Understanding Japanese Names
As early as 300 BC, Japanese families were organized into clans. Clan names were used as family names, referred to as uji (氏). These names were often based on geographical features or occupations of clan members.
Over time, powerful clans emerged, with the Yamato being one of the strongest. Eventually the other clans united under the Yamato. In addition to their clan name, clans were given a kabane (姓), a type of aristocratic title. As a result, the combination of the uji and the kabane became a way to designate different clan groups within the Yamato kingdom. Japanese family names grew out of the uji-kabane system.
Japanese name order follows the East Asian style, putting the family name first and the given name second. For example, in the name Suzuki Hiroshi, “Suzuki” is the family name and “Hiroshi” is the given name. By contrast, many Western nations—particularly those using the Latin alphabet—use given names followed by family names.