|sci.lang.japan FAQ / 9. Names|
Japanese has a writing system consisting of two ways of writing, kanji and two forms of kana, hiragana and katakana. Japanese people usually write their names using kanji, and sometimes hiragana or katakana. See 9.3. How do Japanese names work?. Non-Japanese people usually write their names in Japanese in katakana. See 1.1.9. What is katakana used for? Katakana writings are based on the sounds of words rather than spellings.
To find out what katakana corresponds to your name, the easiest thing to do is to ask a Japanese person to help. If you do not have someone available, various dictionaries can be consulted. See 16.2. Online dictionaries for online ones. The rules for converting an English word into katakana are explained in 5.1. How do I write an English word in Japanese?, and the sci.lang.japan FAQ offers a converter based on these rules:
Another quick way of finding out the common katakana form of a name is explained in 9.9. How can I find the Japanese name of a film, person, plant, etc.?
To write a name in kanji, the FAQ has an online "ABC" to kanji converter which converts letters into similar-looking kanji, but this will not give a meaningful pronunciation. To get a kanji name with a similar pronunciation to an English name, ask a Japanese person for help or look in a book.
However, people living in Japan should be careful that official documents actually need romanized forms of names. For example, the alien registration card uses romanized names, and purchasing a vehicle requires a romanized inkan (stamp) rather than a katakana one. See 9.8. How do the Japanese sign their names?
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