely done in Japan since it’s considered a bit rude and uncustomary. If a Japanese person would address someone by their first name, it would often be a foreigner, and it would always include -san at the end which basically means “Mr, Miss, Mrs”. 

In Japan, it’s customary to address people by their surname, so if you were talking about a man named Daisuke Inamoto, you should address him as Mr. Inamoto. 

Mr Inamoto

Photo: David Prado Perucha/Shutterstock

How are names written in Japanese?

Japanese names are commonly written with the surname first and given name second. For example, a male named Shunsuke with the last name Nakamura would write his name as Nakamura Shunsuke. 

What is the most common name in Japan?

Sakura and Kokoro are two of the most popular Japanese girl names at the moment. And two of the most common Japanese boy names are Haruto and Yuuki.

Common names in Japan

Photo: milatas/Shutterstock

Do Japanese have middle names?

Japanese people typically only have a first name and last name. It’s not a common practice to give middle names in Japan. 

What are some cool Japanese names?

How is my name spelled in Japanese?

Japanese names are typically written in Kanji, but that’s not the case if you have a foreign name, then it would be written in Katakana. For example, my own name is written like アレキサンダー and is pronounced a-re-ku-sa-n-da-a.

Foreign words are written phonetically, which means that the spelling of your name in Japanese can differ, and might not have just one single translation depending on how you’re name is pronounced.


Photo: Sidhe/Shutterstock

Japanese Names for Dogs

Dogs are one of the most popular pets in Japan, and many of them are smaller dogs that have been given cute Japanese dog names. The list below is a selection of some of the most common dog names in Japan. 

Male Japanese Dog Names

Dog NameMeaning
ChibiShort person or child
HibikiEcho, sound
KoyaMeaning a fast and knowledgeable leader

Female Japanese Dog Names

Dog NameMeaning
KiyomiPure beauty
KanaPowerful one
HikariRadiant light
Japanese names for dogs

Photo: mannpuku/Shutterstock

Want more suggestions on Japanese names? Leave a comment below!

Danial (Dan On The Road)

Thursday 10th of October 2019

It’s interesting to learn that the Japanese royal family does not have a surname so the former Emperor Hirohito’s name is just Hirohito.