Japanese names explained

Why are there so few surnames and so many Tanakas and Suzukis?

Why are most Japanese surnames based on nature and natural features?
Why do Japanese surnames not describe their ancestor’s jobs?


  1. Georgie said,

    November 15, 2011 at 11:34 am

    I’m not quite sure where I got this from, but I think it may have been from my last Japanese teacher; but the idea was that at one point only shogun/samurai/some merchants actually used family names — and that the lower class/peasants were either not allowed to or simply didn’t feel the need to distinguish themselves and use them. When all that heirarchy was eventually overthrown, the peasants — strapped for ideas, started to name themselves after the natural features of the lands they’d worked for so many years.
    I remember she said you can tell a bit about a Japanese person’s heritage from it because only lineage that went back to those upper classes retained abstract family names as opposed to landscape based ones.

  2. alexcase said,

    November 17, 2011 at 4:27 am

    Whoops, I’ve answered these elsewhere on the blog I think but can’t find where at the moment. I heard the same thing, but according to commenters here that’s a bit of an oversimplification.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: