Question regarding Japanese names/changes

こんばんは

I intend to move to Japan on a work visa early next year with the ultimate goal of gaining citizenship five years later. That said, I wish to get this all sorted as quickly as I can as I’m already beginning to rush all my eggs into their basket for the eventual move.

My English name is Wolf Eriksson. However, it occurs to me that as my first name is a noun, this could translate to the Japanese equivalent of 狼. I do not know the Japanese naming-culture well enough to know if someone named “Ookami” would be seen as weird or humorous to natives, in which case ウォルフ would be the name I’d assume.

I also don’t know how easily or at what point the option to change my stated name on Japanese identification documents would be. I’d like to ensure my documents match the name I’ll be giving to people I meet in Japan before embarking, even if that means changing my English name to Romaji before I leave the US. Any knowledge from those who’ve moved/lived in Japan would be very welcome. Thank you very much

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Is there a particular reason you want to become a Japanese citizen? (Assuming you’re aware of other options, like just being a permanent resident, for instance)

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Personally on all my documents I just have a katakana name, which I put together myself to sound as close to how I say it. I have an unofficial kanji name which I basically only use when I’m being fancy in calligraphy class, but my official registered inkan is in katakana, along with other documents like my bank account and car leasing paperwork.

I’ve found it’s just easier to use the katakana than try to be fancy with kanji, but I suppose it’s up to you in the end.

Edit: Just want to add that my kanji name is a phonetic one, so it’s basically my katakana name into kanji, not the meaning of my name into kanji

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… Only if you want to brand yourself a weebo wherever you go.

ウォルフ will be sufficient. You can spell it with kanji if you really want (ウォルフ, say) but, yeah. Doesn’t seem like 狼 on its own is a common Japanese given name, but there are several which include it.

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Names are really personal, so I’d say it’s up to you.

In my own case, I feel incredibly ambivalent towards my given name, but it is mine, so people here call me my name. For me, changing my name to a Japanese one feels a little weird and like cultural appropriation, so while my name has kanji [edit: 雪特尼, used to refer to the city], I just go by Sydney or シドニー. My Japanese friends call me しっちゃん.

If you want to know what generally happens, I’ve never met a permanent resident that has changed their name to a Japanese one, other than those who changed their last name after marriage. I don’t know of any foreigners who have become citizens, so I can’t speak to that point, but I imagine it’s just as rare proportionally.

Regarding the name 狼 itself, I’ve never seen it used stand-alone as a name, but as @Belthazar mentioned there are some names that include it. However, if you know anything about キラキラ names, there are some much stranger kanji (or much more obscure readings) included in some given names nowadays.

On the paperwork side, if you do decide you want to legally change your name, I would have your documents changed in your country of citizenship first, as it would be better for you if everything is the same in the case that they cross-reference your documents. [You have to jump through enough hoops in Japanese bureaucracy as is, so you don’t want add any additional hurdles.]

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If you really want to get the message across to people that your name is also a type of canine, wolf is often translated to ウルフ. I believe 狼 is a bit more of a literary/older word, but I might be wrong.

However, I’d echo the general sentiment that it’s best to just katakanize your name to the closest approximate pronunciation. I don’t think they would even allow you to use おおかみ as the reading for the kanji, as your name in English isn’t Okami.

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This article may prove helpful to you, as it did for me.

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I wouldn’t personally.

Since I didn’t see anyone mention it, you will have the option to get a name in kanji upon getting the Japanese citizenship. That name doesn’t have to be close to your original name, although people tend to try to match it in general. I do not know if you are allowed to keep katakana in your name; I do not know anyone who chose that option if it exists.
As for using kanji in everyday life before getting the nationality, assuming you do not come from a kanji-using country (based on your name), you will have to register a 通称 at your local 区役所 or equivalent.

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It is fine to have fun with your name in non official settings, but in official/formal settings, I feel it would be best to go with a katakana name. I have several ways I write my name in Japanese.

I use サイダ when meeting/talking to new people, and conversation groups and such.

For calligraphy I was given the task to think up kanji for my name, I ended up going with 彩妥, so I use this with my calligraphy teachers.

On here my avatar is a play on 犀蛇 rhinoceros snake (it is actually a rhinoceros ratsnake).

On discord (which I use for Japanese classes) my name is 犀だ (I am a rhinoceros or It’s a rhino) paired with a rhino avatar.

These are all pronounced the same, and especially the latter gives people a chuckle when they notice it!

All this to say, go with オオカミ or 狼 whenever you want to have fun with it, like make it your nickname when you join a go club or something, but stick to katakana in professional/official settings.

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I have a Chinese name because I’m ethnically Chinese. My country’s everyday language is English, but because of multilingual policies, my Chinese name is in official records, and I’d frankly like to use my name for more than just Chinese homework in school, so I’d like to use it if I were staying in Japan. However, the kanji combination in my name really rare even in Chinese (my parents didn’t follow traditional naming conventions), so I’m not sure how that would go – other Chinese speakers always get the first character wrong, even my tuition teachers. Also, if I use on’yomi in Japanese, my name sounds like the name of a temple in Yokohama (徳恩寺 – incidentally, the first character is what people guess my name starts with in Chinese). Not sure if that’s a good thing or if it would just make my name seem strange.

More importantly though, I have a friend studying at a Japanese university who is like me – we both have an English name and an official Chinese name – and he told me he sticks to katakana. I don’t fully understand why, but he said that using kanji, for example on the door plaque for his apartment, would just complicate things. Maybe it’s because most of our documents and records are in English. I’ll have to talk to him about this in more detail if I really do end up heading to Japan for a few years, but my impression is that you should stick to katakana for anything official unless you have an official name in kanji that you use all the time.

It’s true that many Japanese people struggle with English, but they should know enough to attempt to pronounce your name as it’s spelt. It’s probably more helpful to provide your preferred pronunciation of your name in katakana if there’s a place for such a thing in the paperwork. Changing your official name (within Japan, at least) will probably have to come later. Maybe you can start by using 狼 as a nickname, and then choose a Japanese name you like containing that kanji if/when you are granted citizenship.

By the way, another reason to stick with katakana (at least for now) is that you’ll need to make a hanko (personal seal/stamp) on arrival for stuff like opening bank accounts, and you’ll probably want something that matches your current identity documents and past records. It’ll be a lot easier to get them to accept a hanko that sounds like your name than a hanko containing an unofficial kanji, at least until you have official Japanese documents containing that kanji.

Oops, that was a lot longer than expected. I thought I had managed a short post for once. Anyway, all the best, and I hope you progress quickly in Japanese, because that will definitely make work (and potential citizenship applications) much easier. :slight_smile:

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Got it. Sounds like Ookami written in kanji or katakana is likely what I’ll be going with. I did legally change my entire name once already, so it’s extra important for me to keep as much integrity to it as possible.

I’d like to thank you all for your experiences and information about the process of establishing my “Japanese name” when I move (very glad to hear it sounds simple and painless). I was worried it would be an arduous process I’d need to prepare for beforehand
It was all very helpful :slight_smile:

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You don’t have to discuss it if you don’t want to, but I was just curious why becoming a citizen was important to you? Is it that you want to be able to vote in Japan?

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It’s vastly important to me that I change my environment and leave everything that was behind. I want what will be my future home to be my home legally. That’s all I’m going to say.

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Fair enough. Best of luck on the whole visa/citizenship process, I hope it goes smoothly!

It’s your decision, but on the long and arduous path of getting citizenship keep this in mind: It’s one thing to have a foreign sounding name, but an indistinguishably Japanese word used for a name (that is not used as a name already) like Ookami might make your life harder than it needs to be.

I think looking into キラキラネーム (or the less kind DQNネーム) might be helpful

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It sounds like the meaning of the name is more important to them than possible downsides related to how people would react to it, though I don’t want to put words in his mouth.

I do wonder what the citizenship interview would be like in that scenario, though. Surely they’re going to ask some kind of question about the name and not just ignore it, right? Maybe not? Even if they do, I suppose it wouldn’t necessarily be with the idea of looking on the name poorly. I don’t know much about those interviews except that they are in Japanese.

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I can’t seem to find it right now, but I recall reading a reddit thread of someone who wanted to change their name to be in kanji (previously a Western name) after getting married. On the official record, they weren’t allowed to change their name to kanji because they had to go off of the official record of their home country. Unless you’re from China or Korea, it seems like getting your name officially registered in kanji could be quite difficult. Other people there pointed out that you can register aliases with the government. You don’t seem to be able to change your hanko if you previously had one with katakana though.

My point is that it would be probably hard if not difficult to change it to kanji if you apply with the katakana version of your name.

Also, I support your kanji name efforts! My first name in katakana is the same as a Japanese word. I find mentioning it helps Japanese people remember my name more easily and they seem to enjoy the familiarity of it. My last name is a word as well. I know for a fact that my full name in kanji is a little weird but not awkward. I mainly use it as an icebreaker and not as anything official. Best of luck to you and please share what you decide on for a full name!

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Wow, this is exactly the kind of thing I was looking for when posting this. It makes sense though, that it’s as difficult as a general name change to alter whatever you put on your documents when initially entering the country. Guess it was wise to start trying to get this sorted in advance.

It’s not even the meaning itself as much as just keeping the integrity of the name. It’s my name and I don’t want to “lose” it, in a sense.

I don’t even like wolves (I absolutely dislike dogs of all sorts), but I do like its connotation as a name. I always really loved werewolves and for years I occasionally used the term as a moniker when it came to usernames/email, which is what led me to consider using a derivative of the full term as a name. Wolf is a rare but not unheard-of title in English, it’s European and somewhat archaic (I’m genetically a mixture of many continents but proud of the strong German heritage that I have), and as a name it resonates with a bold nature I feel suits my personality. It was never initially about the animal, but I love my name like anyone does and that’s why I was hoping I could transition it fully.

As I said when posting this thread, I wanted to know if it would be highly irregular to use it in Japan. If so I would prefer to stick with ウォルフ, but the replies didn’t seem to mention it being too odd before the recent ones.

Could you elaborate on in what ways you think it would negatively impact things to use the Japanese pronunciation? Would giving it to coworkers/friends as a nickname be detrimental as well?

That’s incredible! I’m glad you ended up with a Japanese name that really works for you. Can I ask what your name is, or would that be too personal of information?

Thank you! I know that regardless of whatever I choose for my first name, I’m going with エリクソン for the latter. Thank the gods that isn’t also a noun in English, or I’d be in double trouble :sob:

I think it’s mostly that おおかみ is not a given name in Japanese. At least not for real people. There might be an anime character or something with that kind of name.

So people are going to recognize that your name is a plain Japanese word that isn’t usually a given name and probably have their own thoughts about it.

Like, people might feel a little strange actually calling you おおかみさん, because adding さん to animal words is a typical way to talk about real animals you see. Like you can imagine a mom pointing to a wolf at the zoo and saying おおかみさんがいるよ! (There’s a wolf!) to her child.

Just out of curiosity, do you feel comfortable sharing what job you had planned on doing? If you were, for instance, planning to be an ALT or something, such a name would probably raise even more eyebrows. Kids would definitely find おおかみせんせい to be an amusing thing to say.

It’s hard to say concretely what kinds of things you’d actually experience, though, since most people do not have such a name.

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