Our family names are unique because, unlike our given names, their true origins are rarely known. They have been passed down from generation to generation, often giving insight into what our ancestors did for a living or where they resided.
Popular given names change from year to year based on trends and the names parents are particularly fond of at the time, but it’s interesting to think about what would become the most popular if we had a say in what our family names were.
For the third year in a row, the website Myoji-Yurainet held its “Best of Myoji” (or “Best of Family Names”) contest to find out which names Japanese netizens liked the most, announcing the results on its website. The top 10 are as follows:
- 神 (Jin, Kami)
- 一 (Ichi, Ninomae)
- 五郎丸 (Goromaru)
- 珍名 (Chinna)
- 八月一日 (Hazumi, Yabumi, Hassaku)
- 勘解由小路 (Kadenokoji)
- 小鳥遊 (Takanashi)
- 山田 (Yamada)
- 中村 (Nakamura)
- 佐々木 (Sasaki)
After rising up from third place in 2013 to second place in 2014, the family name Kami, the character of which means “god” (and can also be read as “Jin”) has claimed the spot for first place.
In addition to their rank by popularity, the website also listed each name’s rank by how common each name is amongst all Japanese surnames, as well as how many people throughout the country have each particular name. While you might think that Kami/Jin/”God” wouldn’t be very common, we can see that at least 16,000 people have been blessed with this holy moniker, 42% of whom are reported to be living in Aomori, the prefecture furthest north on Japan’s main island of Honshu. One has to wonder how this last name came about in the first place. The original family must have been a very revered bunch!
On to the second-place entry, we see a character that looks like nothing but a long dash, but if you’ve studied kanji this is probably one of the very first (and simplest) characters that you’ve learned. It is the kanji character for the number one, and while normally read “ichi“, as a name it can also be read as “Ninomae”. It is said that the reason for this interesting reading is because the number one comes before (mae) the number two (ni), with “no” being a possessive marker: "ni-no-mae."
Other names that made the list have some rather interesting meanings. Goromaru, for example, carries the meaning “five sons round”, Hazumi/Yabumi/Hassaku means “August 1st”, and the characters that form the name Kadenokoji mean “perception”, “understanding”, “reason”, and “small road”.
Is God strong enough to hold the first place mark for 2016 too? Or will “Swastika Under Mountain”, which just barely missed making the top 10, creep up from 12th place? This interesting name is written with an actual swastika, facing the original position it was meant to as a Buddhist symbol: 卍山下, and read as Manzanka or Manjiyamashita.
Sources: Myoji-Yurainet, Internetcom
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