70+ Japanese Last Names That Have Stood the Test of Time

Published October 5, 2021
Pretty lady looking at the distance on Tokyo

Japanese last names are rooted in family ancestry, nature, personal traits, characteristics and qualities, and sometimes past occupations. Learn about your origins by diving into the meaning of your Japanese last name. You might be surprised at all you discover.

Popular Japanese Last Names

These Japanese surnames are popular among the island nation's people. Try touring Tokyo without bumping into at least one person with the last name Sato.

  • Hayashi - Means "forest"
  • Inoue - Means "above the well"
  • Ito - Means "this wisteria"
  • Sasaki - Means "wise"
  • Kimura - Means "tree village"
  • Kobayashi - Means "small forest"
  • Makino - Means "pasture field"
  • Miura - Means "three bays"
  • Nakamura - Means "person from middle village"
  • Oba - Means "large garden"
  • Sasaki - Means "wren"
  • Sato - Sa means "to assist" and is a reference to the Fujiwara clan from the Heian Period
  • Shimizu - Means "pure water"
  • Sone - Means "root"
  • Suzuki - Suzu means "bell" and ki means "tree, wood"
  • Takahashi - Means "tall, high bridge"
  • Tanaka - Means "rice field"
  • Watanabe - Means "to cross over a river"
  • Yamada - Means "mountain rice paddy"
  • Yamamoto - Means "one who lives at the foot of the mountains"

Japanese Surnames Inspired By Nature

Several different cultures around the world have looked to nature to inspire last name choices. There is no shortage of Japanese surnames rooted in landscape, earthly elements, and places.

  • Agawa - Means "corner of a river or a stream"
  • Akiyama - Means "autumn mountain"
  • Aoki - Means "green tree"
  • Chiba - Means "thousand leaves"
  • Chisaka - Means "one thousand hills"
  • Furukawa - Means "old river"
  • Hara - Means "meadow"
  • Hirano - Means "peaceful wilderness"
  • Kita - Means "north"
  • Kojima - Means "small island"
  • Minami - Means "south"
  • Mochizuki - Means "full moon"
  • Mori - Means "forest"
  • Nishikawa - Means "western river"
  • Ohara - Means "great plain"
  • Okamoto - Means "one who lives at the bottom of the hill"
  • Omori - Means "large grove"
  • Sakai - Means "border or territory"
  • Shima - Means "island"
Japanese Last Names

Rare and Interesting Last Names

Some last names sound fairly common, but their meanings are anything but ordinary. Other surnames are rarely heard in circulation. These Japanese last names are either interesting in backstory or quite uncommon among Japanese people.

  • Baba - Means "horse riding ground"
  • Chikafuji - Means "near the wysteria"
  • Ebina - Can mean "distinguished" or it can mean "shrimp"
  • Haga - Means "celebratory fragrance"
  • Himura - Translates to "scarlett village"
  • Ishioka - Means "stone hill"
  • Kido -Means "wooden castle door"
  • Kikuchi - Means "chrysanthemum pond"
  • Kubo - Means "sunken ground"
  • Kumagai - Means "bear valley"
  • Kurosawa - Means "black marsh"
  • Kutsuki - Means "decaying or rotting tree"
  • Sawai - Means "swamp well"
  • Tachibana - Means "tangerine"

Japanese Surnames Based on Traits, Personality, and Characteristics

Many last names have meanings that translate to physical characteristics, personality traits, or other qualities held by an individual. Does your Japanese last name fall into this surname category?

  • Aikawa - Means "sympathizing with the river"
  • Bushida - Means "warrior way"
  • Daigo - Means "enlightenment"
  • Fukumoto - Means "blessed"
  • Gushiken - Means "strong-willed"
  • Kaneko - Translates to "golden child"
  • Kubo - Means "protect"
  • Takao - Means "bulky" or "warrior"

Japanese Last Names Comprised of Two Meanings

These last names don't have a singular definition or meaning, but instead are made up of two parts, both with individual meanings.

  • Hamasaki - Hama means "beach" and saki means "cape"
  • Honda - Hon means "root" and da means "field"
  • Koizumi - Ko means "small" and izumi means "spring"
  • Matsuoka - Matsu means "pine tree" and oka means "ridge"
  • Miyamoto - Miya means "temple" and moto mean means "base"
  • Nakano - Naka means "inside or within" and no means "wilderness"
  • Ōshiro - O means "great" and shiro means "castle"
  • Shibuya - shibu means "rough" and ya means "valley"
  • Sugiyama - Sugi means "cedar" and yama means "mountain"
  • Takeuchi - Means "bamboo" and "middle"
  • Yamaguchi - Yama means "mountain" and kuchi means "mouth entrance"
  • Yoshida - Yoshi means "good luck" ta means "rice paddy"
  • Yukimura - Yuki means "snow" and mura means "town"

What Can We Learn From a Last Name?

One can learn a lot from a last name. By dissecting your surname you may discover what your ancestors did for a living, where they lived in a specific region, what traits they possessed, or what kingdom or dynasty they were a part of long ago. If you want to discover more about your familial heritage, origins, and history, learning about your last name is a great place to start the journey.

70+ Japanese Last Names That Have Stood the Test of Time