In Japan, like in China and Korea, the first name follows the family name. A person with the first name “Ichiro” and the family name “Suzuki” is, therefore, called “Suzuki Ichiro” rather than “Ichiro Suzuki”.
Most Japanese family names consist of two kanji (Chinese characters). The meanings of many of the kanji used in family names are related to nature, geographical features or locations, for example, mountain (yama), tree (ki), rice field (ta), island (shima), village (mura), bridge (hashi), between (naka), below (shita). Some of the most common Japanese family names are Sato, Suzuki, Takahashi, Tanaka and Watanabe.
Japanese first names also commonly consist of two kanji. The meanings of those kanji are often positive characteristics such as intelligence, beauty, love or light, names for flowers, the four seasons and other natural phenomena, or the order of birth (first son, second son).
Since quite a few kanji have identical pronunciations, first names that are pronounced the same, are not necessarily written with the same kanji. For example, there are about five common versions for the popular female first name Yoko, depending on the kanji for “Yo”.
The gender of a person can often be guessed by the ending of his/her first name. First names ending with -ro, -shi, -ya, or -o are typically male first names, while names ending in -ko, -mi, -e and -yo are typically female first names.
The names of foreigners are usually written in katakana.
The Japanese commonly address each other by last name. Only close friends and children are usually addressed by first name. In addition, people rarely address each other just by name, but usually attach an appropriate title to the name. There is a large number of such titles depending on the gender and social position of the person you are addressing. Some of the most frequently used titles are: