“Minoru Tanaka” Is the Most Common Name in Japan

According to Japanese surname researcher Hiroshi Morioka, the most common full name in Japan is “Minoru Tanaka” (Minoru is the first name, Tanaka is the surname).

Japanese names are written in kanji, or Chinese characters. Morioka believes that many families like to chose first names with kanji that are complementary to the kanji in the surname, and that this is what makes certain combinations particularly popular.

In the name Minoru Tanaka, for instance, the kanji can be interpreted as “to ripen in the rice field.” “This reflects the close traditional relationship the Japanese have with rice and agriculture.”

The second most common full name, Shigeru Suzuki, “incorporates the Chinese characters for “tree” and “to grow thick,” another fitting name combination inspired by agriculture.”

The third and fourth most common full names are Minoru Suzuki and Kiyoshi Sato, but my source didn’t mention what the kanji in these names might mean.

Source: “Family name researcher” discovers the most common full name in Japan

6 thoughts on ““Minoru Tanaka” Is the Most Common Name in Japan

  1. Looking at this website http://www.douseidoumei.net/ (specifically at http://www.douseidoumei.net/00/dou01.html), it pretty much matches up with what Mr. Morioka got. It has the kanji on there and in the top 10, there are 2 entries that are read as ‘Minori Tanaka.’

    I suggest going to jisho.org to get the meanings for the kanji shown on that website and post an update on that. If you want help with the translations of these names, message me.

  2. Very interesting website; thanks to the previous poster for providing the link. In Japanese sometimes there are clear links between the meaning of the given name and the meaning of the surname, and other times there are really not. For the most part, the most frequent combos are simply the most common surnames together with the most popular first names. The name Hiroshi appears four times in the top 20 (Hiroshi Suzuki, Hiroshi Satou, Hiroshi Itou, and Hiroshi Tanaka). These are four of the most common Japanese surname, and Hiroshi, written with a single character (?) was an exceptionally popular male name in much of the 20th century.

    There are only six different surnames in the top 20. They are Satou (8), Suzuki (5), Tanaka (3), Takahashi (2), Kobayashi (1) and Itou (1).

    There are nine different given names in the top 20: Hiroshi (4), Shigeru (3), Kiyoshi (3), Isamu (3), Minoru (2), Minoru [different kanji] (2), Susumu (1), Makoto (1).

    Unfortunately, the names are almost entirely male. The FAQ explains that the data was taken from listings of the “Head of Household,” which skews heavily toward men. I did find a few women’s names: #1399, Kazuko Satou; #2070 Yukiko/Sachiko Satou (either reading is possible); #2191 Kazuko Suzuki; #2312 Kazuko Takahashi–clearly Kazuko is way up there in popularity!

  3. The (?) in my post was supposed to be the kanji for Hiroshi. Somehow it didn’t come through and was converted to a question mark. I’m not uncertain that Hiroshi is written with a single kanji in these names; it definitely is!

  4. That list is going to keep me busy for a long time. =)

    Here’s an example of a combo which definitely IS influenced by the meaning. “Shigeru Kobayashi” comes in at #15. (The next instance of Kobayashi is way down at #67). Shigeru, as already mentioned, means “to grow thickly,” and Kobayashi refers to a “little forest.” Trees grow thickly in the forest..it’s a kind of pun.

    To answer the question at the end of your post, Minoru Suzuki is “to bear fruit” + “bell tree.” I’ve never seen a satisfactory explanation of what a bell tree is or why it’s such a common surname, but the two names do have a connection in the meaning.

    The two parts of the #4 combo, Kiyoshi Satou don’t particularly go together. Kiyoshi means “clean, pure.” The origin of Satou is a little obscure but it incorporates the kanji for “wisteria.” (The #5 name is Kiyoshi Takahashi–“clean, pure” and “high bridge”–pretty random).

  5. One more observation–I just can’t help myself–the four first surnames which include the kanji for “river” (kawa/gawa), are all combined with Kiyoshi–“clean, pure.” There has to be an intentional connection here between the river/water and being clean.

    They are #45 Kiyoshi Hasegawa; #172 Kiyoshi Kogawa; #231 Kiyoshi Ishikawa; #282 Kiyoshi Nakagawa.

    And the next “kawa” combo is #425, Susumu Hasegawa…”the river advances.”

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