Kanji Culture and Japanese Names


Convert your name or your favorite word into Kanji! Why not use it for T-shirts, stamps, stickers or tattoos?

Column of Japanese Culture

Last updated : 28.3.2015
Author : Akira Katakami

Kanji Culture and Japanese Names

Kanji is deeply rooted in Japanese culture, and the majority of Japanese people use combinations of different Kanji for both their first and last names. These Kanji combinations usually have around 3-5 Kanji, and finding the perfect combination can be quite stressful for expecting Japanese parents. A Japanese person’s name is connected to their identity as well, so it is something that is taken quite seriously in Japan.

Also, in many cases, more so than a name merely sounding good, it’s very important for the name to have some particular meaning. A common name in Japan for women is Hitomi, but this can be written different using several different combinations of Kanji (仁美, 日登美, etc.). Different combinations of Kanji will give your name a unique nuance and meaning, so choose carefully.

Kanji Names and Status

It is important to note that having a name written in Kanji represents status in Japan. Before recent days, women were to not expected to learn Kanji and thus wrote only their last names in Kanji. Their first names were written in a different writing system, a syllabary called Katakana. If you come to Japan you may meet some elderly women whose names are in Katakana because of this. Understanding the relationship between Kanji and status allows us to understand the meaning of Kanji at a deeper level.


Kanji Names for Foreigners

Foreign names are also typically not written in Kanji but in Katakana. This is not necessarily related to status, but to the fact that the sounds used in foreign languages and the sounds used in Japanese are quite different (Japanese has a relatively limited amount of sounds). However, those with non-Japanese last names, can still put their names in Kanji! In fact, Japanese people will often try to put the names of their foreigner friends into Kanji. It is a sort of challenge but also very fun! If this happens to you, think of it as being accepted into the Kanji club!

Lastly, writing your name in Kanji will give you the opportunity to be even more creative because you can choose the Kanji based on its sound and its meaning. Will you choose a Kanji for its sound, its meaning, or both? Unless your name is of Japanese origin, this means that the combination you choose to write your name could be completely unique to you. Will you use a Kanji in a way that has never been done before? There are so many options, and you sure won’t be one of the “Smiths” with your name in Kanji!

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Seigakudou(静岳堂), a working calligrapher and native Japanese, will write your name in Kanji. Rather than a computer font, your kanji name will be hand-brushed by a professional calligrapher.


Akira Katakami(片上明)

The translation from English to Japanese will be undertaken by a professional native Japanese translator with a kanji proficiency qualification, you can be sure of an error free standard. Also, an explanation of your kanji name will be provided in English.