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East Asia Library Guides: Japan

Japanese Studies Resources: Japanese People’s Names and Biography [Back to Table of Contents]

Reading People’s Names

Japanese Names: A Comprehensive Index by Characters and Readings
John Weatherhill, 1972. 
Call# PL683 O53, East Asia Library Reference
A very convenient reference for English speakers. The approximately 36,000 names in this volume may be searched by stroke count or Romanized reading. Each entry is designated as a family, personal, place, literary, historical, or artistic name.

Japanese, Chinese, and Korean Surnames and How to Read Them: 125,947 Japanese, 594 Chinese, and 259 Korean Surnames Written with Kanji as They Appear in Japanese Texts
Saur, 1998.  2 vols in 3.
Call# PL683 H33 1998, East Asia Library Reference
East Asian reference tool for surnames only. Vol. 1, separated into 2 parts and arranged by stroke count, is for searching by character. Vol. 2, arranged in alphabetical order, is for searching by Romanized reading.

Jim Breen's Electronic Name Dictionary
To find the kanji and kana readings for personal, family, and place names, perform a “Word Search” in Romaji under the “enamdict” dictionary file. Entries for famous personages include birth and death dates. To avoid a failed search, experiment with different Romanization styles (e.g., Abe Koubou, Abe Kobo) or choose the “Romaji” function instead of “text (J/E).”

Waseda's Online Library Catalog and NACSIS-Webcat
This is a useful university catalog because it gives Romanized readings of titles and authors.  You can conduct searches in romaji, kana, or kanji. NACSIS-Webcat is the larger database, for it includes all Japanese University libraries.

Zasshi Kiji Sakuin
Most citations in this database for scholarly journal articles include author name readings in kana. These name readings, especially those of little-known authors, may be otherwise impossible to find, as Waseda and NACSIS only contain the names of book authors and journal editors/institutions.

Jinmei Yomikata Jiten
Nichigai Asoshiētsu, 2004. 2 vols.
Call# CS3000 J55 2004, East Asia Library Reference
These two Japanese-language volumes contain given names and surnames, respectively. Search by kana , kanji , or radical. Many entries give examples of famous historical or cultural figures with that name and their occupations (e.g., politician, novelist, poet).

Japan Knowledge provides access to name dictionaries as well.


Jinbutsu refarensu jiten kodai, chūsei, kinsei hen
人物レファレンス事典 古代・中世・近世編
Nichigai Asoshietsu, 1996 2 vols.
Call# CT1832. J562 1996, East Asia Library Reference
This six-volume biographical dictionary series begins with two volumes of 61,905 important Japanese personages from ancient, medieval, and early modern periods. Very brief entries, arranged in gojūon order, include birth/death dates, significance, major accomplishments, and dictionaries to consult for more information.

Jinbutsu refarensu jiten Meiji, Taishō, Shōwa (senzen) hen
人物レファレンス事典 明治・大正・昭和 ( 戦前 ) 編
Nichigai Asoshietsu, 2000 2 vols.
Call# CT1832. J563 2000, East Asia Library Reference
The series continues with 47,146 important Japanese figures from Meiji, Taishō, and prewar Shōwa periods.

Jinbutsu refarensu jiten  Shōwa (sengo), Heisei hen
人物レファレンス事典 昭和 ( 戦後 ) ・ 平成編
Nichigai Asoshietsu, 2003   2 vols.
Call# CT1832. J564 2003, East Asia Library Reference
The final two volumes in this series cover 65,382 important Japanese figures from postwar Shōwa and Heisei periods.

Use the encyclopedias and name dictionaries in Japan Knowledge to find biographical information in English and Japanese.