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 How do Japanese names work? Non-Japanese people usually write their names in Japanese in katakana. See What is katakana used for? Katakana writings are based on the sounds of words rather than spellings. It is not possible to transcribe an English name to Japanese merely by substituting katakana for the nearest English letters. Rather, it is necessary to work out what the name sounds like to Japanese ears, then transcribe that sound into katakana.
The simplest way to find out what katakana corresponds to your name is to ask a Japanese person. If you do not have someone available, various dictionaries can be consulted. See Online dictionaries for online ones. Another quick way of finding out the common katakana form of a name is explained in How can I find the Japanese name of a film, person, plant, etc.? Basically, look for people with the same name as yours. For example, if your name is Ben Bullock, look up Ben Affleck and Sandra Bullock in English-language Wikipedia, then check the 日本語 link to find what names they are given in the Japanese Wikipedia article.
The rules for converting an English word into katakana are explained in How do I write an English word in Japanese? Without a lot of experience of Japanese, it is very difficult to predict how these rules will be applied, so the sci.lang.japan FAQ also offers an automatic converter based on these rules:
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. The sci.lang.japan FAQ also offers an automatic convertor for kanji names:
People who are living in Japan should be careful about this, since often official documents need romanized forms of names. For example, the Residence Card (Zairyu card) uses romanized names, and purchasing a vehicle requires a romanized inkan (stamp) rather than a katakana one. See How do the Japanese sign their names?
Some non-Japanese residents of Japan use a kanji name called a tsūshōmei (通称名) which is either their Chinese or Korean kanji name or a name derived from their Japanese spouse's.
Copyright © 1994-2018 Ben Bullock
If you have questions, corrections, or comments, please contact Ben Bullock or use the discussion forum / Privacy