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Japanese culture

Learn about Japanese culture from this Japanese language blog by the JOI's professional Japanese teachers.

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Many Japanese family names

There are a very large number of family names or surnames in Japan compared to other East Asian countries. And the two most popular Japanese surnames are Sato and Suzuki.

Some of the names have a long and distinct history but some are quite new because in 1875 the Meiji government passed a law requiring all citizens to register a family name. So many names were created at that time. There are many books and resources on this topic and it can be an interesting subject to look into.

This blog by Kumiko Yatabe, a Japanese teacher at JOI, looks into one of the reasons there are so many Japanese family names. Read the blog and learn new Kanji and also new Kanji readings. You can also listen to Yatabe sensei reading the blog herself on the YouTube video.

日本人の名前
Japanese family names

yatabe

By YATABE Kumiko

inkan

 日本ではファミリーネームを「姓」「名字」「苗字」などと言います。日本人の姓はもちろん漢字で書き、とても種類が多いです。

 同じ読み方でも漢字が異なる場合があります。例えば「ほんだ」でも「本田」と「本多」、「こんどう」でも「近藤」と「今藤」などです。反対に、同じ漢字でも読み方が異なる場合もあります。例えば「上村」でも「うえむら」と「かみむら」、「河野」でも「かわの」と「こうの」などです。

 そんなわけで、名前の種類は非常にたくさんあります。人に名前を聞くときは、読み方だけでなく「漢字でどう書きますか?」と聞くことが多いです。人の名前を間違った漢字で書くことは、一般的に失礼なこととされています。ちなみに私の姓は、結婚した夫の姓で「谷田部(やたべ)」ですが、「やたべ」と読む名前の漢字は「矢田部」もあります。時々、手紙や荷物などに「矢田部」と書かれて届くことがありますが、私は気にしていません。

 画数が多い漢字の名前の方が、見た目はかっこいいと思いますが、書くのは大変です。「山口」は合計6画、「斎藤(さいとう)」は合計29画です! テストなどの時、自分の名前を書くだけで時間がかかってしまいますね!

To listen to this blog, please watch our Youtube video.

日本人(にほんじん)の名前(なまえ)

 日本(にほん)ではファミリーネームを「姓(せい)」「名字(みょうじ)」「苗字(みょうじ)」などと言(い)います。日本人の姓はもちろん漢字(かんじ)で書(か)き、とても種類(しゅるい)が多(おお)いです。

 同(おな)じ読(よ)み方(かた)でも漢字が異(こと)なる場合(ばあい)があります。例(たと)えば「ほんだ」でも「本田」と「本多」、「こんどう」でも「近藤」と「今藤」などです。反対(はんたい)に、同じ漢字でも読み方が異なる場合もあります。例えば「上村」でも「うえむら」と「かみむら」、「河野」でも「かわの」と「こうの」などです。

 そんなわけで、名前の種類(しゅるい)は非常(ひじょう)にたくさんあります。人に名前を聞(き)くときは、読み方だけでなく「漢字でどう書きますか?」と聞くことが多いです。人の名前を間違(まちが)った漢字で書くことは、一般的(いっぱんてき)に失礼(しつれい)なこととされています。ちなみに私の姓は、結婚(けっこん)した夫の姓で「谷田部(やたべ)」ですが、「やたべ」と読む名前の漢字は「矢田部」もあります。時々(ときどき)、手紙(てがみ)や荷物(にもつ)などに「矢田部」と書かれて届(とど)くことがありますが、私は気(き)にしていません。

 画数(かくすう)が多い漢字の名前の方(ほう)が、見(み)た目(め)はかっこいいと思(おも)いますが、書くのは大変(たいへん)です。「山口」は合計(ごうけい)6画(かく)、「斎藤(さいとう)」は合計29画です! テストなどの時(とき)、自分(じぶん)の名前を書くだけで時間(じかん)がかかってしまいますね!

Japanese family names

There are different ways of saying 'Family name' in Japanese for example 「姓 = sei 」「名字 or 苗字 = myouji」. Japanese people's family names are written in Kanji characters of course, but there are so many types.

Some have the same reading but different Kanji characters. For example the family name Honda can be written as 「本田」 or 「本多」, and the name Kondo can be written as 「近藤」 or 「今藤」. And vice versa, some names have the same Kanji but with different ways to read them. For example 「上村」 can be read as Uemura or Kamimura and 「河野」 can be read as Kawano or Kouno.

For this reason, the number of Japanese family names is very large. When you ask someone's name, it is common to ask not only how to read the Kanji but also, "How do you write the Kanji?". It is generally seen as rude to write a person's name with the wrong Kanji, By the way, my family name, which is my husband's family name after I got married, is Yatabe 「谷田部」. There is another family name 「矢田部」 which is pronounced the same but with different Kanji characters. Sometimes, a package or letter is delivered to us with the name 「矢田部」 written on it, but I don't mind about this.

I think that names with Kanji characters that have many strokes look cool but must be hard to write. For example the name Yamaguchi 「山口」 has 6 strokes in total but the name Saito 「斎藤」 has 29 strokes! During tests, it must take a long time just to write their names!

種類(しゅるい) sort, kind

異(こと)なる different

場合(ばあい) case

非常(ひじょう)に very

一般的(いっぱんてき)に generally

失礼(しつれい)な rude

ちなみに by the way

合計(ごうけい) in total

yatabe

Konnichiwa. My name is Kumiko Yatabe. I live in Saitama, just North of Tokyo.

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