Life in Japan

Error: Why Your Foreign Name Is Most Likely Too Long For Japan

So, you’ve finally arrived in the land of your dreams: Narnia …. err, I mean Japan!

All these beautiful Japanese women who’ve just been waiting for you. All this breathtaking nature, ancient castles, shrines and temples.
Yes, you’re finally in Japan. Congratulations!

But beware, you might wake up one morning and notice that life isn’t all that great.

There’s the insane humidity in summer, these creepy insects that can even kill you, annoying people who’re staring at you all the time, telling you how great your Japanese is while making you understand that you’ll be an outsider forever.

But there’s one thing that you probably didn’t have on your “problem list”, I’m sure. And that’s your “foreign” name!

Why it’ll give you headaches?
Well, read on and you might understand.

 

No Kanji For Foreign Names in Japan

If you have to fill out any kind of official document in Japan (health insurance, driver’s license, credit card, cell phone), you’re almost always required to write your name exactly like it’s displayed in your passport (and thus also on your residence card).

As foreigners don’t have kanji for their names, you’re supposed to write your name in “romaji” (roman letters) and once more in katakana so the Japanese will know how to pronounce it.

Let’s say your name is Michael Johnson (*just a random name I picked for demonstration purpose). It will become something like ジョーンソン・マイケル.

This doesn’t look particularly long to us. We’re used to it, right?

Now, a Japanese person would have to fill out a document in kanji and katakana (no romaji required). This looks less stressful and shorter.

Let’s say our Japanese person’s name is Takahashi Yamamoto. In kanji that will be very short: 山本高橋

But even in katakana it doesn’t seem to be that long: ヤマモト・タカハシ

(*Please note that in Japan the last name goes before the first name.)

 

Mr. Johnson who doesn’t have an official kanji name will run into problems soon.

In Japan, you need a hanko (判子) also more formally known as inkan (印鑑). There are different types, so read about it in great detail here if you’re interested.

For your bank account, cell phone contract and other things, a ginko-in (especially for bank errands) or mitome-in will be enough. It’s really easy to get one of these.

Foreign names in Japan on a hanko.

That’s my little hanko inside its case. It’s a wooden seal.

A typical Japanese last name contains one to three kanji, so it’s easy to squeeze them onto the tiny seal, but as a foreigner you need to somehow squeeze your name in katakana on it. I’ve even seen some with roman letters. Usually neither works well, especially if you have a long name.

Luckily as a Westerner you have a lot of choices. You can use your last name in katakana, or a shorter version of it, you could even use “fake” kanji. It’s not that strict. I’ve done this, too.

So, if Michael wanted a hanko with kanji for his first name, it could look like this:
舞気璢 (dance [mai], emotion [ke], precious stone [ru]) (*super random, but you get the idea)

However, this is not possible with a registered seal, called jitsuin (実印). Such a hanko is needed if you want to conduct business or sign anything legally binding. Rules are MUCH stricter for that one.

(*Disclaimer: Please note that I’m not a hanko expert at all and I cannot guarantee that the bit of information I’m providing here is 100% correct.)

 

Most Foreigners Have a Middle Name

Do you have a middle name? Or even more than one?

OMG! You better shouldn’t come to Japan!

Jeez, that’s where the problems REALLY start!

Like mentioned before, in Japan you NEED to fill out all official and legal documents with your full name exactly as it’s displayed in your passport.

Now, let’s say you’re one of the lucky ones with only ONE middle name:
Michael Benjamin Johnson (ジョーンソン・マイケル・ベンジャミーン)

Oops, all of a sudden this looks really long.

Now, this is where the real fun begins. And I know this from personal experience because I have a middle name, too. emoticon

If you’re filling out any kind of document, you still can squeeze your name in somehow. It won’t look beautiful, but it will work out somehow.

I once applied for a credit card, but I had to send the documents three times until they accepted it. They were confused about the order of the names. I tried to do it the Japanese way and write my last name first and then my first name and middle name. They sent it back saying they want it the way it’s in my passport, so I had to start with my first name. This and similar things did cost me a lot of nerves but I finally received my credit card …. but then I realized that my name was cut off as it didn’t fit onto the card …. well, probably it would have, but their system couldn’t figure it out. My German credit cards can display my full name (including my middle name) just fine!

Isn’t it cool to have a credit card saying: MichaelBenj Johnson? emoticon

This can sometimes lead to discussions when you show your credit card or another document with your fu**ed up name and then your residence card or passport with your full name. So much fun, I tell you!!

Oh, and as most systems cannot work with a middle name, there’s usually NEVER a space between your first and your middle name. I had this a million times on my domestic flight tickets here in Japan. Luckily this never caused any trouble.

But, don’t even get me started on online registrations. Most online systems cannot handle more than like 15-ish characters. I remember applying for a cheap health insurance for abroad when I wanted to visit Germany last winter. I couldn’t get the cheapest ones, because all of their online application systems wouldn’t accept my name.

I kept getting error messages:

“Error: Your name is longer than 15 characters.”

“Error: Please write your name in kanji.”

“Error: Please just don’t be a foreigner with a weird name our system cannot understand!!!”

It’s sometimes so frustrating! We’re living in the 21st century, update your freaking systems, will you?

So, just be prepared that because of your name you might get a few headaches in Japan.

Don’t worry, you’ll get everything you need, but it will just take much longer. And I can recommend good hair dye in case your grey hair is suddenly increasing! emoticon

 

What Happens to Your Name If You Marry a Japanese?

I don’t have any personal experience with this, obviously, but a few fellow German bloggers do. One of them, ginkgoleafs, recently contacted me and asked me if I knew any other nations who also have similar issues, so I thought I’d just share this with you and see what others have experienced.

If you can understand German, I suggest reading about this issue in detail on ginkgoleaf’s blog and nagarazoku’s blog.

The following problem has not only to do with Japanese bureaucracy, but also with the German one. But who knows, your country might have the same issue.

 

In a German passport there’s the note “geb.” (abbreviation of ‘geboren’ = born as / “maiden name”) if a married person decided to take their partner’s last name.

Let’s say there’s a German woman whose name is Maria Katherina Schmidt.

She’s married to a Japanese man, Mr. Kato, so the name in her German passport will look like this: Maria Katherina Kato geb. Schmidt

For the residence card in Japan and a lot of other important documents, Mrs. Kato needs to write her full name as follows: 加藤・ゲップ・シュミッド・マリア・カッテリーナ

Yes, the “geb.” note in the passport has to be part of the Japanese name transition. So much fun!

Now, just imagine she wanted a double name:

Maria Katherina Kato-Schmidt geb. Schmidt becomes 加藤シュミッド・ゲップ・シュミッド・マリア・カッテリーナ

What??? See how long this name is? That’s around 25 characters. I’m sure that 99% of all systems in Japan cannot handle such a name!

On top of that it seems that other official documents (e.g. certificate of marriage) don’t have this super long name! This will lead to a LOT of confusion and headaches.

Last but not least, the “geb.” which indicates the maiden name in German is written as ゲップ (geppu) in Japanese which translates to something like “belch”. I’m not even sure why it’s changed into “geppu” rather than “gebbu” to be honest.

So, Mrs. Kato’s name in Japan is now officially: Kato-Schmidt “Belch” Schmidt Maria Katherina

Isn’t that lovely? …

Imagine a typical conversation on the phone:

“Hello. May I have your name please?”

“Sure, Kato-Schmidt ‘Belch’ Schmidt Maria Katherina.”

“Err …. could you say this again, a bit slower?”

“Sure. Ka-to-Schmidt ‘Belch’ Sch- …..”

“Did you just burp? Are you ok?” emoticon

“…………”

 

Clearly both countries need to find a better solution for this in the future.

 

Is Your Name Giving You Headaches?

I’d love to hear if you had a similar experience! Or maybe one of your friends?

Was there ever anything you wanted to apply for in Japan, but couldn’t do it because of your foreign name?

Please don’t be shy and tell us in the comment box below!

Also, if you’re a German citizen who has run into the “geppu” issue, please contact either “ginkgoleafs” or “nagarazoku” as they’re trying to get in touch with German authorities in order to inform them about this problem. Thanks a lot.

 

91 Comments

  • Holy Mergatroid Jasmine,

    Ken must be rubbing off on you, this was so satirical and ribald, as well as being funny as hell. Good points about this whole name thing , that once again proves that Japan likes to make sure foreigners never get truly comfortable living in THEIR country! The one pic was terrible though (j/k)…. :hihi: LOLOLOLOL! ;P

    • Haha, glad you enjoyed it! ;P
      Wait, Ken is rubbing on my … what? (jk!)

      It’s certainly not to tease foreigners. Japan only has 1% of foreigners even nowadays, so I guess they just don’t see the point in changing their systems …. yet.
      I still have hope that it’ll change at some point. :)

  • I guess I am fortunate, as I dropped my middle name when I came to the US. And the US passport doesn’t require a maiden name. So my 3 syllables first name is the same in katakana, though my 2 syllables last name becomes 3.

    In France one often has in fact 2 middle names, but they are not used, even as initials, in daily life, just some official documents.

    • I don’t quite understand why we need middle names at all.
      In Germany it’s not a hassle most of the time, but there are a few occasions when you have to write your full name. That’s when it becomes annoying.

      I think you made a good choice by dropping your middle name. ;)

          • Not middle. Multiple middle names are forbidden in Germany. You can only have multiple first names. As far as I know there is no limit. I think most people have more like 5-10 names. Though there are people with TONS!

      • For quite along time I did not use my middle name. Now I do. There are so many people with exact the same name. I actually have a data twin. Same name and birthday, living in the same city.

        Without at least the initial of the middle name, confusion is predictable.

          • Not in Japan. In Austria. I was just giving an example that a middle name can be useful. I guess in Japan it will only be useful to create some confusion. ;-)

          • You got me shocked for a moment. It would be very rare to have someone with the exact same name and birthday … probably even in a big city like Tokyo … if you’ve got a foreign name. I bet it happens all the time among Japanese people, though. ;)

      • A not too distant ancestor of mine named every one of his 15 sons (yes I wrote 15 on purpose!) Johann for their first name, and used the middle name as the unique identifier! i.e. Johann Sebastian, Johann Patrick, etc…

  • The one the irks me time and time again is online forms. Shopping sites, credit card applications, product registrations, etc. You need to input a Kanji name and then the reading in katakana. For the kanji name, sometimes if you try to input katakana it throws errors, try 全角 alphabet is an error too. I end up putting all hiragana in the kanji section. My last name is long too with 2 of the long dash vowels, but of course that dash thing will cause errors in the kanji section too so you end up using two お or あ. If you’re trying to buy something online sometimes this will throw another error because it doesn’t match you credit card! There’s one popular shopping site that even used to accept romaji names but when I tried to order something yesterday after getting errors over and over again I finally realized that now they require the kanji name to be filled in too.

    • I know exactly what you’re talking about, Eric!
      It’s so freaking annoying sometimes. I’m sorry to hear that you couldn’t use that shopping site. :/

  • It’s been more than ten years since I lived in Japan on a student visa, but luckily they weren’t so stuck up about names back then. My gajin card didn’t include my second name even though it’s in my passport so I got my bank account, internet, phone etc without that pesky second name. They either wrote it in romanji or katakana. I was allowed to sign everything as I did not have a hanko and they were never any long discussions about that. I got what I needed.

    The only thing that bothered me was that people always called me by my first name, but then I do have a difficult surname, so after a while I accepted it. Now I actually offer it as it’s just to painful to have them try and pronounce it :)

    Ordering online wasn’t such a big thing back then… the few times I ordered stuff nowadays it accepted my name in Romanji and Katakana. Hate it though when they ask for that when logging in to hotel wifi or free wifi. What if people don’t understand Japanese???

    • Actually for signing a lot of things, your handwritten sign (without a middle name) is enough.
      It becomes annyoing if you need to apply for or renew any official documents and especially if you have to do it online, because those online systems often refuse your name.

      Usually people call me by my full name in hospitals (including my middle name as it had to be on my health inscurance card). Imagine a hundred heads turning towards you as soon as they hear that long, foreign name. Very embarrassing.
      Or people are unable to pronounce my name correctly even when it’s written in katakana. ^^;;
      But I understand that. I also have pronunciation difficulties with foreign names. ;)

  • This makes me very glad that I have a relatively short name (13 characters including middle name when written in katakana)! My surname is also only 3 characters, so there is no problem at all fitting it on a hanko. Phew!

  • Hi Jasmine,

    What an interesting post! I enjoyed it so much and laughing a lot while reading it. Thank you! I suppose even Japanese people, including me, usually get irritated and annoyed by the Hanko-system. I’m always careless and often bring a wrong hanko to a bank with me( I have several hanko(s.) , and cannot go through a procedure there.
    As for 舞気璢, I like the characters very much. They are beautiful! How about 舞貴瑠? ”瑠” also means precious stones, particularly blue sapphires.

  • I would HIGHLY recommend anyone with multiple names get a registered alias (called a tsusho-mei; 通称名) that is only their first and last name. While it won’t completely fix all the problems with the name being too long, it will definitely eliminate a lot of ridiculousness with banks, credit cards, and whatnot. Note: Your registered alias HAS to be consistent with your legal name or they will deny your application (with some exception; eg. if you are married to a Japanese national, they may allow you to register an alias using your spouse’s last name).

    Another thing to consider, at least for non-official accounts like for online shopping or whatever, is just to choose a Japanese name and use that. You can’t register it (so no using it for banks, apartment rentals, or whatever), but it’s fine to use in everyday life.

    • The registered alias might solve some problems, but to use a japanese name for online shopping could be sometimes a problem too!
      For example: if you want to buy something at amazon and pay and pick it up at a convenience store, you have to use the name written on your residence card or passport.
      Don’t know how it’s on rakuten or other online stores, but one has to be careful..

    • Do you have personal experience with this?

      I’m not sure. I guess it depends on the shopping site. If you choose paying with your credit card, then they might not accept it if you’re “Japanese name” is not the same as your “foreign name” on the card.

      The situations where I had the biggest problems with my name were exactly those where a registered alias wouldn’t work, so just like you said it can’t fix all the problems.
      Thanks for the suggestion, though.

      If anybody else has experience with this, I’d love to hear about it. :D

      • I have never encountered an online site that requires the account name and credit card to match up. I have used my US credit card (which lists my legal name as the card holder) on accounts with my Japanese name, and these days I almost always use a pre-paid online credit card where the card name is the nickname that I signed up to the site with (ie. has no connection to my legal or Japanese name). I use my credit card fairly frequently and have never had a problem, nor have I had a problem using my Japanese name for Payeasy or convenience store payments. I have also had packages delivered to my house under my Japanese name without problem (although the first time I was asked by the mail carrier, who had delivered packages under my legal name, if the package was correct).

        But I do think that Anika makes a good point that it’s important to be careful and use your legal name for anything that would require ID.

  • So here’s a question for you, what if the person has a middle name and a suffix? For example, my full name is Terrence Kevin Hunt Junior. As you can see I have a first, middle, and last name along with a suffix. I don’t yet have one but what about prefixes too like Mr. Ms. Mrs. And Dr.? How would one go about that? Seems like too many problems if you ask me.

    • I’m not an expert in this matter, but here are my 2 yen:
      I think the suffix will be included as that’s part of your name as it’s written in your passport, right?

      Mr. / Ms. etc. is NOT part of your name as stated in your passport, so nothing to worry about. And I think it’s probably the same with job titles such as “Dr.”

      • I’ve read that the Dr. title in german passports will appear in the “name” line. So it should be on the residence card too.. But till now I didn’t find a Dr. who had changed his passport.
        As the maiden name has to appear in the german passport, the Dr. title has not…
        Don’t know how it’s with other nations passports though…

  • I’ve always wondered why more people here don’t take Japanese names. I don’t mean converting your name into Japanese, but just changing your name entirely.

    In the U.S., people do this all the time. Carlos becomes Charles. Gunther becomes Greg. Zhang Xiu Ying becomes Annie. But somehow, this never happens in Japan. Why?

    And if you really want to do it officially, the easiest way to do it is just to get a name change in your home country, then come back to Japan. Or do it before you come. Then you can be Takeshi Takeda like everybody else.

    • Ken, I think that’s a very drastic change that maybe not everybody wants to do.
      Especially people who just plan to stay in Japan for a certain time (a decade or so) and not forever won’t bother.
      Once you move back to your own country or another ‘Western country’, you probably don’t want to be a “Takeshi Takeda” anymore. ;)

      • You know, it’s funny you say that, because I marvel at the drastic changes people make all the time. Getting a tattoo. Plastic surgery. Breast enhancements. Spending forty thousand dollars on a car that won’t even fit in your garage.

        So no, I really don’t think a name change is all that drastic. It doesn’t seem to have hurt Marilyn Monroe, Harry Houdini, or Freddie Mercury.

        So when people want to fit in to a country, it might be worth thinking about how people will view you when your name’s Issur Danielovitch Demsky. Kirk Douglas apparently did.

        • I think, you won’t fit in the japanese society with a japanese name but not with a japanese appearance. Perhaps you will have more problems with a japanese name than without.
          A japanese name will solve the problems with bank account, shopping etc, but I think, you won’t be accepted by japanese people, and that could be harder than the other problems..

          • In my experience, using a Japanese name hasn’t hurt my ability to fit into Japanese society. I wouldn’t say it’s particularly helped, either. But it IS nice to have a name that people can pronounce without problems.

            I’m actually curious as to why you’d think that using a Japanese name would cause problems with Japanese people?

          • I am married to a Japanese. So when I tell them my japanese name (which they can not pronounce either..), they always ask me, if I’m married to a Japanese.
            I think, if I also had a japanese given name, they would tell me, that it is very interesting and nice that I love their country so much I even changed my name. But they would think I’m a crazy foreign woman. Same if I had a japanese name without being married..
            And as I’m already able to read Japanese people a little bit, what they say and what they really think, it would not comfort me..

          • Ah, well I’ve gotten the “Are you married?”/”Did you get married?” question a few times and had one person get really excited/happy over my taking a Japanese name because I plan to become a citizen. But that hasn’t been the norm for me; most often people don’t treat me any differently than when I introduced myself with my birth name. I wonder if it’s a regional thing (I live in Kansai, which tends to have a friendly/open-minded population and the big cities have a lot of non-Japanese people in them) or what.

        • Well, yes, changing your name might be a solution, but actually I don’t want to. I like my name. I had it for 29 years and I grew quite fond of it. And that is why it would be nice to use exactly that name here in Japan as well. For registration and on my bank account and for online shopping and for all the other stuff.

        • Maybe it just sounds so drastic because it’s not something people normally do. Plastic surgery or tatoos are far more common, wouldn’t you agree? ;)
          And I’ve never really looked into this further, but have all those actors and artists really changed their names? I thought it’s just an alias. They still have their original name in their passports, right?

          I’m all for trying to fit in when you choose a country you want to live in – things like learning the language and the customs.
          But changing your name just for the sake of others? I can understand if you absolutely don’t like your name, but I just can’t see myself doing it.

          • Norma Jeane Mortenson changed her namy legally to Marilyn Monroe in 1956, but giving her major personality disorder she devoloped being torn between her Marilyn Monroe-self and her “real”-self, I wouldn’t count her as “changing name went awesome”. I think also Kirk Douglas changed his name legally. But comparing Kirk Douglas, who clearly wanted to make a cut and start his new life in the US with a new identity and never planned on going back to Russia to people here struggling with their names on formal levels is just comparing apples and oranges. We want to live here as the person we are, not develop a whole new self. I don’t want to cut my German self and my German past out. I am living my life on here, not starting a new one that needs a new name.

            And there are many other problems coming with changing your name that might make putting your too long name into a box meant for kanji seem ridiculous. Just having a degree from a college or having published some academical papers will bite you in your ass, if you change your name afterwards. Why do so many people in academic fields have a double name as surname? Because they want to be recognized as the person who published articel xxx! And just imagining doing job hunting and sending them my CV with my new japanese name, but my Master‘s degree with my old German name. There you will have to do some explaining – if they give you a chance to explain that at all. And I don’t see a tattoo or a boob-job causing me that much trouble.

            So rather than me changing my name on top of all the adaptations I am already doing to fit into Japan, I might wanna keep my name and hope that, with some time and some more foreigner coming here, ways of thinking and therefore systems handling my name will change.

          • Don’t most people change their names when they move to a new country? As for naturalizing, many nations FORCE you to change your name. Most all others give you the right to do so during the naturalization process.

          • I don’t know. I’ve only ever moved from Germany to Japan. From all the people I know who moved to other countries, none of them had to or did change their names.

    • Actually, that is one of the options I looked into when I was told that, due to a recent change in the law, I could not register my Japanese name as a legal alias (in the past you could do so). I decided against it 1) because I am hoping to apply for Japanese citizenship next year, and 2) there were several hurdles involved and in the end no one–not the government official I spoke to or my lawyer–recommended it to me. The situation may be different for a permanent resident who wants to retain their current citizenship, though.

      Ultimately, I think most people don’t do it because it involves a lot of effort. First, you have to change your name in the country of your citizenship. For US citizens, that means that you have to be physically present in your state of residence to make the change. This could potentially create a hassle in terms of finding time to leave Japan to make the change and also when you re-enter Japan with your new name (which won’t match your residence card anymore). There is also the problem that your residence card and passport will list your name in romaji; you can’t use kanji. I am unsure whether or not you would be allowed to register kanji as a legal alias, but if not then all of your bank and other legal documents would still have to be done in romaji. And even if you CAN register your kanji, it is my understanding that you would first have to change all of your legal documentation (bank, license, etc) to your new legal name (in romaji), then register the kanji as an alias, and then go back and register the alias with your bank and whatever.

      So, yeah, it’s a legal pain in the butt and I can only see it being useful in a small handful of situations.

    • You don’t need to fly all the back to your country of origin to change your name. Especially if you live in Japan. The USA will not allow this. And Japan has legal name change.

      But I agree to a degree. Many change their names to “American”(ie:English) names in the USA. And, the US is indeed multicultural. Japan is homogenous. Having a foreign name can be cool. Yet limiting. I changed my name to a Japanese name that has meaning to me. Yet sounds nothing like my foreign name. It causes confusion at times. But certainly makes life a lot smoother. And some people appreciate it too.

  • Thanks for linking our articles :fan: I hope we can find some more people with the same problem to hand in a petition that won’t be overlooked so easily!!!

  • Oh goodness, don’t get me started with that.
    I guess I’m lucky that my last name is only two katakana, and my first name four (I think).
    Still, so many things tend to drive me nuts.
    First the middle name thing. So my middle name is “Guillaume” (the French Wilhelm I think) and I’m pretty sure that 90% of offices, doctors and whatnot think my name is Billadavid Guillaume.
    I noticed the first time when I noticed at the doctor’s office that Japanese people were being called Kato-sama, Yamada-sama and so on, but I was Billadavid-sama.

    I also heard about married women who end up having an insane “administrative name” because of both maiden and married name show on the passport…
    In France, it’s not a “geb” in front of the maiden name, but “épouse” (married to) in front of the married name. So let’s say the woman was Marie Martin épouse Dupont. The woman ended up being “Martinépouse” as a last name and “Dupontmarie” as a first name or something like that.

    The silliest thing that happened to me didn’t involve katakana, but alphabet actually.
    I had been in Japan about a week, I was opening a bank account and the woman made me rewrite my name three or four times because according to her, I couldn’t write in alphabet properly.
    First my capital “I” are apparently not capital “I”s (cause she knows those things better than me, obviously), then she informed me that I couldn’t write my first name “David”, cause mixing capital and lower case is not the way to do it, so DAVID it had to be. And so on…
    After several failed attempts, my wife just filled out the form cause I was still close to become another case of “angry gaijin” that gives a bad rep to all foreigners. (honestly, I never had a bad experience similar to this one ever since, although my poor wife has to fill out every form ever since, even those involving alphabet.

    • Haha, I know it’s not funny at all. I really do.
      But if I didn’t know any better, I’d say this just sounds too hilarious. That lady wanted to tell you how to write your own name correctly?? Jeez …..

      This is exactly what I meant, though. There are so many different situations where the easiest things can become a huge annoyance in Japan just because of your foreign name. It’s not the end of the world and eventually everything works out, but I really wish things could be a bit easier sometimes. ^^;

  • I just started reading your blog. Thank you for sharing your experiences.
    I have never been in Japan but I plan to go in a year or two.

    I’m Mexican and we use both our father’s and mother’s lastnames. I just have one name but there’s people who have one middle name or more. For example: Juan Carlos Francisco Rangel Santana. That name sure is long, I even heard longer names.

    So, what would happen? Just don’t go to Japan haha

    • Haha, long names are a bother no matter where you go, I guess.
      But what they do with the names here in Japan is really ridiculous. T_T

      I hope you won’t have any issues once you come here. Maybe they even have changed “the system” by then … although I doubt it. ^^;

  • I guess I’m lucky with my first name at least :-) But then again, when I was in Italy for MSc exchange, I got some pretty incredulous looks, and you could see they were thinking “who would call their daughter “never”???”. Among friends I would just go by my nickname, but you cannot really do that in a university setting where they need to know your real name when it’s time for grading. I guess you cannot win every time…

    • Haha. That’s what’s interesting about names, though.
      They could have a completely different meaning in another culture and you wouldn’t even know it until you actually go there.
      I think “Mai” is a very cute name. It’s actually quite popular here in Japan. I have a lot of elementary school kids in my classes with that name, too. ^___^

  • One is never required to use their “passport name” in Japan.

    Firstly, many foreigners have kanji names. Never heard of China before? Taiwan? Macau? Hong Kong? Singapore?

    Secondly, foreigners in Japan can legally register a kanji alias. Quite easily.

    Lastly, you cannot use “fake kanji”. Your inkan MUST be registered in your LEGAL NAME. Otherwise it is not valid.

    And good luck using a mitome-in for anything other than personal letters to friends. Or possible your gas bill.

    • Really? I’ve had tons of application forms where it says “fill out exactly as it’s printed in your passport”.
      So, of course, that also goes for your name.
      I’m not saying that you have to do this for each and every document in Japan, but for the most important ones.

      I haven’t looked into the whole “get a Japanese (pseudo) name” thing, so I can’t really say anything about that.
      Most foreigners who only stay in Japan for a very short time can usually just sign docouments. I’ve seen a recent change that many companies don’t necessarily require you to have a hanko / inkan anymore (if you’re not Japanese at least). Correct me if I’m wrong.

      And thanks a lot for the clarification. :)

      • To get a japanese pseudo name is quite easy.
        The problem is, it is not allowed to be written on the new Zairyu Cards.
        It appears only at the Juminhyo. And it can also not be used for other identity documents like the driving license. It will only appear on letters from the city office (and therefore also on the insurance card provided by the city.)
        So although you have all your “minor” documents and bank stuff registered with your japanese alias, there will be problems when those institutions want to check with your Zairyu Card or passport.

        • Essentially your 通称名 is used for everything except immigration. As for any discrepancies with your passport or residence card? How would that ever happen? For one, most Japanese businesses and governments know what a 通称名 is. Secondly, it IS on the new residence card. Just on the back, not the front. Additionally, where in Japan do you ever need to show a passport or residence card, outside of a port? If you have a Japanese driver license, health insurance card, and municipal residence card, all in your 通称名, you should not need anything else, nor have any problems….

          • Unfortunately no, the 通称 can not be included on the new zairyu card (Q. 49)

            http://www.immi-moj.go.jp/newimmiact_1/q-and-a_page2.html

            So whenever you have your 通称 registered somewhere, for example at your post office, and they ask you for a 証明書 you are kind of screwed. I don’t have a drivers license and my insurance card is provided by my company, so I have nothing else than the zairyu card and my passport to prove my identity in Japan, and both do not have the 通称 included -.- I was thinking about getting a 通称 for myself, but what good does it do if I have to carry around a 住民票 all the time, because that is the only document I own where it will appear? (and 住民票 are only valid for 3 months, if I am not mistaken).

            Essentially your 通称名 is used for everything except immigration. As for any discrepancies with your passport or residence card? How would that ever happen? For one, most Japanese businesses and governments know what a 通称名 is. Secondly, it IS on the new residence card. Just on the back, not the front. Additionally, where in Japan do you ever need to show a passport or residence card, outside of a port? If you have a Japanese driver license, health insurance card, and municipal residence card, all in your 通称名, you should not need anything else, nor have any problems….

          • Eeeeeh, I have absolutely no idea why the comment I replied to is put into my comment at the end O_o So, ehm, my comment original comment stretches to “if I am not mistaken”, just to not confuse anyone XD