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In 1972, when the population of Japan was about 100 million, there were 120,000 surnames. Some features of this enormous list of names are: the 100 most common names make up 37% of the population and 5000 names include 92% ; the three most common names in order are Sato, Suzuki, and Takahasi; a name has an average of two homonyms because Japanese surnames usually have two or three Chinese symbols and a sound can often by symbolized in more than one way; 90% of the surnames can be expressed by combinations of 300 Chinese letters; altogether, some 3500 Chinese letters are in use for Japanese surnames; and an average of two or three random pairs per thousand share the same surname.A brief history of surnames in Japan is also included for those who do not have access to Japanese references. Remote ancestry that cannot be traced by interview or koseki has been studied by isonymy. The early work of Kainizaki, who indepen­dently discovered many of the principles of isonymy, is reviewed.