How do Japanese people write their names?

I was watching Beastars in english and japanese subs and noticed all the names were written out katakana. Wouldn’t Japanese people write their names in kanji or hiragana?

They write their names as their parents gave them to them.

It’s not impossible for Japanese people to have katakana names, but it’s a bit old-fashioned now. Katakana used to be the “main” kana writing style (for things like particles and okurigana), but now hiragana takes that role.

Obviously when you’re talking about an anime, the creators can do anything they want. So if they explicitly chose to not use kanji, then the characters don’t have kanji names.

The vast majority of non-anime Japanese people have kanji names (or hiragana possibly for given names).

I think in anime and such, the characters usually have katakana names to make the pronunciation clear while still differentiating the names from the rest of the sentence.

What you choose to write the name with wouldn’t really have much affect on the pronunciation, though.

Then why is katakana used so extensively for names in media?

I’m not sure what you’re referring to exactly. I can think of plenty of anime and manga where the characters have very intentionally normal Japanese names.

But since one of the functions of katakana is to represent foreign sounds, maybe you’re referring to characters with foreign (or fantasy) names?

1 Like

You know what, I just realized this might be selection bias on my part- most of the native Japanese media I engage with IS aimed at kids haha. Thank you for your answers!

The characters of Beastars almost invariably have foreign or fantasy names, so yeah, not the best example of how names are written in media.

For a counter example, the title (and one of the main recurring jokes) of the series Sayonara Zetsubou-Sensei relies one hundred percent on the way the main character’s name is written in kanji - specifically, his name is 糸色いとしきのぞむ, but if the two kanji in his family name are written too close togther, then it looks like 絶望ぜつぼう, which means “despair”.


I can’t find the video right now, but I remember watching a YouTuber talk about how his wife has a non-Kanji name and when they had their child they took the name to the temple and the kid got a non-Kanji name as well. That may be just a provincial custom though.

One of my favorite manga-ka has a katakana first name, 真島 ヒロ

Katakana also seems to be used sometimes for stage names as well even if it’s a name that could be written in kanji.

One case, though, where I don’t understand the use of katakana is Hironobu Kageyama. That is his real name, but his ‘real name’ is written in kanji as 景山浩宣 but his stage name has the Hironobu written in katakana as 影山ヒロノブ. Also what is interesting is that his stage name also uses a different kanji for the かげ part of かげやま part. :man_shrugging: