Japanese full names used to be super long

Fl20091011x1b My mother sent me an interesting article published in The Japan Times earlier this month that digs up the origins of Japanese first and last names. Japanese names used to be super long back in the pre-Meiji period, including clan name, birth order, two ancient titles, and a personal name. The first name-last name simplified combo is only a century or so old.

The story also comes with a fun sidebar that lists the 10 most common Japanese last names. Can you guess what they are? I’ll post the answers on Monday.


4 thoughts on “Japanese full names used to be super long

  1. Okay, let’s see… by last names, I am going to guess you are referring to the Western notion of last names, i.e. family names… so perhaps in no particular order:
    These are 8 that I tend to see/find a lot.

  2. Thanks for this. I was not fully aware of how surnames had been previously used, as I only knew of Toyotomi Hideyoshi banning of surnames, unless you weren’t of a certain class.
    I do find the similarities between Japanese and some European surname origination quite interesting. Where it is sometimes based on your job, where you come from, your point in the family line, etc.

  3. My last name is a “slave name” that, like most of our names, is basically ateji, or phonetic matching that we got when Japan conquered us.
    I am not sure how Okinawans named themselves before the Japanese came, but some of the older folks on the island still have short, Okinawan first names like Kon.