My name in Kanji

A few years ago, while we were drinking in a basement beer bar in Yokohama, some Japanese friends decided to figure out how to spell my last name in Kanji. Generally, a foreigner writing his name in Japanese would use the Katakana alphabet. But occasionally foreigners will “spell” their name in Kanji, the Chinese characters that Japanese use for many of their words. The goal is to match the sounds made by the characters to the name (for me, the two sounds are ma + ku). But since the Kanji have meaning as well as sound, and there are usually several Kanji with the same sound, one can also choose the Kanji to provide a meaning that in some way reminds you of the person. After some discussion (that I didn’t understand) and some beer (that I did), a final spelling was agreed upon. Here is my name in Kanji. I like it.

Mack in Kanji

2 thoughts on “My name in Kanji”

  1. When I lived in Japan, I asked my secretary (yes, those still existed) to come up with spelling for my name, not realizing what a complex request this was. After lots of research, she came back with a range of options. As I floated these around the office, everyone had their own opinion and input. My name is more complicated (Ashkenaz), but given Japanese pronunciation, it grew to 5 syllables (Ah-shu-ke-na-zu), although some of the interpretations might slide the consonants around. What we finally settled on can be interpreted as something like "honorable treasure (or ball) from America in Asia."

    I even had an official Hanko (stamp or chop) made with that name for use on legal documents, so it’s official. When you come to my house, you’ll find my kanji name on a fine tsugiwood plaque to the right of my door.

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