FoxxFireArt (Level 25)

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Welcome to - Lesson 2 Japanese Writing: Japanese & Foreign Names

It's been a while since I was able to get to these lessons. So, I thought I would get this one out there a day earlier than usual. I was taking a break one week as I was marathoning Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and updating the Anime Vice wiki on the series. I think I was cursed last week. I was writing this all up and ready to start attaching the images and upload when I noticed that nothing was working. That threw off my schedule and I was never able to get back to the lesson. With this new week starting. I figure now is a good time to get back to the Anime Vice Japanese Lessons.

This week I'm going to be teaching you a pretty simple lesson. I've already taught you the basics in reading and writing Japanese in Hiragana and Katakana. If you are just joining us in these lessons. Look to the bottom of this posting and see the Lesson Guide. This week's lesson is all about learning the patterns of reading and writing a Japanese and foreign names in Japanese. This is not about learning to read or write the Kanji. Learning Kanji will be much later.

I can't read your minds to know these lessons are helping anyone. A lot of people seems really into these lessons when I announced I was starting them, but have gotten very few comments.

Japanese Names

Since this is a lesson in Japanese, we should start with Japanese names. Japanese names are always written in a simple patter. What we know in English as the Last Name is more referred to in Japan as the Family Name. In Japan, you always write the family name first then your Given Name (First Name). This is a concept that nearly anyone remotely familiar with anime/manga knows. What you may not know is that the Japanese form of writing called Romaji(a practice of changing Japanese kana into the Latin alphabet.) doesn't recognize capital letters. If you have ever seen Romaji capitalized. That is normally targeted toward an English audience.

I will be placing the Hiragana over each of the proper Kanji so you will know which is which.

I am linking you to the Hiragana Chart here for your benefit if you have forgotten any of these or need a refresher.

Hiragana Chart: HERE

Firstly, let's start you off with a Character that many of you may already know.

Ichigo Kurosaki
Ichigo Kurosaki

This is the main protagonist of BLEACH, Ichigo Kurosaki. Names written in full Kanji for both the family and given names may have a space put between them, but this may not always be the case. The Romaji form of his name would be "kurosaki ichigo".

In case your interested, this is the break down of the meaning of Ichigo's name.

黒 kuro (black/dark)

崎 saki (small peninsula)

一 ichi (one)

護 go (protect/defend)

Ichigo can also mean strawberries, but that is written with this kanji 苺 (which also contains the kanji for mother in it) or written in Hiragana as いちご (ichigo).

Missing O & Silent U-

Next we are going to bring up an issue that is more a practice in English when writing Japanese names. It's one where names written in English will drop the う (u) from a name, and the お (o) characters.

Ryoko Okami
Ryoko Okami

This is the Japanese name of the Okami-san lead character named Ryoko Okami. Now, if you have studied or you check the Hiragna reference chart above you will see that the Romaji form of Ryoko's name is actually "ookami ryouko". Has you may notice that when her name has been written in English it is missing that extra O and U you can see in the picture.

I'm not particularly sure why they remove the U when in English, but it will happen a lot. Sometimes you will see the U character. It will depend on the person translating. When writing in English the う (u) is either treated as if it was never there. Other times a mark is place above the letter that came before it. It's known as a Macron. You have probably seen this before when studying other languages. With a macron the "ryouko" name would appear like this in English - "Ryōko"

If you see a Macron in a Japanese names. It could mean a few things. It's either that there is either a う(u) following that letter or the vowel is repeating.

Here are some examples:

ā = aa

ē = ee

ī = ii

ō = oo

ū = uu

This is something you will see more often in writing Katakana, since the dash character asks you to extent the vowel sound.

Added H

Another way of handling the extra お(o) and う(u) specifically can be to place an "h" in the name when writting the name in English. You might of seen a Japanese name that had a random "h" in it after an "o". Sometimes the extra お(o) is written with with a macron or nothing. Other times an "h" is placed in the name. An example would be with the character Kaname Ohgi (おうぎ かなめ). When you look at his family name written in Hiragana. You see the う(u) written after the お(o). When the name was officially translated into English, the "h" was added in place of the う(u).

This can also happen if their is a double おお(oo). The second お(o) would be written with an "h". So, if you ever seen an "h" in a name such as Ohgi or Tohdoh. After that お(o) is either a う(u) or another お(o). This is just something to keep in mind when reading Japanese names or words written in English.

Names with Hiragana and Katakana

There are name cases in manga/anime series where a character's Japanese name will not be written in a Kanji. It would be written in either Hiragana or Katakana. You will see this often in series that are targeting a younger audience that have yet to learn all the Kanji. This also helps when a character's given name is a proper word. Most of the characters in the Naruto series have their given names written in Katakana.

Sakura Haruno
Sakura Haruno

Good examples of this can be seen in the Naruto series. As my example, I'm using Sakura Haruno name. You will notice that her family name is written in kanji. Her given name is in Katakana. This can be for two reason. One, it's because they want a younger audience to see サクラ(sakura) and know someone is saying her name. As I said before, Kanji doesn't have the benefits of capital letters to distinguish between words and names.

An example would be with a girl who's name was "Spring". If the S wasn't capitalized, you wouldn't know that was a name while reading. You might think it meant the season.

Another reason her name could be written in Katakana is because sakura has another meaning in Japanese. Sakura is another name for Cherry Blossoms. If her name use the sakura kanji=桜 or the hiragana=さくら. The reader might not know they are saying her name and not "cherry blossom".

Some children may even start out writing their names in Hiragana before they learn the Kanji for their given name. An adult may use Hiragana or Katakana to write their given anme because they want their name to stand out more, or because they name a common name. I've seen that more with women's names.

Foreign Names

Names written outside of Japan are almost always written in Katakana. Even when a person is from another Asian nation, such as China. This is because both Japan and China share Kanji, but they don't have the same meaning in Japan as they do in China. Also, there are sounds in the Chinese language not found in Japan. Look at the name of Bruce Lee (or Rock Lee if you prefer). There is no "L" sound in Japanese. So, there names are written as Lee(リー, rii). That's about as far as I will touch on Chinese names.

When learning to write an English (or any other language) name into Japanese. It can be tricky. That's because you want to avoid trying to be literal. You want to go by phonetics (how the name sounds) and match it up the best way you can with the proper Katakana.

A popular misconception in the U.S. is that all names spoken in Japenese are said with the Family name first then Given name. The is completely false. Foreign names outside of Asia are written in our standard Given and Family name format. My name wouldn't be written or pronounced as Remmell Kristoffer. It would just be said as Kristoffer Remmell.

The only time in a Japanese series have I seen European style names spoken with family name first is One Piece. In that series, everyone's name is written and spoken with family name then given. It's just the style of world Eiichro Oda created.

When foreign names are written in Japanese a dot is placed in between the words to let the reader know when one name ends and the next begins. This dot is called an Interpenct. It's only ever really used for names or proper titles, such as movies, albums, or books. An example would be the sound track for Summer Wars. In Japanese it's written as 「サマーウォーズ」 オリジナル・サウンドトラック (samaa woozu orijinaru saundotorakku). The interpenct was in between "Original" and "Soundtrack"

Katakana Chart: HERE

Let's use some anime examples to help you out with writing names.

Edward Elric
Edward Elric

This is the lead character from Fullmetal Alchemist. His name is Edward Elric. In romaji, his name would look closer to this "edowaado erurikku". What you may notice is that in Edward's given name that there is no R base characters. Instead there is a "dash" mark. As covered in the last Katakana Lesson. This dash means you extend the vowel sound that comes before it.

This is my given name in Japanese = Kristoffer (クリストファー, kurisutofaa). You might think the name should end with a R-Base character, but that would be wrong. Rs after a vowel sound As are more often just written by extending that A sound in place of the R. Look at Edward's family name of Elric. There is a ル(ru) to represent the L sound in his name, and following it is a リ(ri).

An example would be with Arthur the cat from Code Geass. You would be mistaken if you thought the name written in Katakana would be ア(a)タ(ta)ラ(ra). If you pronounced it all together, it wouldn't sound right. Even if the Romaji together look close. The correct way to spell Arthur in Japanese is アーサー(aasaa). When you say it out loud, it sounds like Arthur.

Another example of a common mistake would be with the name Gina. You wouldn't use ギナ(gina). It name look right in Romaji, but the pronunciation of the ギ(gi) is wrong. The correct way to write Gina in Japanese would be either ジナ(jina) or ジーナ(jiina). That would sound correct when pronounce in Japanese.

Let's try another character.

Erica Hartmann
Erica Hartmann

This is Erica Hartmann from Strike Witches. Her name in Japanese is エーリカ・ハルトマン "eerika harutoman". This is sort of an exception to the R after A rule. This is more of a style choice. Her name could also be written as ハートマン(haatoman), but what is used also works. This is probably to help the reader know her name is Hartmann and not Hatmann.

In fact, if you want to learn how to spell certain European style names in Japanese. Just go through the list of characters for the series Fullmetal Alchemist and Strike Witches. I've gone through all the character profiles and made sure their Japanese names sections are filled out. (It's interesting that throughout Fullmetal Alchemist, there were not characters that had a name written in Kanji or Hiragana. All names were either European or Chinese in origin.)

Middle Initials

The Middle Initial is a funny thing when written in Japanese. They don't really have them, but when writing them for a person, it's actually written as the Latin letter.

Monkey D. Luffy
Monkey D. Luffy

I'll use two examples for this. First I will use a famous one of Monkey D. Luffy. In Japanese his name is written as モンキー・D・ルフィ "monkii dii rufi". Another example would be Solf J. Kimblee ゾルフ・J・キンブリー "zorufu jee kinburii". This is only done if the name is written using the initial. If you were to write the First, Middle, and Last Name. It would all be in Katakana. An example would be Olivier Milla Armstrong オリヴィエ・ミラ・アームストロング "orivie mira aamusutorongu".

Foreign Names with Macron

Above I discussed how the macron mark(dash mark above the vowel) is used in Japanese names written in romaji. This can also be used heavily when writing foreign names in romaji, because so often you are being asked to extend vowel sounds. In this portion of the lesson I've been using strict Romaji, but both are perfectly acceptable. Below is a chart using the examples of the foreign names I have shown you so far with and without the macron.

EnglishJapaneseRomajiRomaji w/Macron
Edward Elricエドワード・エルリックEdowaado ErurikkuEdowādo Erurikku
Kristoffer Remmellクリストファー・レメルKurisutofaa RemeruKurisutofā Remeru
Erica Hartmannエーリカ・ハルトマンEerika HarutomanĒrika Harutoman
Monkey D. Luffyモンキー・D・ルフィMonkii D. RufiMonkī D. Rufi
Solf J. Kimbleeゾルフ・J・キンブリーZorufu J. KinburiiZorufu J Kinburī
Olivier Milla Armstrongオリヴィエ・ミラ・アームストロングOrivie Mira AamustoronguOrivie Mira Āmusutorongu

This was a pretty detailed and involved lesson. I hope I was able to cover everything to help you out. I probably should of split it up into two sections. Remember if you have any questions, post in the comments. Also, post in the comments if you liked this and it helped you.

TIP: Writing Your Name in Japanese

If you are still unsure how you write your name in Japanese. You can try Google Translate. Just set it for English to Japanese. If your name it's too obscure, it can be good for the answer. It didn't want to recognize my full name "Kristoffer", but it would recognize the "Kristoff " part. When I wrote in the more common "Christopher". It knew that name in Japanese. Truth be told, the true way to pronounce my name is actually a "Kristoff" with an "er" at the end.

Next Lesson: Names - Honorifics

Back to Lesson Guide: HERE

-Kristoffer Remmell ( FoxxFireArt) is a freelance graphic artist, writer, and over all mystery geek.- Follow for lesson updates: @ animevice / @ FoxxFireArt

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