Do Japanese People Have Middle Names? How To Name A Child

When learning about Japanese culture you might learn pretty early on that you should call people by their family name followed by their given name. This brings the question of what about middle names? Do they even have middle names?

Japanese people do not have middle names. In fact, in Japan there are no spaces on any legal documents at all for middle names. However, a non-Japanese baby born in Japan will follow the naming laws of their nationality.

There are exceptions to this rule.

Children can be registered with two first names on the Japanese family registry (the koseki) but that can look weird as if your name was, for example, Akari Rose… It would appear as one name, half kanji and half katakana “明里ローズ”/ Akarirose.

There are some things to consider before naming your child in Japan, especially if you’re non-Japanese and have your baby with a Japanese partner. While I won’t claim to be the most educated person on this subject in the world, I hope some of my experience and research can highlight some possible issues and save someone a headache.

How Do Japanese People Name Their Children?

For many Japanese parents, choosing the names for their children is a stressful and complicated process. Comparing this to us from the West, where we typically decide on names because we like the sound or name our children after people we love or respect…

We’ve got it so easy! Kanji (the traditional Chinese characters) can make naming a newborn a bit of a puzzle.

For a lot of Japanese people, how they decide on names depends on how traditional they are themselves. For example, a traditional parent might want to use kanji readings from historical figures and hope their child develops traits related to that person.

For others, they like to take one kanji from their own name or a relatives name and think of another kanji that compliments that.

Another common way is to decide on the main trait they want their child to have and use that as the base for their name.

What Are Some Names That Are Easy For English And Japanese?

Another tough decision for people who are either native English speakers living in Japan or have a Japanese partner is… What names work in both languages?

It’s definitely possible to find names that fit the bill, here are a few examples I can think of that also have kanji readings but there are many many more.

For Girls

  • Ami/Amy
  • Arisa/Alyssa
  • Ema/Emma
  • Eri/Ellie
  • Erin
  • Hana/Hannah
  • Mia
  • Naomi
  • Rin/Lyn
  • Riri/Lilly

For Boys

  • Aran/Alan
  • Ian
  • Jyouji/George
  • Ken
  • Rei/Ray
  • Reo/Leo
  • Taira/Tyler

How To Give The Baby Your Family Name As A Non-Japanese Male

If you’re a non-Japanese male and you have a baby with a Japanese female, there can be some issues registering the male’s family name on the birth certificate.

The baby will always legally take the mother’s maiden name unless she formally takes the male’s during the marriage process.

The reasons for this are, if you’re a foreigner in Japan and you don’t have Japanese citizenship then you don’t get koseki… By marrying a Japanese citizen, you only become a note on their koseki/family registry. You won’t officially have your own koseki unless you yourself are a Japanese citizen.

It’s an outdated process, but each family member needs to be registered with the same family name on the koseki to be considered so.

If you’re a guy planning on marrying a Japanese woman and having children, the easiest way to give the baby your family name is to have your wife take it when you get married.

For those of you who are already married, it can be a lot more complicated but one option is to have your wife officially change her name to yours and then change the baby’s name.

If there’s enough interest, maybe this topic deserves a more in-depth blog post of its own.

But for now,
Signing out.


Just your average irresponsible human who spends most of his free time and money traveling Japan. Love the food, culture, and sights but not a huge fan of anime until I used it for studying purposes. Can't decide which is better out of ramen or pizza.

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