How to make a Japanese name that is authentic and cool to brag?


The photo is taken by Gerry Lauzon
(Written by: Munemori, Proofread by: Hiroki Fujimitsu)

From a young age, you grew up reading Japanese manga and playing Japanese video games. Vagabond and Rurouni Kenshin happens to be your favorite manga. You’ve spent hours playing Sengoku BASARA and Nobunaga’s Ambition.

You would like to dive deeper into Japanese Culture, and for you to do so, you want to have an authentic Japanese name. An original Japanese name of your own is essential to proving your love to Japan. However, how do you actually make an authentic and cool Japanese name that would even enthrall native Japanese speakers. This article will show you how.   


First of all, let’s cover the basics of the Japanese names that are popular right now, and try to understand what makes them authentic. And with that in mind, let’s explore how to make a cool Japanese name that will surprise and even gain you respect from other Japanese people.



|The Correct Order is; Family name, Then Given Name

Although this is relatively unknown, even between Japanese people, right until the second half of the 19th century, there were people living in Japan who had a total of 6 different kinds of names (For more info: Samurai Name Rules). Through the westernization of Japan, and the thorough implementation of the family registration system, the common Japanese name today was divided into two different parts. The family name, and the given name.


In English-speaking cultures, the family name comes after the given name. However in Japan, it is in the opposite order. For example, “Himura Kenshin 緋村 剣心” is correct order (where Himura 緋村 is the family name, and Kenshin 剣心 is the given name), instead of “Kenshin Himura 剣心 緋村”.

[Name Order]
Family name  Given name
Himura              Kenshin
緋村                    剣心

Keep this in mind when you creating your own name.


|Think About The Kanji, Not Just How The Name Sounds

There are countless of websites that give you a Japanese-style name with the sound that you desire, however the sound of the name alone will not impress a Japanese person. Why you may ask? Because when you state your new Japanese name to a native Japanese speaker, they will almost always ask how the name is written in kanji, followed by why you chose those specific kanji for your name. If you can tell the exact wishes and thoughts that is embedded within the kanji of your authentic Japanese name convincingly, they will be deeply touched by your great understanding of Japanese culture. Whether if it is online, or offline, it could be said with certainty that your love of Japan will be conveyed to the Japanese people.        

|Choose Your Family Name From Existing Places

Japan is internationally renowned for having a large variation in family names. There are family names that even native Japanese people cannot read correctly. For example, if you show the family name “小鳥游 (Translated literally as: small birds playing)”  to a normal Japanese person, they will likely misread it as “ko-tori-asobu”, which is the standard way of reading the individual kanji (ko-tori 小鳥 = small bird, asobu 遊 = playing). However, the correct way of reading the name is “taka-nashi” (Meaning literally: without hawk). As in the little birds are playing, since there are no hawks on sight (Taka = Hawk, Nashi = Without).

There is a degree of freedom when deciding your family names where you might be able to show off your creativity to an extent. However, you should avoid choosing a name that is unnaturally complicated, just to show off. Although this varies from, family names that appear in manga are mostly unnatural and bizarre. Names such as “Uzumaki うずまき (NARUTO)” or “Yagami 夜神 (DEATH NOTE)” do not exist as Japanese family names.


A note:

The use of kanji to represent Uzumaki as 渦巻 or Yagami as 八神, 矢上 or 山神 do exist as family names. Changing a single kanji in a name will change an impression of that name dramatically.


A recommendation for creating your family name is to use a name of a place in Japan. There are many Japanese family names that are based on the name of a place that exists somewhere in Japan. If the kanji used in the place name is somehow related to your personality or trait, even better. For example, if Tom Cruise had his own Japanese name, it will be something like this.


For example: Tom Cruize

Myōji 名字, family name
                    馬 乗
reading : ma, nori
meaning : horse, ride

You take a stoic stance  by appearing in a movie without being replaced by a stuntman, so you work very hard,  training to perform stunts on a motorcycle and on a car. These are expressed by a kanji 乗, meaning “ride”, 馬, meaning “horse” and 車 meaning “car”. So the combination of 馬 and 乗, 馬乗, is bestowed upon you as your family name.

馬乗 exists in Aichi prefecture (愛知県蒲郡市西迫町馬乗) and is called Ma-nori. In the ancient Japanese or Yamato-kotoba, Ma means “pure” and Nori means ”ask the spirit with saint words”. Therefore, your family name Manori (馬乗) signifies “A horse rider to sincerely ask the spirit with saint words”.




|Choose The Right Kanji For Your Wishes

Japanese names are decided in various different ways. Nowadays, a lot of people tend to choose the sound of the name first, then find the kanji that is phonetically equivalent. However, this method is only viable to Japanese people who already know the multiple ways of reading a single kanji. For those who lack the extensive knowledge in Japanese, it is far wiser and safer to think of your wishes you would like your name to convey before deciding its sound.

Firstly, write down your own wishes that you would like for your name to represent. Then, by using jisho and Koseki Touitsu Moji Jyoho (by Ministry of Justice, Japan), choose the right kanji for you. The Koseki Touitsu Moji Jyoho is the complete list of kanji that you can use to make a name with. If the kanji is not on the list, you cannot use in a name.



4-1 Enter a word that you like into the search bar on jisho.


4-2 Copy the text next to “On:” displayed on the kanji of your choosing.



4−3 Paste the previously copied text into the text box outlined by red and labeled 1. Check the boxes on 2. Then click the icon labeled 3 on Koseki Touitsu Moji Jyoho.



4−4 If the kanji of your liking is in the search results, you can use it in your name.


|Only Use Two Kanji For Your Given Name

Whether it is a guy name or a girl name, It is better to only use 2 kanji when making your given name. In recent years, there are more and more given names are seen to only have 1 kanji or have 3 kanji, or names that seem to only consist of Hiragana or Katakana. However, it is not recommended for you to deviate from the 2 kanji format when creating your first Japanese name. This is because there is a much higher chance of butchering the nuance of your name, making it sound completely bizarre. Moreover, if you look back at Japanese History, keeping given names 2 kanji only is seen to be the norm. Let’s combine 2 kanji to create your own authentic given name.      


What we just went through is only the basic steps of creating an authentic Japanese name. Here is what we covered so far.


[The basic knowledge of creating authentic Japanese names]

  1.  The Correct Order is; Surname, Then Given Name.
  2.  Think About The Kanji, Not Just How The Name Sounds
  3.  Choose Your Family Name From Existing Places
  4.  Choose The Right Kanji For Your Wishes
  5.  Only Use Two Kanji For Your Given Name



From here, we will start to delve into how to create an authentic and cool Japanese name.


Miyamoto Musashi Self-Portrait

|Go For A Name That Has Tradition

Someone like yourself might not be satisfied by the same-old modern Japanese names that you’ve seen in countless of times in Anime or Japanese games. Instead, choosing a name using Yamatokotoba 大和言葉, a type of Japanese language that has inherited from ancient times, will greatly increase the appeal of your name, since there is a gap between your name and your foreign background. Many names such as Hayato 隼人, Iori 伊織 and Kazuma 数馬 are used throughout the ages, from ancient times to present day. These are the kind of names that resonate with Japanese people’s souls, and there is a unique depth to how they sound.


|Read Your Name With Yamatokotoba

You can divide the ways of reading a single kanji broadly into two categories, kunyomi 訓読み and onyomi 音読み, and there are several different ways to read said kanji in the two respective categories. When the Japanese brought home the concept of kanji from China around the 5th century, kunyomi 訓読み is seen to have originated from Yamatokotoba which already existed in Japan beforehand, and onyomi 音読み came from Chinese.

For instance, if you read the name of the main character of Vagabond, Miyamoto Musashi, in kunyomi and in onyomi, it would the following down below. If you read the name only in onyomi, it will not be recognized as a name at all by Japanese people.



Kunyomi (Yamatokotoba)             
miyamoto musashi

    宮本           武蔵

 kyuhon      buzou
Onyomi (Chinese pronunciation)   



From here, you might need a special dictionary and a Japanese speaker to read it for you. Within kunyomi, there is something called Jinmeikun 人名訓, a special way of reading kanji only when the kanji is exclusively used in a name. In Kangorin 漢語林, there is a heading called “Nanori 名乗” for some of the kanji. It is circled red on the picture below. On there, it lists the different ways to read the kanji while used in a name. You can refer back to this list to give a resounding depth to the sound of your name.     



|Using The Long Lost Middle Name

By the way, do you actually know Miyamoto Musashi’s true name? The surprising truth is that Musashi 武蔵 was, in fact, not his true name. More specifically, Musashi 武蔵 was a sort of pseudonym or rather a nickname used publicly, and a special type of middle name, so to speak. There is more info in this subject in Samurai Name Rules, nevertheless his true name was Harunobu 玄信.

In Yamatokotoba, the sound “Harunobu” means “to spread without constraints”. The kanji 玄 is the hieroglyphic of a bundle of black thread, representing the meaning of “depth”. The kanji 信 is the the hieroglyphic of human, mouth and niddle, representing the meaning of “honesty”. Therefore, Harunobu 玄信 conveys his stance of “to grow ever freely, without losing one’s depth of personality and honesty”.      

Furthermore, Musashi 武蔵 is a type of middle name called 百官名 Hyakkanna, coming from Musashinokami 武蔵守 (the governor of the Musashi Province). There are several theories on the reasons of choosing Musashi as his middle name, but since the literal meaning is “a warehouse of weapons”, one can assume that an individual devoting his life to the art of swordplay had found power in naming himself 武蔵 Musashi.   


Not many know the fact that Japanese people used to have middle names, not even the Japanese people today. However, it was until 150 years ago, there was in fact a custom to have a middle name in Japan for nearly 1000 years. Therefore, it is not historically inaccurate at all if you create a Japanese middle name to refer yourself with. Your middle name will be a breath of fresh air and yet It will be rich with history at the same time, and will be treated with much respect.

By using your own new name, you can inform the Japanese people about the existence of middle names in a not so long ago Japan. And thus, you will change from a follower of Japanese culture to an influencer, spreading your new knowledge to everyone around you. The Japanese people will be sure to give you due respect.

Now let’s review what we have discussed. These are the steps of creating an authentic and cool Japanese name.



[Authentic and cool Japanese naming steps]

  1.  The Correct Order is; Surname, Then Given Name.
  2.  Think About The Kanji, Not Just How The Name Sounds
  3.  Choose Your Family Name From Existing Places
  4.  Choose The Right Kanji For Your Wishes
  5.  Only Use Two Kanji For Your Given Name
  6.  Go For A Name That Has Tradition
  7.  Read Your Name With Yamatokotoba
  8.  Using The Long Lost Middle Name


Be a Samurai covers above all steps. I can help you to create authentic and cool Japanese names based on the wishes you provide. Please click the bottom below and get the name of your own Japanese names!



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *