Japanese names (人名, jinmei?) in modern times usually consist of a family name (surname), followed by a given name. The naming order is common in countries that have long been part of the Chinese cultural sphere, including among the Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese cultures. There is no distinction made between "middle names" and given names as there is in some western societies. Japanese names are usually written in kanji, which are Chinese characters in Japanese pronunciation. The kanji for a name may have a variety of possible Japanese pronunciations.
Common family names in Japan include Satō (佐藤) (most common), Suzuki (鈴木) (second most common), Takahashi (高橋) (third most common), and Katō (加藤) (tenth most common). According to estimates, there are as many as 100,000 different surnames in use today in Japan. Surnames occur with varying frequency in different regions; for example, the names Chinen (知念), Higa (比嘉), and Shimabukuro (島袋) are common in Okinawa but not in other parts of Japan. Many Japanese family names derive from features of the rural landscape; for example, Ishikawa (石川) means "stone river," Yamamoto (山本) means "the base of the mountain," and Inoue (井上) means "above the well."
Given names are much more diverse in pronunciation and character usage. Male names often end in -rō (郎 "son", but also 朗 "clear, bright") or -ta (太 "great, thick"), or contain ichi (一 "first [son]"), kazu (also written with 一 "first [son]", along with several other possible characters), ji (二 "second [son]" or 次 "next"), or dai (大 "great, large") while female names often end in -ko (子 "child") or -mi (美 "beauty"). (Since 1980, the popularity of female names ending in -ko has dramatically fallen for new baby names and some women drop the -ko upon adulthood.) Other popular endings for female names include -ka (香 "scent, perfume" or 花 / 華 "flower") and -na (奈, or 菜, meaning greens).