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Is it rude to use someone’s first name in Japan?


In Japanese culture, etiquette is highly valued and respected. The use of language, gestures, and behavior are all taken into consideration when interacting with others. One aspect of this etiquette is the use of names. In Japan, the way you address someone can vary depending on their relationship to you, their age, and their social status.

The importance of honorifics

In Japan, it is customary to use honorifics when addressing someone who is older or of higher status than you. Honorifics are titles or suffixes that indicate respect for the person you are addressing. Examples of honorifics include -san, -sama, and -sensei.

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First names in Japan

Using someone’s first name is considered informal in Japan. It is generally reserved for close friends and family members. Using someone’s first name without permission can be seen as disrespectful or rude.

Relationships and first names

The use of first names in Japan depends on the relationship between the two people. In a business setting, it is common to use last names and honorifics when addressing colleagues or superiors. In a more casual setting, such as among friends, the use of first names may be more acceptable.

Cultural differences

It’s important to note that cultural differences may play a role in how people view the use of first names. For example, in Western cultures, using first names is more common and may not be seen as disrespectful. However, in Japan, using someone’s first name can be seen as overly familiar or even rude.

Age and first names

In Japan, age plays a significant role in how people address each other. Younger people are expected to show respect to their elders by using formal language and honorifics. Using someone’s first name can be seen as disrespectful if they are significantly older than you.

Social status and first names

Social status also plays a role in how people address each other in Japan. Using someone’s first name can be seen as disrespectful if they hold a higher social status than you, such as a boss or teacher.

Exceptions to the rule

There are exceptions to the rule of using last names and honorifics in Japan. For example, some younger people may prefer to be addressed by their first name, especially among friends or in more casual settings. Additionally, some foreigners may not be familiar with Japanese etiquette and may not mind being addressed by their first name.

How to avoid offending someone

To avoid offending someone in Japan, it’s best to err on the side of caution and use last names and honorifics when addressing others. If you’re unsure about how to address someone, it’s always better to ask for clarification than to assume.

The importance of context

It’s important to keep in mind that context plays a significant role in how people view the use of first names in Japan. In some situations, using someone’s first name may be more acceptable than others.


In conclusion, using someone’s first name in Japan can be seen as rude or disrespectful if not done properly. It’s important to consider factors such as age, social status, and relationship when deciding how to address someone. By following Japanese etiquette and using last names and honorifics when appropriate, you can show respect for those around you.

Do Japanese people use first names?

In Japan, it is a traditional practice to list family names before given names, similar to the customs in China and Korea. However, in the late 1800s, Japanese people started to adopt the Western pattern of listing given names before family names when writing their names in English.

Should I address a Japanese person by their first or last name?

If you haven’t been given permission to use first names, it is courteous to only use surnames. Using first names too soon could be viewed as overstepping boundaries and could even be seen as disrespectful if the person is older or holds a higher position than you.

What is Japanese naming etiquette?

In Japan, names are arranged in a specific order: the family name comes before the given name. For instance, a male’s name could be Yukio YAMAMOTO and a female’s could be Akari SATŌ. The family name, also known as ‘myouji’ or ‘ue no namae’, is passed down from the father and shared with siblings.

Can I use a Japanese name if I’m not Japanese?

Regarding the use of a Japanese name by non-Japanese individuals, it should not be a problem for Japanese people in certain situations. However, when using a Japanese nickname in situations where a real name is required, such as on a job application or during guest card registration at a hotel, it will not be accepted. This information was provided on November 5, 2021.

Why do Japanese introduce last name first?

Around 150 years ago, Japan decided to use the Western-style order of first name followed by surname when using English language. This decision was made as a way to modernize and globalize the country by imitating Western customs, as revealed by the Agency for Cultural Affairs.

How do you respectfully address a Japanese person?

In Japanese business culture, it is customary to add the honorific suffix “san” after someone’s surname as a sign of respect. This can also be replaced with other honorifics like “sama” for highly respected customers or “sensei” for doctors or professors.

Other forms of address

Aside from honorifics and last names, there are other forms of address that can be used in Japan. For example, when addressing someone in a formal setting, it is common to use their job title or position instead of their name. This shows respect for their position and authority.

Body language and etiquette

In Japan, body language is also an important aspect of etiquette. For example, it is considered rude to point with your finger, so instead, it’s best to use an open hand gesture. Bowing is also a common form of greeting and showing respect in Japan. The depth and length of the bow can vary depending on the situation and the relationship between the two people.

The role of gender in Japanese etiquette

Gender also plays a role in Japanese etiquette. For example, it is common for women to use more polite language than men when speaking with others. Women may also be expected to use more deferential language when speaking with men who are older or of higher status than them.

The importance of apologizing

Apologizing is another important aspect of Japanese culture and etiquette. When making a mistake or causing inconvenience to others, it’s important to apologize sincerely and take responsibility for your actions. This shows respect for those around you and helps maintain positive relationships.

Cultural awareness in Japan

Overall, cultural awareness is key when navigating Japanese etiquette. By taking the time to understand the customs and expectations of those around you, you can show respect and build positive relationships in both personal and professional settings.

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