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  • Writer's picturekayb02141212

How do you call a person in Japan ? -SAN,-CHAN,KUN-,SAMA

Updated: Oct 24, 2022

The way to call the person is very unique in Japanese, and it may often make you confuse. I will explain some roles, but this role is only for adult and not for kids.

1. Surname or given name?


When you meet this person as a first time.

This person is older than you (except family member).

In public, the office between co-worker, in the shop, at the bank etc…

Given name=

Between family member or friends.

With person who had agreement to call by given name. As a adult, you do not call the person by given name without permission.

2. -SAN, -CHAN, -KUN, -SAMA ?


If you use -san with surname or given name, you never be wrong. This is the polite way to call others.

On the first meeting: Surname + -SAN,

You already know this person but not your friend:

he/she is older than you: Surname/given name + -SAN.

If he/she is younger than you, you can still follow this role and this is very polite.

He/she is your elderly friend: Given name + -san


Between close friends: only by given name or + -chan (from male to female and visa vasa).

When you call baby or kid: given name + - CHAN (mainly no difference in gender but you can also use -KUN to boy).

Between family member. (there are few roles but I won’t explain this time.)


Between friends: given name + -KUN ( from female to male only ).

At the office: Boss to subordinate (both male and female).


Rarely use. Very respectful.

Normally used from service giver (at the hotel or restaurant etc….) to customers.

If you are planning to go to Japan, keep these roles in your mind.

  • Do not call the person with given name without agreement/permission.

  • When you meet this person as a first time: Surmane + -SAN.

  • You already know this person but not your friend or he/she is your elderly friend: Surname/Given name + -san

  • He/she is your friend: given name + -CHAN (male/female) + -KUN (male only).

I will introduce the role between family member or at job site in another time.

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