Do you bother learning how to read names?

When I see names of places that appear in WaniKani, the reading makes sense, for the most part. Stuff like 名古屋(なごや)and 北海道(ほっかいどう) makes sense. However, when I try to read the credits of character’s/people’s names in shows/anime, sometimes I’m really happy to read it correctly, but I find that I am oftentimes way off. The very common names such as 小林 (こばやし), 田中 (たなか) make sense. Although I never explicitly learned this, I’ve noticed that names often use kun’yomi readings, but even that is not very consistent.

So I’m curious how native/fluent Japanese speakers learn how to read people’s names? For someone who is trying to learn how to read, who eventually wants to become fluent, is it worth learning how to read Japanese names?


Definitely not, at least not for a long time in my opinion. There will always be strange names even for natives. You would be better off learning new vocabularies instead


There’s no reason to go out of your way to learn names in advance of encountering them. If you see a name you can’t read, maybe make a note of it.

EDIT: and natives learn names by meeting, interacting with, and memorizing the names of people they meet. They meet and have to interact with hundreds of people in their school and neighborhood, etc.


Thanks for the input!

Follow up question: while I’m not going to stress about reading names now, just out of curiosity if you come across a name you can’t read and there is no furigana, how do you go about learning how to read that? Sometimes I’ve tried looking up individual characters’ kanji and try to piece together the readings, but I’m wrong often enough where it’s not a reliable method.

I usually look it up on, they have names there as well as vocab (check under the “names” section for names not common enough to have a dictionary entry)


Ohh, that’s cool; I didn’t know had that feature.

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if it isa politician or notable person in some way, you could also see if they have a wikipedia page. JPWiki aways seems to include kana for the title of the page at least


Since becoming a teacher in Japan, I’ve quickly learned a lot of names, common and unusual/rare in Japanese. I wouldn’t say it’s expressly necessary to study beforehand, although if you read a lot of books/novels, manga, etc. you’ll probably learn them as naturally as a language learner can if you don’t live in Japan. When talking or meeting Japanese people, I would recommend to ask someone about their name, or ask about their kanji when you meet them (they’ll likely be pleased and/or impressed by your interest), and learn that way. It definitely helps me to have a visual image of their name so I can remember their names better. (This is the same for my native language, as well.)

I also sometimes use because they have a Names section in their dictionary database. :slight_smile:


One time I asked a kid how to read the kanji of his given name, and the girl sitting next to him scoffed and was like “didn’t you say you took the Kanken?” I think some of them take for granted that they just know a lot of names without realizing that they aren’t a typical part of general kanji studies.

A typical Japanese adult who had taken Kanken would be able to read that name, it wasn’t an unusual one, but it won’t ever appear on Kanken.


Not yet, but it’s on my to-do list for someday. Why not? Names are important, and if studying every day leads to a situation with nothing else left to study (optimistically), then of course I will study how to read names. And write them.

But it won’t be a priority for many years.

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Some names indeed make no sense.
小鳥遊 (たかなし) for the win!


Well, I guess it depends what you mean by “no sense.”

When there is no hawk the little birds will play!


That’s how it was explained to me, and how I remember the reading :stuck_out_tongue:
Still, no direct kanji-to-reading connection.

Ah, well the same can basically be said for all jukujikun, I suppose. By their nature they are phonetically unrelated, but I was thinking they can still “make sense.”

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