Is it rude to take a Japanese 苗字?

I know little of the culture from my outside bubble, and Google is of no help as usual. I know many foreigners that have taken Japanese first names when living in Japan, but I don’t know if they took last names as well. Would this provoke a negative reaction? Especially with surnames that are not common but not uncommon, would someone be provoked to anger if they saw someone from outside the country using the same family name as them? Is this a common practice at all with outsiders, and if not or if so: would it be seen as disrespectful to other Japanese people who happen to have the same last name?


I haven’t met any foreigners who use a Japanese name of any kind. I know of some who married Japanese people and took the family name of the Japanese person they married. No one would think that’s strange.

Just calling yourself a Japanese name with no legal basis for it is something I haven’t encountered so I have no idea what people would think.


Gut feeling rather than personal experience, but I suspect they’d be perplexed more than angered. :slightly_smiling_face:


Isn’t it kind of strange to change your surname outside of marriage or adoption in general, though? :thinking:


Honestly? Only by convention. There’s literally nothing stopping you from walking down to the nearest courthouse right now and doing it.

I had a friend of mine who realised with a sudden epiphany that not only was there no reason she had to take her husband’s surname, she didn’t even need to keep her parents’. Even if she was “expected” to change her name when she got married, she could quite literally change it to anything she liked.


Is it even possible actually ?
The Japanese administration is usually really strict about matching exactly what’s on your passport. (And not just administration, same for bank and stuff)

Even not mentioning a middle name can cause a lot of trouble, so I think it would be a disaster if you just go “screw that, from now on I’m 太郎田中”


That’s true. I guess I’m just used to people changing their first name!

You might think differently if you were born with a name like 竜ヶ峰帝人. :stuck_out_tongue:

That said, I believe the intent was to change the name officially, rather than suddenly waking up one morning and deciding to try a different name on for size.

Also, it’s 田中太郎.


You’d have to change it where you live first. Then you could use it in Japan. But you couldn’t use kanji (on legal documents) if your home country doesn’t use kanji. So you’d be ハルカ・ヤマダ or something. Excluding if you got married and took the kanji then, I believe.

Though maybe the original question was about merely telling people you have a Japanese name and asking them to call you that, rather than using it in any official sense.


the closest i’ve heard of is someone with a name that works in English or Japanese deciding to write their name in hiragana instead of katakana. あんな for example. But even then, going a step further and claiming a kanji reading… yikes, personally!


“Please use letters only (a-z)”


I think that if you take Japanese citizenship you have to change your name into Japanese characters. I think most keep their birth name but translate into Hiragana or Katagana but you can choose to take a new name in Kanji. I don’t think your birth nation would make a difference as if you take Japanese citizenship you have to renounce any others that you have.

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Well, there’s the historical example of Lafcadio Hearn who moved to Japan when he was 40 (in 1890), married a Japanese woman and adopted the Japanese name 小泉 八雲 (こいずみやくも). But that was a long time ago…

No idea whether the OP is talking about doing it formally or just casually. If the latter, I’d think that most Japanese would find it weird, if it was a western name to begin with. People from China and Korea are likely to use their names in kanji with a Japanized reading.


I stumbled upon a blog somewhat recently of a guy who took Japanese citizenship and entirely changed his name into Japanese, so there’s proof at least that it does happen. I’ll try to find it, but I don’t remember what his name was at all so idk if I’ll be able to.


This guy?


I came back to the thread, link in hand, only to be Leebo’d. You’re on the ball lately :joy: yep, that’s the one!


There was a whole episode of Friends about this very scenario :joy:. Anyone remember Princess Consuela Bananahammock?

Though I would think rules and laws depend on the country.


I use a kanji name for calligraphy, since my teacher asked me to think up kanji for my name. I pretty much only use it then, though. In correspondence with my teacher, and for signing my calligraphy. Otherwise I’ll use katakana.


Come to think of it, my wife made an attempt to write my whole name using kanji when we first met. But I think she was being a bit silly and we both forgot about it immediately.


It’s a fun way to spend time if you love puns like I do. My discord name is 犀だ, and my previous avatar here was a rhinoceros (rat) snake.

Now it’s the first kanji of my name written by a YouTube calligrapher.