World record gathering of people with same name

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"Hirokazu, meet Hirokazu: 178 Hirokazu Tanakas set record for gathering of people with same name", Kyodo (10/29/22):

A 178-strong group of people all named Hirokazu Tanaka broke the Guinness World Record for the largest gathering of people with the same first and last name in Tokyo on Saturday.

The Tanaka Hirokazu association organized the successful attempt in Shibuya Ward, which saw them outdo the 2005 record set by 164 people called Martha Stewart, who were brought together by the famous American businesswoman of the same name.

A representative of the association, Hirokazu Tanaka, 53, said it was the group’s third try after two failed attempts in 2011 and 2017, when 71 and 87 Hirokazu Tanakas turned up, respectively.

Previous challenges were thwarted by the association’s adherence to a stricter criteria in which all Hirokazu Tanakas had to share the same Chinese characters to read their names. But because the guidelines for the record recognize anyone so long as the reading of their names is the same, the group cast its net wider this time.

The 53-year-old Tanaka founded the organization for people with the same name as him in 1994. His inspiration came from seeing a Hirokazu Tanaka become the first player to be drafted by the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes (now the Orix Buffaloes) at Nippon Professional Baseball’s annual entry draft.

Originally planned for 2020 to coincide with the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, the world record attempt was, like the Games, postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It would probably be easy to find hundreds, if not thousands, of people with the same surname and given name in Korean, Vietnamese, Arabic, Spanish….  The problem is arranging for all of them to be in the same place at the same time.


Selected readings


  1. Scott P. said,

    November 4, 2022 @ 7:57 am

    That's nothing. There was the case where 200 John Does were all participating in a single court case at the same time:

  2. jhh said,

    November 4, 2022 @ 8:06 am

    I assume they are prioritizing pronunciation over orthography: One reference on Japanese names gives 113 different kanji that could be used to write HIRO in a man's given name, and 73 different kanji that could be used to write KAZU…

  3. Julian Hook said,

    November 4, 2022 @ 8:39 am

    I'm imagining a "Far Side"-style cartoon depicting the registration table at this gathering. There's nobody waiting in the A–E, F–K, or L–R lines, and the people working in those lines are playing cards. But there's a long line of people in the S–Z line, with one frenzied worker trying to deal with all these people who have exactly the same name…

  4. Victor Mair said,

    November 4, 2022 @ 8:41 am

    There really are that many real people named "John Doe"?

  5. Andy Stow said,

    November 4, 2022 @ 11:03 am

    "…had to share the same Chinese characters…"

    Curious, do they really refer to them as "Chinese characters" in Japan? Is that like how we use the term "Arabic numerals"?

  6. Ferdinand Cesarano said,

    November 4, 2022 @ 11:26 am

    The 1962 Mets managed to gather two pitchers named Bob Miller in the same pitching staff.

  7. F said,

    November 4, 2022 @ 11:49 am

    @Andy Stow: "kanji" literally means Han (as in the dynasty) characters.

  8. Andy Stow said,

    November 4, 2022 @ 12:13 pm

    Interesting, thanks!

  9. CCH said,

    November 4, 2022 @ 12:26 pm

    I have an extremely unique name, both first and surname. I've actually looked to see if there's anyone else who shares my name, but as far as I can tell, it's just me. I am always the biggest gathering of people who have my name!

    On a different note, I'd love to see this done but with different versions of names – John Smith, Johann Schmidt, Seán/Ian McGowan, Giovanni Ferraro, Ivan Kuznetsov etc. Theoretically, these men would all share the same(ish) name even if it's in different languages and that could take this kind of meetup more global (and even more interesting for me as someone who loves onomastics!)

  10. DaveK said,

    November 4, 2022 @ 1:09 pm

    I doubt any of the John Does were actually participating in the suit. Whoever they were, they probably didn’t even know they were being sued.

  11. Araucaria said,

    November 4, 2022 @ 6:45 pm

    @Julian Hook Right, or some poor guy having to take a register!

  12. Arnold Baldwin said,

    November 4, 2022 @ 10:08 pm

    Great idea by CCH to propose an initial gathering of John Smiths and their different versions. Jan Kowalski, Jan Kovacs, Jean Lefebvre, and Yahya Haddad will add to the number.

    Then there’s those 200 John Does mentioned by Scott P. since John Doe and John Smith are regarded as equivalent as placeholder names —

  13. David Morris said,

    November 4, 2022 @ 11:59 pm

    I met two Kim Jong-Uns during my time in (South) Korea, both of whom were female.

  14. Philip Anderson said,

    November 5, 2022 @ 9:26 am

    Another Philip Anderson once joined a committee of nine that I was on; I think we had the same middle name too.
    First names only, but a friend called Paul married an Anne, and his sister Anne married a Paul; their parents referred to one couple as Paul and Anne, and the other as Anne and Paul.

  15. J.W. Brewer said,

    November 5, 2022 @ 9:43 am

    @Andy Stow: that said, when L1 Japanese-speakers refer to "kanji" it may be hazardous to assume that the etymology is at the front of their conscious mind when they do so. But "Arabic numerals" is an interesting comparison.

    I guess I am mildly surprised that the Japan Times didn't just say "kanji," since it's a word most Anglophone readers of that particular newspaper will know (or at least would have known in my pre-internet childhood when I lived in Tokyo and we had the hard-copy Japan Times delivered to our apartment every weekday) even if they generally lack fluency in Japanese. Glossing it as "Chinese characters" seems a bit like writing "grilled chicken skewers" instead of just using "yakitori" as a loanword in an English-language article.

  16. AlexB said,

    November 5, 2022 @ 9:52 am

    Nguyens of the world, unite! You ought to be able to beat this easily!

    @David Morris: not to mention Kim Lip of girl group Loona.

  17. David Morris said,

    November 6, 2022 @ 2:12 am

    @AlexB: at that, I wrote a blog post, mentioning an actress with that name. Wikipedia lists six on its disambiguation page, and there is one more not on that page. Some of them being 정은 (which I would transliterate Jeong Eun) and some 종운 (which I would transliterate Jong Un), which raises the question of whether they are 'the same name'. (The actress's name is given as Jung-eun, even though she has a ㅓ.

  18. Julian said,

    November 6, 2022 @ 4:15 am

    I once had a government job that involved taking calls from the public. One day I answered the call in my usual neutral tone: 'hello, Julian Macdonald.' After a second's stunned silence the voice at the other end said, 'How did you know my name?'

  19. John Swindle said,

    November 6, 2022 @ 5:21 am

    John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt!
    His name is my name, too.
    Whenever I go out
    The people stand and shout,
    “There goes John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt!”

  20. klu9 said,

    November 6, 2022 @ 3:21 pm

    In case anyone is not familiar with it, here's some info on British comedian Dave Gorman's efforts and experiences finding other Dave Gormans around the world.

  21. Philip Anderson said,

    November 7, 2022 @ 8:44 am

    @Andy Stow
    When I was in Egypt, I was interested to see from car registrations, that the Arab numbers there were not the same as our “Arabic numerals”. So I wonder how Arabic speakers (or non-English speakers in general) describe our western (ASCII/ISO-8859-1) numerals?

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