What is Your Name in Japanese? Name Generator and Katakana Chart

What’s a better way to dip your toes into the Japanese language besides claiming a Japanese name? English-base or foreign names are generally written using the phonetic katakana alphabet. An exception would be a name with Chinese characters, which you can choose to be read with Japanese reading.

Coto Academy is a Japanese language school located in Tokyo and Yokohama. With its small class sizes and flexible course schedule, we ensure the students find their community here in Japan and learn practical and useful daily-life Japanese by focusing on conversational practice.

In fact, it has become more common in Japan (at least in newspapers and other media) to refer to people with Chinese and some Korean names that are kanji-based using the original pronunciation instead of reading the kanji in the Japanese way. For example, if your Chinese surname is 林 (which is pronounced Lim or Lin), you can pronounce the character as “Hayashi”—which was the most common surname in Japan in the 19th century.

Luckily, building a Japanese name is easy. In fact, you don’t need a name generator — just basic knowledge of hiragana and katakana.

Jump to

How to Say “What is your name?” in Japanese

In Japanese, to ask someone their name, you can say these:

Onamae wa nan desu ka?
What is your name?

Here’s a quick question: Why don’t we say “あなたの名前は何ですか“?

The reason is that the Japanese often omit words if interpreted through context. In this instance, if you speak directly to someone, you don’t need to use the words “your” or “you”. If you’re not talking with anyone else, your conversation partner should know you’re referring to them directly.

An even easier way to ask someone “what is your name” in Japanese is to use:

Onamae ha?
Your name is…?

If you’re curious about Japan’s second-person pronoun, check out our guide here.

How to Say “My Name Is” in Japanese

There are several ways to introduce your name to someone in Japanese. It depends on who you speak with, your social hierarchy, and your relationship with the listener.

For example, the most basic way to say it is:

Watashi no namae wa Samu desu.
My name is Sam.

However, although this is technically correct, it’s not the most natural expression. In the same way, you don’t include “you” in many Japanese sentences (unless indicated); Japanese people tend not to use first-person pronouns.

The easiest and most common way to tell someone what your name is in Japanese is to state your name and attach です (desu) simply. For example:

Samu desu.

This is entirely different if you’re in a more formal environment, like a business meetup or meeting someone new who might be older than you.

Samu to moushimasu.
My name is Sam.

Also, check out: Watashi, Boku or Ore: How to say me in Japanese

name in japanese conversion

How the Japanese Language Recognizes English Vowels and Consonants

Think of your name as a borrowed English word directly transliterated to Japanese in katakana form. A katakana transcription of foreign words is based on how the word sounds — not how it is spelled.

The English language has 20 distinct vowel phonemes, making it one of the most complex vowel systems of any language in the world. The Japanese language has only 5 vowels: a, i, u, e, o. They are terse vowels pronounced clearly and sharply.

So what does this mean? How a word appears as katakana depends on how it is heard by native speakers. Japanese has fewer different sounds than English, and it does not have many ending consonants. Words tend to gain extra vowels or be reduced to the language’s closest sound.

For example, the English word “cat” becomes katakana キャット (kyatto) with an extra “o” at the end. The word “hug” has the vowel that’s closest to “a”, so Japanese people will say it as “ハッグ”.

How to Write Your Name in Japanese

Japanese has two alphabets and one pictorial writing system based on Chinese characters.

The writing systems in Japanese are:

  • Kanji (Chinese characters)
  • Hiragana (Japanese phonetic alphabet)
  • Katakana (Japanese phonetic alphabet used for words of foreign origin)

If you’re new to learning Japanese, don’t worry. We have a 30-day hiragana challenge to speed up the process and motivate you. 

Japanese people write their names in Kanji. If you’re a foreigner, you’ll mostly have to write your name in katakana. Below is a katakana chart.

Some sounds in Japanese don’t directly transfer from English.  For example, the “v” is not a natural sound in Japanese. The pronunciation sounds similar to that of a bee in English when translated into Katakana.

For example, if your name is David, it becomes “デービッド or De-biddo.

There are no set ways of writing English names in Katakana, but there are more popular ways of doing it.

For example, the name Samuel can be written as “サミュエル” or Samyu-e-ru or as “サムエル”. You can use the above chart to create your name! Or, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can also use a Japanese name generator.

Rules of Conversion to a Japanese Name

Traditionally, some names have unusual pronunciations — at least in Japanese. Vowels are usually changed into the nearest equivalent Japanese vowel. Japanese has fewer vowels than English, so the two different vowels in “fur” and “far” get turned into Japanese ファー.

This might look complicated, but the table below outlines the rules for transcribing English sounds. They consist of short and long vowels, consonants, schwa sounds, and diphthongs.

Conversion to Japanese Vowels

English PhoneticExampleJapanese TranscriptionExample
ɪitイ, iピット (pitto)
ɛpetエ, eペット (petto)
æSamア, aサム (samu)
æ after kcapキャ, kyaキャップ (kyappu)
ʌmugア, aマグ (magu)
ɒsocksオ, oソックス (sokkusu)
ʊbookウ, uブック (bukku)
əTimothyBased on spelling ティモシー
ɑːcarアー, ア aaaカー (kā)
shieldイー: iiシールド (shiirudo)
ɔːhorseオー: ooホース (hōsu)
Mayエイ, eiメイ (mei)
myアイ, aiマイ (mai)
ɔɪboyオーイ, ōiボーイ (bōi)
əʊphoneオ, oフォン (fon)
nowアウ, auナウ (nau)
ɪəpierceイア, iaピアス (piasu)
ɛəhairエア, eaヘア (hea)
ʊətourウアー, uaaツアー (tsuā)
Data taken from www.sljfaq.org

Conversion to Japanese Consonants

English PhoneticExampleJapanese TranscriptionExample
θthinkシャ, シ, シュ, シェ, ショ sシンク (shinku)
ðthezザ (za)
rrightラ, リ, ル, レ, ロ: r-kanaライト (raito)
llinkラ, リ, ル, レ, ロ: r-kanaリンク (rinku)
ŋ spelt “ng”singerンガ, ンギ ngシンガー (shingā)
ŋ spelt “nk” or “nc”sinkン, nシンク (shinku)
vlovebラブ (rabu)
vヴ (the u katakana) plus a small vowelvisualヴィジュアル (vijuaru)
wwinウィ: u + small vowel kanaウィン (win)
ffightファ, フィ, フ, フェ, フォ: hu + small vowel kanaファイト (faito)
ti, diDisneyティ, ディ (te or de + small i) (newer method)ディズニー (dizunii)
tutwoツ: tsuツー (tsū)
dzgoods, kidsッズ zzuグッズ, キッズ (guzzu, kizzu)

Japanese Name Generator: Make Your Name in Japanese

If you want a lazy way of finding out how to write your new name in Japanese, you can also use a katakana name generator; we have linked to a few that you can use:

Learn more than just your name in Japanese with our Japanese lessons!

Follow our social media channels for updates on upcoming events, special offers, and useful information about Japan.

Want to learn more about Japanese language and culture?
Book a free level check consultation with us to join!

Test your Japanese level!

Do a self-test to see which course fits you.

Check your level