Tuesday, 12 March 2013


Japanese names (日本人の氏名 nihonjin no shimei?) in modern times usually consist of a family name (surname), followed by a given name. "Middle names" are not generally used. Japanese names are usually written in kanji, which are characters of usually Chinese origin in Japanese pronunciation. The kanji for a name may have a variety of possible Japanese pronunciations, but parents might use hiragana or katakana when giving a birth name to their newborn child. Names written in hiragana or katakana are phonetic renderings, and so lack the visual meaning of names expressed in the logographic kanji. Japanese family names are extremely varied: according to estimates, there are over 100,000 different surnames in use today in Japan. Common family names in Japan include Satō (佐藤) (most common), Suzuki (鈴木) (second most common), and Takahashi (高橋) (third most common).[2] This diversity is in stark contrast to the situation in other Sinosphere nations, there being very few Chinese surnames (a few hundred common, 20 comprise half the population), and similarly Korean names (250 names, of which 3 comprise almost half the population) and Vietnamese names (about 100 family names, of which 3 comprise 60% of the population). This reflects different history: while Chinese surnames have been in use for millennia and were often reflective of an entire clan or adopted from nobles (with or without any genetic relationship) – and were thence transferred to Korea and Vietnam via noble names, modern Japanese family names date only to the 19th century, following the Meiji restoration, and were chosen at will. The recent introduction of surnames has two additional effects: Japanese names became widespread when the country had a very large population (over 30,000,000 during the early Meiji era – see Demographics of Imperial Japan) instead of dating to ancient times (population estimated at 300,000 in 1 CE, for instance – see Demographics of Japan before Meiji Restoration), and since little time has passed, Japanese names have not experienced as significant surname extinction as has occurred in the much longer history in China.[3] Surnames occur with varying frequency in different regions; for example, the names Chinen (知念), Higa (比嘉), and Shimabukuro (島袋) are common in Okinawa but not in other parts of Japan; this is mainly due to differences between the language and culture of Yamato people and Okinawans. Many Japanese family names derive from features of the rural landscape; for example, Ishikawa (石川) means "stone river", Yamamoto (山本) means "the base of the mountain", and Inoue (井上) means "above the well". While family names follow relatively consistent rules, given names are much more diverse in pronunciation and character usage. While many common names can easily be spelt or pronounced, many parents choose names with unusual characters or pronunciations, and such names cannot in general be spelt or pronounced unless both the spelling and pronunciation are given. Unusual pronunciations have especially become common, with this trend having increased significantly since the 1990s.[4][5] For example, the popular boy's name 大翔 is traditionally pronounced "Hiroto", but in recent years alternative pronunciations "Haruto", "Yamato", "Daito", "Taiga", "Sora", "Taito", "Daito", and "Masato" have all entered use.[4] Male names often end in -rō (郎 "son", but also 朗 "clear, bright"; e.g. "Ichirō") or -ta (太 "great, thick"; e.g. "Kenta"), or contain ichi (一 "first [son]"; e.g. "Ken'ichi"), kazu (also written with 一 "first [son]", along with several other possible characters; e.g. "Kazuhiro"), ji (二 "second [son]" or 次 "next"; e.g. "Jirō"), or dai (大 "great, large"; e.g. "Daiichi") while female names often end in -ko (子 "child"; e.g. "Keiko") or -mi (美 "beauty"; e.g. "Yumi"). Other popular endings for female names include -ka (香 "scent, perfume" or 花 "flower"; e.g. "Reika") and -na (奈, or 菜, meaning greens; e.g. "Haruna").

The majority of Japanese people have one surname and one given name with no middle name, except for the Japanese imperial family, whose members bear no surname. The family name - myōji (苗字 or 名字), uji (氏) or sei (姓)[citation needed] - precedes the given name, called the "name" - (名前 namae) or "lower name" (下の名前 shita no namae). The given name may be referred to as the "lower name" because, in vertically written Japanese, the given name appears under the family name.[6] Historically, myōji, uji and sei had different meanings. Sei was originally the matrilineal surname. Later it became granted only by the emperor. There were relatively few sei, and most of the medieval noble clans trace their lineage either directly to these sei or to the courtiers of these sei. Uji was first used to designate patrilineal descent, but later merged with myōji around the same time sei lost its matrilineal significance. Myōji was, simply, what a family chooses to call itself, as opposed to the sei granted by the emperor. While it was passed on patrilineally, one had a certain degree of freedom in changing one's myōji. See also Kabane. Multiple Japanese characters have the same pronunciations, so several Japanese names have multiple meanings. A particular kanji itself can have multiple meanings and pronunciations. In some names, Japanese characters phonetically "spell" a name and have no intended meaning behind them. Many Japanese personal names use puns.[7] Some few names can serve either as surnames or as given names (for example Mayumi 真弓, Kaneko 金子, Masuko 益子, or Arata 新). In addition, to those familiar with Japanese names, which name is the surname and which is the given name is usually apparent, no matter which order the names are presented in. This thus makes it unlikely that the two names will be confused, for example when writing in (say) English using the order family name, given name. However, due to the variety of pronunciations and differences in languages, some common surnames and given names may coincide when Romanized: e.g., Shoji (昌司, 昭次, or 正二?) (given name) and Shoji (庄司, 庄子, 東海林, or 小路?) (surname). Japanese names have distinct differences from Chinese names through the selection of characters in a name and pronunciation. A Japanese person can distinguish a Japanese name from a Chinese name by looking at it. Akie Tomozawa, author of "Japan's Hidden Bilinguals: The Languages of 'War Orphans' and Their Families After Repatriation From China," said that this was equivalent to how "Europeans can easily tell that the name 'Smith' is English and 'Schmidt' is German or 'Victor' is English or French and 'Vittorio' is Italian".

Japanese names are usually written in kanji (Chinese characters), although some names use hiragana or even katakana, or a mixture of kanji and kana. While most "traditional" names use kun'yomi (native Japanese) kanji readings, a large number of given names and surnames use on'yomi (Chinese-based) kanji readings as well. Many others use readings which are only used in names (nanori), such as the female name Nozomi (希). The majority of surnames comprise one, two or three kanji characters. There are also a small number of four or five kanji surnames, such as Teshigawara (勅使河原) and Kutaragi (久多良木), Kadenokōji (勘解由小路), but these are extremely rare.[citation needed] The sound no, meaning "of", and corresponding to the character の, is often included in names but not written as a separate character, as in the common name 井上 (i-no-ue, well-of-top/above, top of the well), or historical figures such as Sen no Rikyū.[9] Most personal names use one, two, or three kanji.[7] Male given names often use the characters "hiro" (宏, "expansive, wide"), "ki" (木, "tree, standing"), and "ta" (太, "big, fat"). Four syllable given names are common, especially in eldest sons.[10] As mentioned above, female given names often end in the syllable ko, written with the kanji meaning "child" (子), or mi, written with the kanji meaning "beautiful" (美).[11] The usage of -ko (子) has changed significantly over the years: prior to the Meiji Restoration (1868), it was reserved for members of the imperial family. Following the restoration, it became popular and was overwhelmingly common in the Taisho and early Showa era.[4] The suffix -ko increased in popularity after the mid-20th century. Around the year 2006, due to the citizenry mimicking naming habits of popular entertainers, the suffix -ko was declining in popularity. At the same time, names of western origin, written in kana, were becoming increasingly popular for naming of girls.[7] By 2004 there was a trend of using hiragana instead of kanji in naming girls. Molly Hakes, author of The Everything Conversational Japanese Book: Basic Instruction For Speaking This Fascinating Language In Any Setting, said that this may have to do with using hiragana out of cultural pride, since hiragana is Japan's indigenous writing form, or out of not assigning a meaning to a girl's name so that others do not have a particular expectation of her.[11] Names ending with -ko dropped significantly in popularity in the mid 1980s, but are still given, though much less than in the past. Male names occasionally end with the syllable ko, but very rarely using the kanji 子 (most often, if a male name ends in ko, it ends in hiko, using the kanji 彦). Common male name endings are -shi and -o; names ending with -shi are often adjectives, e.g., Atsushi which might mean, for example, "(to be) faithful." In the past (before World War II), names written with katakana were common for women, but this trend seems to have lost favour. Hiragana names for women are not unusual. Kana names for boys, particularly those written in hiragana, have historically been very rare. This may be in part because the hiragana script is seen as feminine; in medieval Japan, women generally were not taught kanji and wrote exclusively in hiragana.[citation needed] Names cannot begin with the syllable n (ん, ン); this is in common with other proper Japanese words, though colloquial words may begin with ん, as in んまい (nmai, variant of うまい, delicious). Some names end in n: the male names Ken, Shin, and Jun are examples. The syllable n should not be confused with the consonant "n," which names can begin with; for example, the female name Naoko (尚子) or the male Naoya (直哉). (The consonant "n" needs to be paired with a vowel to form a syllable.) One large category of family names can be categorized as "-tō" names. The kanji 藤, meaning wisteria, has the on'yomi tō (or, with rendaku, dō). Many Japanese people have surnames that include this kanji as the second character. This is because the Fujiwara clan (藤原家) gave their samurai surnames (myōji) ending with the first character of their name, to denote their status in an era when commoners were not allowed surnames. Examples include Atō, Andō, Itō (although a different final kanji is also common), Udō, Etō, Endō, Gotō, Jitō, Katō, Kitō, Kudō, Kondō, Saitō, Satō, Shindō, Sudō, Naitō, Bitō, and Mutō. As already noted, some of the most common family names are in this list. Japanese family names usually include characters referring to places and geographic features.
In 708 CE, the land of Dewa-no kuni was administratively separated from Echigo; and the ambit of the province was gradually extended to the north as the Japanese pushed back the indigenous people of northern Honshū.
In 712, Dewa Province was administratively realigned in relation to Mutsu Province (陸奥国); and Empress Gemmei's Daijō-kan continued to organize other cadastral changes in the provincial map of the Nara Period, as in 713 when Mimasaka Province (美作国) was divided from Bizen Province (備前国); Hyūga Province (日向国) was sundered from Osumi Province (大隈国); and Tamba Province (丹波国) was severed from Tango Province (丹後国).
In 1335, Shiba Kaneyori received the Dewa Province as a fief from Ashikaga Takauji.
In the Sengoku Period, the southern region around Yamagata was held by the Mogami clan and the northern part by the Akita clan, both of which fought for Tokugawa Ieyasu at the Battle of Sekigahara.
In the late 19th century, Dewa Province was again administratively reconfigured, this time into Uzen and Ugo.
In the Meiji period, the provinces of Japan were converted into prefectures. The maps of Japan and Dewa Province were reformed in the 1870s.