As anyone who has attempted to write fiction can attest, thinking of good names for characters can be extremely difficult, but worthwhile, as a good name can really enhance a story. Japanese
names are particularly difficult for Westerners to make up, because they seem so easy to form, but are actually subject to a host of conventions that can instantly expose your newly created Japanese name as a hoax
to those with knowledge of the culture and the language. And you don't want to sound like you just named your character after some famous Japanese person, whose name might actually be quite rare.
Here then, is a sampling of Japanese names, based on my own experience living in Japan, that you can't go wrong with. These are all real Japanese names, and I have tried to include a mix of the more common names and some less common, but interesting ones. Simply choose a family name from the first list and then match it with a male or female name, according to your character's gender (remember to put the surname first for greater authenticity!). Enjoy!
Abe, Arai, Chiba, Doi, Fujii, Fujita, Fujitani, Fujiwara, Hamada, Hara, Hasegawa, Hashimoto, Hayashi, Ikeda, Inoue, Ishii, Ito, Kato, Kawano, Kimura, Kiyohara, Kobayashi, Konishi, Kuroda, Maeda, Maruyama, Matsui, Matsumoto, Miura, Mori, Murakami, Murata, Nakajima, Nakamura, Noguchi, Nomura, Ogawa, Okada, Okamoto, Sano, Saito, Sakurai, Sasaki, Sato, Shibata, Shimada, Shimizu, Sugiyama, Suzuki, Takahashi, Tanaka, Uchida, Ueno, Watanabe, Yamada, Yamaguchi, Yamamoto, Yamasaki, Yamashita, Yoshida
Male given names
Akira, Atsushi, Haruki, Hideki, Hikaru, Hiroshi, Hiroyuki, Hiroyoshi, Haru, Ichiro, Jun, Junichi, Junichiro, Junpei, Kazuo, Kazuhiro, Kazuhito, Kenichi, Kenji, Kiyotaka, Koji, Makoto, Masahiro, Masao, Naoki, Nobuyuki, Osamu, Reo, Ryuji, Saburo, Satoshi, Seiji, Shigeki, Shinichi, Shinji, Shinpei, Shintaro, Shiro, Susumu, Takahiro, Takashi, Takeshi, Takumi, Takuya, Taro, Tetsuo, Tomoki, Toshio, Yasuhiro, Yasuhito, Yasuo, Yoshiaki, Yoshihiro, Yoshio, Yuji, Yukio
Female given names
Ai, Aiko, Akiko, Asa, Aya, Ayane, Ayumi, Chiemi, Chiharu, Chizuko, Emi, Eriko, Erina, Fumiko, Hanako, Haruko, Harumi, Hideyo, Hiroko, Hiromi, Hitomi, Junko, Kaede, Kazue, Kazuko, Kaori, Keiko, Kyoko, Marina, Masako, Mayumi, Megumi, Michiko, Midori, Miho, Minori, Moe, Nanami, Naoko, Naomi, Noriko, Sachiko, Sae, Saori, Satsuki, Sayaka, Shizuka, Reiko, Ryoko, Tomoko, Tomomi, Yasuko, Yasuyo, Yoko, Yoshiko, Yuka, Yuki, Yuko, Yumi, Yumiko
Thanks to swankivy for the idea!