Introductions Part 1: Names

If you’re studying Japanese, chances are one day you’ll meet Japanese people. Whether you want to practice Japanese with an exchange student, people in a nearby Asian community or in Japan itself, you must know how to properly and politely introduce yourself.

The basic point of a proper Japanese introduction is to state your name. You can also state your occupation and nationality if you like. After this, you should say one of two phrases depending on the situation.


There are two ways to state your name in Japanese that are roughly equivalent to how you would introduce yourself in English:

1. (Watashi wa) NAME desu. = I’m NAME.

*The “watashi wa” part is optional. You can just say “NAME desu” and it means the same thing due to the context of an introduction.

2. Watashi no namae wa NAME desu. = My name is NAME.

Yes, the Japanese word for name is “namae,” “nah-mah-eh.” It’s not even derived from English! But the similar way the words are spelled makes it easier for English-speakers to remember.

When a Japanese person introduces him or herself, be aware that the proper way for a Japanese person (and many Eastern people) to state his or her name is with the family name first and then the given name.

In other words, a person whom Western people would call “Fumiko Matsumoto” (“Fumiko” being her given name and “Matsumoto” being her family name) would introduce herself as “Matsumoto Fumiko.” You would then proceed to call her “Matsumoto-san” and refrain from calling her by her given name unless she gives you permission to do so.

(Unlike in the West, it is rare for colleagues and acquaintances in Japan to call each other by given names. Only close friends and family have the honor of doing so. In fact, some couples start dating and still call each other by their family names for weeks, months, or even years. A great turning point in their relationship is when they give each other permission to use their given names!)

There is one caveat to this system of “family name first.” Japanese people are aware that Westerners state their given names first and, realizing that you’re foreign, they may introduce themselves in the Western way. You will learn over time to figure out the common differences between most given names and family names.

Japanese people will also expect you as a Westerner to introduce yourself the Western way, even in Japanese, so don’t worry about giving your family name before your given name. It will sound weird even to the Japanese.

The best ways for the American Jane Doe to state her name in Japanese, then, is:

(Watashi wa) Jane Doe desu.


Watashi no namae wa Jane Doe desu.

Whereas the Japanese Jouji Yamamoto will say:

(Watashi wa) Yamamoto Jouji desu.


Watashi no namae wa Yamamoto Jouji desu.

Unless, aware that you’re foreign, he chooses to introduce himself the Western way, with the given name first!

Memorize the way to state your name in Japanese. However, you’re not quite ready to introduce yourself just yet. Come back on Wednesday for Introductions Part 2.

No related posts.

Tags: japan, japanese culture, japanese language