Working List of Okinawan Surnames
7/7/14: I’m trying to compile a list of Okinawan surnames. In this effort, I found the Wikipedia site helpful. Especially useful was a site I stumbled upon: Uchinanchu Name Collection – Popular Okinawa Name Top 100 List. I realize the list below is far from complete and that some or many of the names are common in but not unique to Okinawa. Please assist me in adding to and correcting the list by posting in the comments section attached to this post.
Also, links to any additional information or resources on this topic would be much appreciated. For example, what are the historical reasons for the difference in Okinawan and mainland Japanese last names? From what I’ve read, this policy was enforced by the Satsuma and Tokugawa shogunate from the 1609 invasion until the 1872 annexation to avoid possible conflict with China. At the time, the Ryukyu Kingdom was officially in a tributary relationship with China. In other words, the name differences served as proof that the so-called “kingdom” was separate from and, thus, not under the jurisdiction of Japan.
I’ll be updating this page and the list of surnames as information becomes available.
7/27/14: See Damon Senaha’s “Other Name Changes That Occured” in the forum “Okinawa: Shiroma in Okinawa to Hawaii” (Ancestry.co.uk, 9/14/00):
Name changed are a reflection of the naichi Japanese pronouncing the Kanji in a naichi way. Today, most family names in Okinawa reflect the naichi pronouncination while the place names retain its Okinawan pronounciation. For example The village of Kanegusuku retains its name but a family name with the same Kanji is called “Kinjo”. Other name changes: Dakujaku is also called Dakuzaku. Kiyan, formerly Kyan or Kiyam, went to Kiyabu, now, Kiyatake. Jitchaku is now Serikaku. Tsukazan is now Tsukayama. The town is still Tsukazan. Shinzato or Shinsato is also Arasato, Anything “Ara” (Arakaki, Arakawa) may also be “Shin”. (Shingaki, Shinkawa) Shin or Ara means “new”. Shiro (castle) in addition to “gusuku” can also be “gi” or ki” or jo”. Example, Miyagusuku is also Miyashiro is also Miyagi. Kaneshiro was once Kanegusuku, is now Kinjo in Okinawa. (There are no Kaneshiro in Okinawa today, only Kinjo). Momohara used to be Tobaru. By the way, Tamashiro nowdays in Okinawa is more commonly promounced Tamaki. My name, Senaha, was once “Sinafa” (Samoan-sounding huh?) Under the Ryukyu Kingdom. the Satsuma invaders from Kagoshima Japanized it to Senaha. Nowdays, the Kanji for my name is read Senaha throughout Japan. Once more name, “Higa” was once “Fija”. Damon Senaha
7/27/14: A list of Japanese surnames with each linked to additional information: Browse Japanese Surnames
7/31/14: Uchinanchu Name Collection
8/30/14: Nifee doo to Rodney Inefuku (Hawaii Kai) for a huge infusion of names. He cites, as reference, To Our Issei: Our Heartfelt Gratitude (2000).
9/4/14: Another huge infusion from Rodney. I can’t thank him enough for gathering and typing up all these names from To Our Issei. A huge, time-consuming task.
2/6/15: Tip from RY, who I believe is Ryan Masaaki Yokota, editor/writer for Nikkei Chicago, on 2/5/15: “Hi there. Just thought I would recommend the following book, Ryukyuan Names: Monographs on and Lists of Personal and Place Names in the Ryukyus, by Shunzo Sakamaki. It is probably the most comprehensive list of names that I have seen in English. There is a lot of information in this book on how the naming conventions changed over time.” [Library sources.]
4/27/15: A huge debt of gratitude to Rich Arent of Yuba City, California, who compiled the list of Ryukyu surnames that now serves as the base for the list on this blog. Rich’s source was Teruo Tanonaka’s “Current Ryukyuan Surnames (1961),” in Shunzo Sakamaki‘s Ryukyuan Names: Monographs on and Lists of Personal and Place Names in the Ryukyus (East-West Center Press, 1964). (Also see the 2/6/15 note above.) Rich says, “Over the years I have compiled several lists of Ryukyu names from Mr. Sakamaki’s book and another list from a US navy wartime book of Japanese place names. The lists are in Word format and include kanji.” He graciously emailed digital copies of some of these priceless documents to us. Here’s his brief bio: “I am originally from Long Island and enlisted in the Air Force during the Vietnam War. Graduated from the Advanced Chinese Mandarin course at the Defense Language Institute, Monterey, California. Following initial training I was assigned to Kadena AB just prior to reversion. That is when I discovered Okinawa and became interested in Ryukyu history and culture. Spent about one half of my thirty years as a Chinese linguist in the Pacific and the other half at the language school. Met my wife here in Northern California and we have been married almost three years. My wife’s mother was from Kume Jima and her father from Nakijin. After her parents were married they relocated to Osaka where my wife was born. My final assignment was to Kunia where I worked ‘in The Tunnel.’ I studied Asian history, University of Maryland, Far East Division and have a MS in HR from Chapman University.”
3/4/17: From Wkipedia: “The Ryūkyū Kingdom was forced to become a Japanese feudal domain by the Meiji government in 1872, and it was formally annexed by Japan in 1879. Ryūkyūans were then entered into the Japanese family register (koseki) system and, as in Japan, surnames were extended to all citizens, no longer being the province of the aristocratic classes alone. A large number of the names created at this time were taken from geographical names or places of residence.” (accessed 3/4/17)
3/5/17: See “Ryukyuan Names” (n.d., accessed 3/5/17) at The Samurai Archives SamuraiWiki for an excellent write-up on Okinawan surnames.
Hi there. Just thought I would recommend the following book, “Ryukyuan Names : Monographs on and Lists of Personal and Place Names in the Ryukyus,” by Shunzo Sakamaki. It is probably the most comprehensive list of names that I have seen in English. There is a lot of information in this book on how the naming conventions changed over time.
http://www.amazon.com/Ryukyuan-Names-Monographs-Personal-Ryukyus/dp/B000NPAG1K/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1423156987&sr=1-3&keywords=ryukyuan+names. Though you can probably find a copy at UH, Manoa.
Hey Ryan. Thanks for the tip! I see it’s been right here, under my nose, hiding in plain sight. LOL! I’ll check it out first chance. I’ll also be browsing your Nikkei Chicago site. On first glance, it looks very professional.
Thanks for checking it out! All the best and chibariyo!
You need to add Oyadomori
Thanks, Shane. Done!
you need to add tone ( pronounced : toe-nay )
Thanks, Jim. Will do asap!
Can you tell more about the history of the surname “Afuso”?
Haitai, Jane. My apologies for the long delay in responding. I’ve searched the web for information about the “Afuso” surname but haven’t come up with anything yet. I grew up in the Waialae-Kahala area in the ’50s when it was still largely agrarian and remember an Afuso Store on Waialae Avenue, close to where Zippy’s is today. Hopefully someone will be able to fill us in on the origins of the name. -Jim
My family named changed from afuso to Yasutomi
My Father-in-Law is Koyei Afuso. He often said the Japanese frequently pronounce it Yasutomi based on the Katakana
Haitai, Mary. I just added a note to Yasutomi and Afuso in the lists of names to reflect the information that you’ve provided. Nifee doo! -Jim
Haisai, Kazuma. I just added a note to Yasutomi and Afuso in the lists of names to reflect the information that you’ve provided. Nifee doo! -Jim
Haisai Jane, I looked in the list of Okinawans in my book “To Our Issei…” who belong to Hawaii Okinawan clubs. There are 15 Afusos listed. 13 Afusos came from Kin, and 2 came from Kanna. 6 Afusos came during years 1904, 1905, 1nd 1906. From the names, 5 were women who came after 1912. My guess… they were the wives of Afuso men and all these women came from Kin. Kin-son (district) is located on the east coast of the middle of Okinawa… sandwhiched between Ishikawa-son and Ginoza-son. Kin also borders Onna-son which is on the west coast of Okinawa island. Hope this helps.
Apologies for the late “approval” and response, Rodney. Your comment should have been automatically approved since your initial comment years ago was approved. I’ll look into it. Niffee debiru for your comment.
Chagangu! Please add:
My late dad was born in Kauai, HI but raised by his grandmother in Gushikawaken, Okinawa tried to explain to me about Uchinanchu/Ryukyuan last names. I wish he was still here so I could learn more from him. He was Miyahira, Mitsinobu. Mitsinobu is a samurai 1st name.
You should contact the Okinawan Cultural Center here in Hawaii for more Okinawan last names and research they have possibly done. Hawaii has the largest & strongest population of Okinawans outside of Okinawa. Hurry, the Issei & Nissei are almost gone & their wealth of information with them. I’m Sansei, age 64, I was trying to find out if my middle name “Sanae” was Okinawan/Ryukyuan or Naichi.
Haisai, Aileen, and nifee deebiiru for the list of names.
Most of them are already listed (A-J, K-R, S-Z), but “Nakata” wasn’t, so I added it to the K-R list. I also added your Naichi variant (Nakamura) to “Nakandakari” as a note.
My sister’s name, too, is Sanae. We call her Sa-chan. I’m guessing that it’s a popular Naichi name, but I may be wrong. Hopefully someone who knows will enlighten us.
Sanae is a Japanese name. I was actually hoping one day to see someone compile Okinawa first names since no one has given their child an Okinawan name for generations, or so it feels. Probably there are those stick with some tradition with boys names in the family. (Keeping the same first part of the kanji, for example.) Often Okinawan female names from 100+ years ago were animals like Kame and Ushi. Another popular name for girls was Kamado.
Hello good evening. Can I do a favor? Is there any person in Japan with a surename of SARUDA? I ask my grand lolo that this surename was came from japan when the time of Japanese attack went into the phillipines specially during word war 2. Can you please help me so that if it is true that I have some relatives lived in Japan? Thank you..
Hi, Rommel. No one’s responded yet. I’ll search the web to see what I can come up with. To attract more attention to your quest, I’ll repost your comment as an article. I should be able to do it in the next few days. -Jim
Using a Japanese surname website, searching by how to read rather than specific kanji, I only found one kanji result that could be read as Saruda: 猿田. Not a very common name, with around 5700 Japanese with this name. Most commonly found in Ibaraki, Akita, Tokyo, Chiba, and Nagano prefectures. For cities with the most people with this name, two of them are in Akita prefecture and two of them are in Ibaraki prefecture. My hunch is that the origin of this name is likely tied to either of those prefectures. For more, see https://myoji-yurai.net/searchResult.htm?myojiKanji=%E7%8C%BF%E7%94%B0
My family’s surname is Shikina or Shichina and they were from Yonabaru
Hi Leilani. Yes, Shikina is listed under Surnames S-Z. Thanks for the tip re the alternate spelling Shichina. I’ll add a parenthetical note to Shikina. My maternal grandfather, Uyehara, was also from Yonabaru. -Jim
識名 = Shikina Mutaru, Nabe or Seiyu?
Wondering if Fujihira is an Okinawan name.
I found 4 variations of kanji for Fujihira on a Japanese surname site and none of them have people living in Okinawa. Full list https://myoji-yurai.net/resultList.htm?kind=%E8%AA%AD%E3%81%BF%E6%96%B9%E3%81%A7&keyword=%E3%81%B5%E3%81%98%E3%81%B2%E3%82%89
Apologies for the late “approval” and response, Mariko, and niffee debiru for sharing this information!
Thanks for info. Do you know if Oie is an Okinawan surname?
Hi Noreen, According to Forebears, the surname Oie is most commonly found in mainland Japan, where it is held by 1,428 people. In Japan Oie is most frequent in: Fukuoka Prefecture, where 37 percent reside, Osaka Prefecture, where 15 percent reside and Hyōgo Prefecture, where 9 percent reside. They are also found in Wakayama and Oita.
Does anyone have any information on the surname Yasumine?
This was my grandmothers surname and we don’t have any information on her family or background other than that her father was born in Okinawa and at some point moved to mainland Japan where my grandmother was supposedly born.
My mother’s father’s surname was Yasumine also! He was born in Okinawa also and migrated to Osaka during WWII and that’s where my mother was born. The name seems to be pretty rare. Maybe we are related? I am waiting for results from 23andme about my DNA.
Have you found any info ?
Hi Aunt Natalie, we most certainly are related 🙂 glad we’re both still looking for info
Japanese surname website lists only one Yasumine kanji with having people residing in Okinawa prefecture and that’s 安次嶺 which is more commonly read as Ashimine. Claims there are roughly 1100 people in Japan with this kanji, 920 being in Okinawa, 40 in Kanagawa, 40 in Tokyo, 30 in Osaka, and 30 in Saitama. Within Okinawa, the most are in Naha (360), then Okinawa City (130), Yomitan (90), Chatan (90), Uruma (50).
See all variants here https://myoji-yurai.net/resultList.htm?kind=%E8%AA%AD%E3%81%BF%E6%96%B9%E3%81%A7&keyword=%E3%82%84%E3%81%99%E3%81%BF%E3%81%AD
Other variants: 2 are in Satsuma area of Kagoshima. 安嶺 having less than 10 people with this kanji; 安峯 having less than 30 people with this kanji. (Specifically for 安峯, less than in Osaka, same in Kagoshima. etc.) I noted the Kagoshima ones since Amami became part of Kagoshima.
My maternal grandmother’s last name was Za. She was reportedly from a place called Zyasu, somewhere near Tomigusuku in Okinawa. Could Za be a variant of Zaha, which you have on the list? My grandmother emigrated to Oahu in the early 1900s, and unfortunately we don’t know how Za was written in kanji.
Mensore! Would anyone have info re: Family crests? Looking for Shiroma (Gushikuma) crest. Tham you!
Very nnice blog you have here
Apologies for the late “approval” and response, Mel, and niffee debiru for your comment. Once a comment has been approved, subsequent comments are automatically approved.