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Watanabe, meaning "crosses borders," is the fifth most common surname in Japan. The name Watanabe originated as a surname granted in medieval times to a family of Japanese nobles who were the direct descendants of Emperor Saga (786-842).

Famous Watanabes include Japanese actor Ken Watanabe, American actor Gedde Watanabe, and Japanese anime director Shinichiro Watanabe.

In the world of finance, "Mrs. Watanabe" is a generic, collective name for the large numbers of Japanese housewives who are believed to speculate in foreign exchange markets, particularly as part of the yen carry trade.

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