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Rare and uncommon Japanese family names

Rare and uncommon Japanese family names
Rare and uncommon Japanese family names

In Japan, the top 10 most common family names account for approximately 10 percent of the Japanese population. You may have heard of these most common family names such as 佐藤(Satō), 鈴木(Suzuki), 高橋(Takahashi).

Also, many rare family names have been used by less than 100 people. Besides, there are more than 10,000 different family names that are extremely unique.

Many rare family names are used by less than 10 people in Japan. At first, we have selected out 10 of them for you. Have you heard of them?

  • 麻崎 (まさき – Masaki) Click to speech まさき
  • 刀迫 (かなたさこ – Katanasako) Click to speech かなたさこ
  • 西門前 (にしもんぜん – Nishimonzen) Click to speech にしもんぜん
  • 若皆 (わかみな – Wakamina) Click to speech わかみな
  • 君洞 (きみほら – Kimihora) Click to speech きみほら
  • 夛久島 (たくしま – Takushima) Click to speech たくしま
  • 五邉 (ごべ – Gobe) Click to speech ごべ
  • 小野ケ原 (おのがはら – Onogahara) Click to speech おのがはら
  • 蹴上 (けあげ – Keage) Click to speech けあげ
  • 蔵滿 (くらみつ – Kuramitsu) Click to speech くらみつ

10 names of places that have been taken as family names.

I am sure you have heard of those family names because the family names are also used as a place name in Japan. In addition to surnames of prefectures, city names and small-town names can also be someone’s surnames. “Tōkyō” seems to be another very rare name, with about 10 people in Japan.

  • 東京 (とうきょう – Tōkyō) Click to speech とうきょう
  • 大阪 (おおさか – Ōsaka) Click to speech おおさか
  • 京都 (きょうと – Kyōto) Click to speech きょうと
  • 鹿児島 (かごしま – Kagoshima) Click to speech かごしま
  • 神奈川 (かながわ – Kanagawa) Click to speech かながわ
  • 千葉 (ちば – Chiba) Click to speech ちば
  • 渋谷 (しぶや – Shibuya) Click to speech しぶや
  • 梅田 (うめだ – Umeda) Click to speech うめだ
  • 清水 (しみず – Shimizu) Click to speech しみず
  • 岐阜 (ぎふ – Gifu) Click to speech ぎふ

10 cases where food becomes family names.

In some cases, food ingredients that we often see in our daily lives are given surnames. The pronunciation is the same as that of the food.

  • 林檎 (りんご Ringo – apple) Click to speech りんご
  • 蜜柑 (みかん Mikan – orange) Click to speech みかん
  • 味噌 (みそ Miso – miso) Click to speech みそ
  • 酢 (す Su – vinegar) Click to speech す
  • 酒 (さけ Sake – Alcohol) Click to speech さけ
  • 昆布 (こんぶ Kombu – seaweed) Click to speech こんぶ
  • 鰻 (うなぎ Unagi – eel) Click to speech うなぎ
  • 醤油 (しょうゆ Shōyu – soy sauce) Click to speech しょうゆ
  • 茄子 (なす Nasu – eggplant) Click to speech なす
  • 胡麻 (ごま Goma – sesame) Click to speech ごま

A “wordplay” family name that even Japanese people can’t read.

We can’t even imagine how to read these names from the kanji.

四月一日 (わたぬき – Watanuki) Click to speech わたぬき

The meaning of “四月一日” is “1st of April”. This pronunciation comes from the fact that the cotton was harvested in April. “A cotton (Wata) is taken (Nuku) on the 1st of April” has become the surname, “Watanuki”.

八月一日 (ほずみ – Hozumi) Click to speech ほずみ

The meaning of “八月一日” is “1st of August”. The pronunciation comes from the custom of picking rice plants on the 1st of August. “A rice plant (Ho) is picked (Tsumu) has become the surname, “Hozumi”

九十九 (つくも – Tsukumo) Click to speech つくも

The meaning of “九十九” is “Ninety-nine (99)”.
The “百 (hundred)” is pronounced as “momo” as well as “hyaku”. It was also called “Tsugi (next) momo” because the next number after “九十九(99)” is “百(100)”.
The word “Tsugimomo” was shortened to “Tsukumo”, which is the origin of the name.

九 (いちじく – Ichijiku) Click to speech いちじく

The meaning of “九” is “Nine (9)”.
The single letter “九” is read as “Ku”. So it has become to be read “Ichijiku”. (“Ichiji” means a single letter, “ku” means “九 (nine)”.

小鳥遊 (たかなし – Takanashi) Click to speech たかなし

The meaning of “小鳥遊” is “A little bird is playing”.
In this case, “A little bird is playing” means “No natural enemies (hawks)”. So the name is a wordplay that means “No (Nashi) hawks(Taka)” = “Takanashi”

Family names mixed with hiragana and katakana.

The traditional family names in Japan are associated with kanji. There is no such thing as a hiragana-only or katakana-only family name. However, there are a small number of surnames with hiragana or katakana.

  • 回り道 (まわりみち – Mawarimichi) Click to speech まわりみち
  • 登り山 (のぼりやま – Noboriyama) Click to speech のぼりやま
  • 見ル野 (みるの – Miruno) Click to speech みるの
  • 新タ (にった – Nitta) Click to speech にった

This “タ” is very similar to the kanji of “夕”, but in this case, the “タ” is katakana.

The longest family names in Japan.

The longest Japanese surname is the one with five letters in kanji. Currently, there are only two types of surnames. Each is said to have about 10 people in Japan today.

勘解由小路 (かでのこうじ – Kadenokōji) Click to speech かでのこうじ

It is said to be used mainly in Yamaguchi Prefecture.

左衛門三郎 (さえもんさぶろう – Saemonsaburō) Click to speech さえもんさぶろう

It is said to be used mainly in Saitama Prefecture.

Other uncommon family names.

There are too many other unusual family names in Japan to list them all here.

  • 父母 (ふぼ Fubo – parents/ father & mother) Click to speech ふぼ
  • 幸福 (こうふく Kōhuku – happiness) Click to speech こうふく
  • 和食 (わじき Wajiki – Japanese food) Click to speech わじき
  • 大仏 (だいぶつ Daibutsu – large statue of Buddha) Click to speech だいぶつ
  • 満月 (まんげつ Mangetsu – full moon) Click to speech まんげつ
  • 国宝 (こくほう Kokuhō – a national treasure) Click to speech こくほう
  • 可愛 (かわい Kawai – kawaii) Click to speech かわい
  • 洪水 (こうずい Kōzui – flooding) Click to speech こうずい
  • 満足 (まんぞく Manzoku – satisfaction) Click to speech まんぞく
  • 髭 (ひげ Hige – beard) Click to speech ひげ

They say that there are 300,000 types of Japanese family names in Japan. There are many unusual surnames, some of which are so rare that only a single-family exists. When you meet a Japanese person, pay attention to their last name. If the person has a rare name, you would be surprised to know that there is such a thing as a family name?

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