Japanese Names


In Japan personal names follow family names. My name is Shinagawa Tetsuhiko. Shinagawa is a family name and Tetsuhiko is a personal name. The order is contrary between English and Japanese. Many Japanese change it, when they call themselves in English. For example, "My name is Tetsuhiko Shinagawa." I find this custom strange and ridiculous. In China personal names follow family names too. For example, Mao is a family name and Ze-dong is a personal name. But Chinese would not reverse names, if they introduce themselves in English.

However many American and European could not tell whether Shinagawa is a family name or a personal name. Therefore I often write my family name in the capital letters as SHINAGAWA Tetsuhiko.

By chance the last letter of my family name is "a" and the last letter of my personal name is "o". Thus I can inflect it in Latin: Shinagawam Tetsuhikonem (accusative), Shinagawae Tetsuhikonis (genitive), Shinagawae Tetsuhikoni (dative) Shinagawa Tetsuhikone(ablative).

Most of Japanese names are written with Kanji, e. g. Chinese letters. Each of Chinese letters has the own meaning. My name, Shinagawa, consist of two Chinese letters. Man does not translate proper names. However if I dare to translate my name into Germany and introduce myself, I could say, "Mein Name ist Philosophius Warenbach." Because the Japanese word "Tetsugaku" means philosophy, "hiko" man, "shina" goods, and "gawa (kawa)" river. One of my friends in Germany said to me, "Oh, the name Philosophius Warenbach would be very suitable for a great scholar! But I have never heard such a name!" After all translation of proper names is so ridiculous as reversing the own family name and the own personal name.