Phonetic Kanji, which pronunciation

I am streaming tonight’s NJPW show and I like to look at the wrestlers names to see what kanji I can identify. I recognized the kanji in Nakanishi’s last name but for the kanji for his first name the only pronunciation I could think of was gaku, which I knew was not correct. I checked the English NJPW website and it is Manabu. so I went back to Wanikani and checked the kanji and the kunyomi pronunciation is mana. I was only able to identify the correct pronunciation for the kanji in his last name because I knew his last name. That left me wondering, how can you tell whether phonetic kanji uses the onyomi or kunyomi pronunciation?

Honestly, names have their own pronunciations. Only way to know what it is is to just ask the person.

Even native speakers have to ask.


I’ve noticed a trend that in Japanese names often the kun’yomi is used, especially in one character names like 学, 明 and others, and compound family names (山田=やまだ, not さんた, for example). But in compound given names it is usually on’yomi.

Of course there are plenty exceptions :slightly_smiling_face:

Well, that’s a bummer. Does it apply to place names also? (I do the same thing with kanji when I see road signs telling me which towns/cities are in each direction at intersections.)

I hear there are two towns in Japan somewhere written in the same kanji, but with slightly different pronunciations. And the people from one town always get corrected by people who only know of the other town.

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It’s normal for Japanese people to have no idea how to read the place names for parts of Japan they aren’t familiar with.

Some can be guessed, others are just out there on their own.


That just doesn’t seem right to have that happen. But on the other hand, it is incredibly amusing.

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To be entirely fair, it happens in English too. Like, a lot.


Wow. I would have expected that not to happen, but then I thought about some of the places in Massachusetts and how they pronounce things differently from the rest of the country, such as Peabody which is pronounced Peabdy, and the trouble I had with names like that (much to the amusement of my local coworkers) when I moved to New England.

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Well, if you want a big long list of place names to practice on, I made dis. </shameless self plug> :slightly_smiling_face:

Thanks. That was pretty interesting to see how many cities besides Tsugaru are spelled entirely in hiragana.

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I know of a similar situation where there is a city and a district, they use the same initial kanji, but they are pronounced differently.

山武市さんむし and 山武郡さんぶぐん


Godmanchester (Gumster!) makes me incredibly angry, even as a person who generally likes how bizarre English (and place names) can be. I think I’d be less angry about it if Manchester didn’t exist. It’s like Kansas and Arkansas.


But, why’s the district comprised of two separated areas?

And on a similar note, the town of 貴船 (きふね) in the north of Kyoto is named for the shrine located there… which is きぶね…

“Manchester” is pronounced “mster” now.

On a related note, my GPS voice tries its best to pronounce street names, but it’s not always great at it. Lachlan Street is pronounced as “lack-lan”, but McLachlan Street becomes “mick-likken”…


Reasons? I suspect that at some point there was some sort of incentive for smaller municipalities to incorporate together and maybe at one point the places in between were supposed to be included, but something happened that prevented such a merger. I don’t know.

I don’t know if you knew, but for some Kanji, there is a third reading called “Nanori” which is it’s special reading used in names. You can even look them up on WaniKani though it doesn’t seem to cover them all.

One of my japanese friends name is 光恵 (みつえ)where the 光 is read as みつ as opposed it’s regular readings ひかり and こう.

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If you ever have to take a role call in an American school (for example) I think you’ll find pretty quickly that no one knows how to pronounce all the names over here (in America) either.
Of course, in our case, that’s also because of all the immigration from everywhere, and the habit of African Americans to intentionally use nonstandard spellings for given names (I’m not throwing shade).

And then, my sister, Candace, has had her name misspelled her entire life, and that’s a biblical name, so eh?


Jisho is handy for these readings if you need to go from kanji to reading. I use it a lot looking up the names of the rikishi when the sumo is on.

I’m a fan of - stick a kanji name in the box, and it’ll give you the most common readings. If there’s multiple options, you’re still going to need to ask the person which it is (for example, 一 has five distinctly different readings), but it helps.

Dang, I always thought hidmanchester was spelled “hamster” but obviously that was wrong