In Japan, Japanese names are usually written using Kanji, a Chinese character. Sometimes the characters used are common, and therefore easy to read, but sometimes they look unfamiliar and it is quite hard to imagine how to read them. This sometimes causes difficulties when listing Japanese names in alphabetical order or when romanizing them. Quite a few Japanese names, particularly family names, include a dated or unusual Chinese character. These are often outside of the Unicode character set, widely used in the western computer community, which causes severe difficulties in representing them on the computer. Those who have such a name usually compromise by substituting other characters. An example of such a name is Saito. Most Japanese have adopted a custom of maintaining names with Furigana or ruby characters on the address book[?], for example. This complication is also found in place names in Japan (see Japanese place name[?]). Expressing them in Hiragana instead of Kanji is acceptable among lower grade students but usually seen as disgrace otherwise. Whether to accept students using Hiragana for names in formal situations such as exams is sometimes controversial. This can be seen as a similar problem to misspelling[?] in languages with roman alphabets.
Conventionally, the family name is always placed first. As this conflicts with the usual pattern in some other parts of the world some, particularly academics, use a common convention of using upper case letters for surnames. For example, Takuya MURATA, where the former is a personal name and the later is the surname. There is no middle name, pet name, or other conventions aside from those that originated from outside Japan. Lack of knowledge about the complex of letters, alphabets, and pronunciations used sometimes causes difficulties among people who have middle names or nicknames when they live in Japan.
Within families, adults rarely refer to each other by personal names. People generally refer to each other by family title (for example big sister). When speaking of non-family social acquaintances people are generally referred to by their surname (For example, Murata) or more often their title of the position (For example, teacher). Personal names are used when referring to adult friends or to children. In practice, Japanese hardly ever use a name, even when they are greeting someone. This difference sometimes makes Japanese in western cultures look rather detached because they rarely use names. When using names Japanese usually include San, Kun or Chan to express grace. It is considered impolite use the name without San, Kun or Chan unless the relationship is intimate.
During the period when typical parents had several children, it was a common practice among them to name them by numbers with ro (meaning man). The first child would be known as "Ichi (one) ro" the second as "Ji (two) ro" and so on. Girls were often named with ko (子 "child") at the end of a given name, which is often mixed up with a male suffix hiko (彦) by non-Japanese. Both practices are now outdated.
A few Japanese have a western name (anglicized name[?]) because the name expressed in Romaji is good enough for English-speakers to recognize easily. For example, 村田 拓哉 are expressed as Takuya (拓哉) and Murata (村田), usually with reversed order. This though, is quite uncommon in the Japanese writing system. Japanese nationals are required to give a romanized name[?] for their passport.
Some Japanese, particularly celebrities have a kind of nickname combining their real names. For example, Kimura Takuya[?], a famous Japanese actor and singer, becomes Kimutaku and Ito Jyunichi[?], a prominent Japanese hacker, can be Itojyun[?]. Many Japanese celebrities have a name combining Kanji and Katakana. Among them are Bhito Takeshi[?].
Many ethnical minorities living in Japan adopt Japanese names to ease communication and more importantly, to avoid severe discrimination again them. But a few of them still keep their native name. Among them are Chang Woo Han[?], a founder and chairman of Maruhan[?] Corp., a large chain of pachinko parlors in Japan. The Japanese government requires immigrants to Japan to adopt a Japanese name without an exception.
The common surnames in Japan include Sato (佐藤), Kato (加藤), Suzuki (鈴木) and Takahashi (高橋). Surnames often vary from place to place. Common surnames in Okinawa include Tamagusuku (玉城).
The Japanese Emperor has no surname for historical reasons, only a given name such as Hirohito (裕仁). In ancient times, people in Japan were considered the property of the Emperor and their surname reflected the role in the government they served. Many surnames are originated from Chinese and Korean names[?]. Examples are Kaneshiro (金城) (Chinese) and Chang (Korean).
P.G. O'Neill. Japanese Names 1972 ISBN:0834802252 Weatherhill Inc.