|(1)||When we write a person's name in Japanese, family name comes first and it is followed by given name. However, when we write our name with Roman letters, we usually use the Western style sequence, namely given name and family name. However, our neighbors Koreans and Chinese keep the original sequence, family name and given name, even when they use Roman letters. They are much more loyal to their own cultural tradition!|
In the present world, a personal name in most cases consists oftwo parts: the part which indicates the group to which the person belongs (family name for example) and the part which is particular to the person concerned (given name for example).
In order to indicate the belonging of a person to a group of people, "uji" was introduced when Japan started to form as a political entity under Daio (2) in the fifth century. In combination with "uji", "kabane" was used to express the special social rank of the person concerned. "Kabane" system was revised several times and the final version is called "yakusa no kabane" (8 sorts of kabane) which was prescribed in 646. "Uji" and "kabane" are similar to clan name and noble title respectively.
|(2)||"Daio" means Great King. This title started to be used at latest at the end of the fifth century, as is shown by the sword excavated from the Inariyama Kofun. Daiou was replaced by "Tenno" together with the adoption of county name Nippon at the end of the seventh century.|
|(3)||The imperial family does not have any kind of family name or clan name till present, because it does not subordinate to any other people.|
This "uji- kabane" system came to a stalemate, as time went.
As for "uji", the total number of prevailing uji had been reduced to only about 10 by the end of Heian Period. Among them four particular clan names became dominant: Minamoto, Taira, Fujiwara and Tachibana. In particular, Fujiwara was prevailing among aristocrats and Minamoto and Taira among Samurai.
At the same time, high rank "kabane" was given to too many clan people as a reward to certain service and they came to possess the noblest "kabane": "ason". Therefore, "uji-kabane" system could hardly distinguish a person from other people.
Around this time, the format of marriage also changed. Bridegroom used to live in the bride's family before this time, but from this time onward bridegroom inherited his father's estate and brought his bride into his house. Therefore, it became usual to call aristocrats not with "sei" but with the place name where they live.
Samurai, on the other hand, started to put the name of their domain to better identify themselves. This kind of family name is called "myoji". At the same time it became popular to insert bureaucrats' titles into personal names. "Sei" was still used in official occasions, but "myoji" became more and more popular in daily life and the number of "myoji" exploded.
At the same time it became popular to insert bureaucrats' titles into personal names. "Sei" was still used in official occasions, but such place names became more and more popular in daily life and the number of "myoji" exploded.
Because myoji came to express the ownership of a territory and the status in the society, its prevalence made ordinary people feel more and more uncomfortable to use "myoji". In Kamakura and Muromachi periods, ordinary people gradually gave up using their "myoji" publicly, though there was no official ban. They used "myoji" in private context or within their village community.
During the latest feudal time in Japan, the Edo period, self restriction of ordinary farmers, merchants and artisans in using "myoji" became a common sense. Therefore, it was rather natural that some people forgot that they had a family name and certain confusion happened when Family Registration Act was introduced after the end of the Edo period. But, many of the farmers did not forget their family names and registered them under the new scheme.
There was no official decree prohibiting the usage of "myoji", as I explained before. On the contrary, most feudal lords appeared to promote the usage of "myoji" and they had enough reason to do so. They did this in return to the cancellation of their debt. As samurai were in chronic financial crisis, they were dependent on the contribution by rich merchants. Therefore, it is obvious that our ancestors had to donate much money to Lord Maeda, so that he allowed us even a special privilege of using "da" in our family name.
As for the given name, there was a strong belief that the real name had a strong magical power and its careless use might incur misfortune. Therefore, "kemyo" ( = nickname) was used in place of real name when somebody should be called in public and so on.
In case of men, it was usual to call somebody in accordance with the order of seniority among brothers; Taro (first son), Jiro (second son) and so on.
Later, in particular in Edo period (1603-1867) ancient bureaucratic titles were frequently used as "kemyo" irrespective of the real position of the person concerned. The majority of ordinary people used ancient bureaucratic titles with such endings as -emon, -zaemon and -hei for kemyo as well as for real names.
Taboo of real names was stricter for women. Therefore, it is very difficult to know the real names of even very famous women who lived in the ancient and medieval time. Such names as Murasaki-Shikibu and Sei-Shonagon are combinations of their family name, fathers' official title and so on.
Even now, given names are spoken aloud usually within family circle or among small children in Japan. Even closest friends call each other with family names when they are grown up - but without any suffix such as -san. In the business world, it is preferred to call people with titles such as president, director and teacher, even without referring to their family names. Maybe because of such a tradition, I find it very awkward to call adults with given name or nickname, but that is unfortunately the necessary communication style in the present world dominated by the American culture.
Our personal names now simply consist of "myoji" and given name. "Uji" and "kabane" were excluded from personal names. As for given name, only real names are accepted by the authority. At the beginning of the modern time, the Civil Law prescribed that husband and wife shall have the same "myoji". Now, this new rule is thought to be obsolete by many people and discussions are going on whether husband and wife should be allowed to have different family names.