Basic Japanese : Japanese honorific titles in text
Many of Japanese honorific titles in text are the same as ones in speech.
However, “sama” or “dono” is much more often used in text, especially for address.
Maybe it’s because a writer is in the distance.
In a letter, use the same title as one in speech.
When I write a letter to my friend whom I always call with “san”, I use “sama” for address and “san” in the letter.
If you are writing a formal letter to a person with a social status like a medical doctor, then you’d better use the business title.
More details will be in the next post.
Japanese honorific titles in text
- “Sama” is the most common and probably the safest to use for address when you know the person’s name.
- Sometimes seen, but not so general as “sama”.
- Some say that:
“Dono” is used to lower ranking people and less respectful than “sama”.
Also, this comes with titles at office like “buchou dono” (“buchou” means the head of the department).
Kun or Chan
- To a little child.
“Kun” for a boy, “chan” for a girl, usually.
- I suppose it’s common to use the same title in text as one in speech to a child.
If you call the child only by name, then you should choose “kun”, “chan” or “san” for address.
Use “sama” when you are not sure what to choose.
Shi or Fujin
- More often seen in texts like interviews or (Japanese-translated) novels.
For example, “Mrs Hudson” in Sherlock Holmes is usually translated as “Hadoson fujin” in Japanese.
“Yobi-sute” (calling only by name)
- Chiefly used to the common people in texts like newspaper articles.
This can be used to a person with a social title, in a column for instance, with the phrase “Honorific titles are omitted” in the end of the text.
- “On-chuu” is literally “the inside (with respect)”.
“On” is for respect (the same kanji character for “o” or “go”) and “chuu” means “inside”.
So, this means “to the person in charge inside (with respect)”.
- Only used for address when you don’t know the name whom you are writing to, like when you are writing to a customer service in a company.
- Its pronunciation is similar to “on chew”, although its intonation is a little different.
For a reply envelope / postcard
You may receive a self-addressed (stamped) envelope / postcard or “oufuku hagaki” (return postcard) in Japan.
“Oufuku hagaki” is a double-sized postcard folded in the middle: One-half is a usual card and the other-half is a reply card.
In any cases, you may find a character “yuki”, which means “to”, after the person’s name in a reply address.
The sender generally use “yuki” for a self-addressed card, because using “sama” or “on-chuu” with the sender’s own name does not fit to the Japanese culture of modesty.
And it is not polite for a receiver to send a reply with “yuki” instead of a title.
So, it’s a custom that the receiver strikes it out and add a proper title: Usually “sama” for a person and “on-chuu” for a company or something.
If you see only the person’s (or company’s) name without any characters for a title in address, just add “sama” (or “on-chuu”) after the name.
Next : Japanese business titles
Latest posts by kara (see all)
- Basic Japanese : “Sumimasen” – “Thank you” in Japanese - June 24, 2015
- Basic Japanese : “Arigatou” – “Thank you” in Japanese - May 29, 2015
- Basic Japanese : “Go-chisou sama” – Phrase after meal - May 27, 2015
One to ten in Japanese 2 In this post, I’m going to write minor version of one to ten in Japanese. I doubt if this is introduced in Japanese textbooks for foreign people. This is still used, but rather rare I guess. Also, it’s less favourable in the formal conversations or texts. Minor ways to […]
“Toshi densetsu” : Japanese urban legends (2) In this post, there are only two Japanese urban legends. The main topic is a Japanese toilet. Yume (Dream) A high school girl had a nightmare that she was mangled by a psychopath with his knife on the way home from her school. It was so vivid […]
What’s your blood type? – For most people, the only reason that they ask this question to others is that when they’ll be needing blood (no, not that vampire-ish type of need) for blood transfusion when something bad happens, that person may be able to help if they are compatible. But in Japan and other […]
“Thank you” in Japanese other than “Arigatou” “Arigatou (gozai masu)” is the common phrase, but there are other phrases for “Thank you” in Japanese. Sumimasen The phrase is also very common and frequently heard in Japan. (Maybe more often used than “Arigatou”). This has several meanings : “I’m sorry.” “Excuse me.” “Thank you (and I’m […]
Barrier for Masakado? There are seven main shrines (including “Kubi-zuka”) for Masakado. They are said to have been built to seal the powerful spirit of Masakado as well as to make use of it. [1. Torigoe shrine] It is not officially admitted, but this shrine is said to be the place where Masakado’s hand(s?) is […]
The following titles are commonly used casual Japanese honorific titles and very rarely used titles. Never ever use any of these to higher ranking people or your customers unless you are very close to the person. If you are not so sure which title to use to somebody, the person’s family name with “san” is […]
“Kitano Tenman-guu” in Kyoto to console Michizane In 942, Michizane’s spirit showed up before a girl from a poor family in Kyoto and ordered to build a shrine for him in “Ukon no baba” (“hippodrome controlled by the right guard office”), the place where he often visited during his life. Of course she didn’t have […]
Go-chisou sama (deshita) This phrase is said after meal. It expresses appreciation to people who prepared or cooked the meal. “Chisou” literally means “running around”. The Kanji character for “chi” means “run fast” or “travel fast on horseback / by car”. The “sou” character means “run”. People used to run around (or ride around on […]
General Info : Japanese Alphabetical orders There are two patterns of Japanese Alphabetical orders. One starts with “A”, “I”, “U”. This is now used at school to learn Japanese Alphabets, Hiragana and Katakana. Known as “Gojyuu-on” (lit. “fifty sounds”). The other starts with “I”, “Ro”, “Ha”. Probably this was more commonly used before. Known as […]
Numbers in Japanese : Zero and over ten to hundreds Zero and from 11 to 999. Zero in Japanese “Zero” or “Rei”. “Zero” from English, and “Rei” from Chinese. The pronunciation of “rei” is almost the same as English “lay”. Both are very commonly used, and generally considered as the same meaning. In fact, they […]