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
In Japanese, there are many ways to call yourself. Here, I’m trying to explain the differences of each word, but please note they are my own personal impressions and other Japanese may not feel the same way. The word “I” in Japanese Although we have many words for “I”, it is frequently omitted. If you […]
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 […]
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 […]
At first, I was going to write about how to say “you” in Japanese, but the most common “you” word is a person’s name usually with suffix like “san”, “kun”, or “chan”. (ex. Hanako-san) This way of calling is used as third person as well. In this post, I’m trying to explain the variants and […]
In Japan, you can find capsule toy vending machines or gacha-gacha in Japanese (refers both to the toy and the vending machine) mostly everywhere. It’s usually located near the entrance at supermarkets, restaurants, department stores, and other places. Gacha-gacha (Capsule Toy) Specialty Store in Okayama City Recently, I have learned that there is a gacha-gacha specialty store called […]
“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 […]
Old-fashioned / historical “I” in Japanese The following “I” pronouns are well-known and can be quite often heard / seen in historical stories especially those which are set in the Edo period. But, these are rarely used in the present time. Neutral [Temae] “Temae” literally means “before hand(s)”. The near side of someone / something. […]
Large numbers in Japanese : Thousand to quadrillion From thousand to quadrillion, the common units you hear in everyday life in Japan including in the news. As I wrote in the previous post, for digits over ten, “4” is always read as “yon” and “9” as “kyuu”. “7” is generally “nana”. For bigger numbers than […]
“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 […]
There are several ways of saying “Thank you” in Japanese. In this post, I am going to explain the most common phrase for “Thank you”. Arigatou (gozai masu / mashita) The phrase was derived from “Arigatashi”, which literally means “difficult to be”. The Kanji in “ari” means “there is” or “be (there)”, and another in […]