Is it rude to take a Japanese 苗字?

Actually, there is a Japanese surname that could work for my first name (出門). Maybe I’ll try using that and see what happens.


First response: 「どこか行くの?」


For what I know, Japanese in general value name (First one especially) a lot, so calling yourself a name you don’t own just for fun could be met as weird, but it would have nothing to do with the fact you aren’t Japanese, it’s more about “he has a proper name, why doesn’t he use it?” I do meet Japanese folks in language exchange apps who use Western names, though… but I’m not sure if they do it because their parents named them like this (which is not as uncommon as it could seem to be) or if they use it as nickname.

Then there’s formal procedure of name changing. People could be surprised, but that’s it. Most won’t really care about the fact you changed your name officially, let alone be angry about it.

This goes for living in Japan though, and if you’re going by Japanese name while living outside of it this can be… seen as problematic.


Well, that’s my case, but I still cannot use the kanji in formal settings. Also, French laws are incompatible with Japanese laws: my name in my passport is written as BIRTHNAME usage BIRTHNAME-SPOUSENAME, so my 在留カード became BIRTHNAMEUSAGEBIRTHNAMESPOUSENAME and that’s my “official” name in Japan. In some place (like the bank) I managed to make it BIRTHNAME-SPOUSENAME but not everywhere. So depending on the situation, my name is:

  • BIRTHNAME-SPOUSENAME in full katakana
  • BIRTHNAMEUSAGEBIRTHNAMESPOUSENAME in romaji or freaking katakana (read as if they were independent words)

Ouch, looks quite the headache.
You didn’t take advantage of the exception for foreigners marrying a Japanese national allowing both party to keep their own name ? Just to avoid this kind of trouble :sweat_smile:


Tangentially related, but I got really stressed out during self-check-in at Sapporo Airport, trying to work out by trial and error how they had registered my name.

It ended up not actually including my name of address at all (which is my third given name), but rather one of my first name (with ö changed to OE) and half of my second name.


I’m not entirely sure what’s going on here. What’s “usage” when it’s in a real name? Like, if it were Emmanuel Macron, what would be written on the passport?

It’s not in a real name. It’s just that in France the name you got at birth (BIRTHNAME) and the name you get from marrying someone (SPOUSENAME or BIRTHNAME-SPOUSENAME or SPOUSENAME-BIRTHNAME). On my ID card I have two different entries for those, but the passport format does not support that. So France decided to cheat and add the extra entry in the “name” category, but with lowercase letters, so that people don’t confuse it with a real name. Except Japan takes the full content on the name category and takes it as your name.

In the case of Emmanuel Macron, it would be MACRON, since he did not take the name of his wife (so he does not have a spouse/usage name)

… But I want to have both my name and my spouse name combined…


I don’t think it’s weird for names to change over time, especially when the person changes country. Anglicisation of names - Wikipedia

In England we had a family who very famously changed their surname. During WW1, the royal family changed their name from Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to Windsor, to make them look less German.

Personally, I find people struggle to spell my surname, and if I wasn’t so lazy I would legally change the spelling to up modernise it. (Everybody adds a ‘g’ to the middle of my surname, so might as well make it official.)


I met some chinese people on an english language course and they used western names because they said to pronounce their chinese names would be to difficult for the rest of us. ^^

Not sure about other languages but in english and german there are quite some names like Schmidt/Smith, Müller or Brown that you could literally translate into their japanese equivalent because they were derived from their ancestors jobs.


I mean there was a foreign person a while back who moved to Japan and changed his whole name to Japanese. Can’t remember his name though, but I did think it was a little odd.


That depends on the country. I hear in the US you can just change your name but that is different in other countries. In my country you can’t just change your name. You can apply to change your name but only in very few special cases it is allowed to do so because you need a valid reason. You can only change your name if you are mentally suffering from it ( because the name is vulgar etc. or invites people to make jokes) or if you have a name that is so difficult spell or pronounce that the resulting problems exceed the normal level of hindrance for names with a difficult pronunciation or spelling.

And you have to pay up to 1000€ to change your name. So if nothing else the money aspect might stop you from doing so.

And we also have laws on naming children (to avoid children having to suffer because their parents like attention a bit too much) which I am very sure apply to changing your name too. So you couldn’t change your name into anything else. Fo example the name has to be clearly identifiable as first or last name so you can’t name your child blizzard or cherry or river etc. The name also has to make the sex of the person clear or if it doesn’t you need a second name that clarifies wether you are male or female (maybe they’ll change that law considering the understanding of sex and gender is changing). It is also not allowed to be a made-up/fantasy name, religious, vulgar or invite people to laugh about you (though the last one depends on the judges opinion that is why you are allowed to change your name). And you are only allowed to have a maximum of 5 first names.

Edit: That being said I have no idea how the laws are on changing your name in Japan. But I imagine not every country sees name changes as normal thing you could do if you felt like it.
Though I doubt anyone would get angry. (Unless some US American weebs started a trend of changing their name to Japanese ones for “fun”)


Japanese people for the most part wouldn’t understand your decision and would find it perplexing.

It depends whether you think constantly having to explain why you have a Japanese name would be a negative thing.

But I don’t see why (anyone) would outside of a marriage situation.

You wouldn’t normally change your name on emigrating so I don’t see why Japan would/should be different.


Sorry, could you explain with an example? I don’t get what “usage name” and “brithname-spousename” are.
Do you mean French passport has fields for both your family name at birth and name you adpted after marriage? Or you mean you take a double surname?

Does that BIRTHNAME include first name?


Aye, that’s what I was trying to elicit further up.

What if, say, Macron had taken his spouse’s name?

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This is what the French passport looks like

It’s the same as the normal EU passport, so I think @Naphthalene might be talking about her residence card.

I knew a guy whose parents had a probably nasty divorce. To get back at his ex wife, the guy’s dad changed his and his son’s name to either Moneybags or Moneymaker (I don’t remember which). The poor guy was clearly embarrassed every time we had rollcall.


I’m pretty sure you could register it as an alias. You wouldn’t be allowed to use it on official documents though.

Haven’t you heard of people, especially/historically Chinese, taking English names? Or is that just an American immigrant thing?

No, it does not, but it pretends it does.

No, it’s just the family name.

I’m not planning to look up her name, so let’s say it was Dupont and he had taken both names like me. Then his passport would say
(For instance; it could be DUPONT-MACRON as well)

No, I’m talking about the French passport. As you showed, there’s no official “usage” entry.

Edit: here’s a random example of what “usage” looks like on a real passport. Based on where I found it, this one is not about marriage, but anyway.