What's -san & -chan after name?

26 Apr
whats-san-chan In my previous posts, I was not kind enough to explain to you about “name + san” or “name + chan” way of expression that I used as a matter of course.

Kinako-san, for example, I used in my previous posts means adding “san” to her name in order to show her some respect. Meanwhile do you remember my little dog Pi-chan? In this case I added “chan” to her name, showing her affection and friendship.

This is a very basic rule of Japanese. We can call each other, for example, Kirin-chan when we are close friends, but Kirin-san sounds more polite and normal at school, office, or anywhere. When it comes to Kirin-sama, it is highly respected and -sama is often used by people who get paid for the service they offer. At hotels, restaurants, shops, airport, etc., where customers are called with their name followed by -sama. In hospitals however, it’s unlikely used because doctors can make living even without being modest to their patients? I don’t know. πŸ˜›

4 Responses to “What's -san & -chan after name?”

  1. Dutchie April 26, 2009 at 3:54 pm #

    Hi kirin

    Glad u cleared that up for us. I had known only san bec my Japanese colleagues in SG uses it. I gathered from Pi-chan that the term must be used to show affection. The “sama” is unknown to me. I learned something new today πŸ™‚

    I used to work for a company where I met men n women with academic titles, like Prof. dr. ir Lutz. It was quite confusing how to address them. I hv been chewed off for offending some bec they want all their titles to show on the letters n memo’s but I thought being colleagues, we could keep it cordial n simple, like addressing them as Professors. The Germans r especially strict n formal, so I enquire b4hand how they should be called.

    Btw, Prof means he’s a lecturer. dr is his doctorate degree n ir is short for engineer. It can be in many fields of expertise – mathematics, space, science or nuclear which was the department that I was dealing with. It’s interesting to meet so many super-intelligent human beings but they r sadly lacking in being humble to others.
    They do address me as missus D., so I guess that was the clue to keep things formal at all times. The Americans r the only ones who gets to the first name basis after 2 secs of meeting with me. It’s much more fun to hv them treating u as an equal – at least as a human being πŸ˜‰

    So, are relationships with colleagues just as formal in Japan ? Are u never called Mrs … instead of Kirin-san ?

    As with doctors u mentioned, I guess they hv to keep a distance for ethics reasons. My doc who is much older than us, addresses us as Mr or Mrs when we hv to consult him. Our town is very small n sometimes we meet him while out on an evening stroll, so we would wave to each other n politely enquire how he is enjoying the exercise, haha.

  2. Walter April 26, 2009 at 8:45 pm #

    Aha! Thank you for explaining, Kirin-san.
    From manga and anime I’ve become accustomed to the use of -sama and -chan ( -kun for boys ) and other honorifics as senpai and sensei .
    In ‘Rurouni Kenshin’ the ronin Himura Kenshin keeps referring to Kaoru as Kaoru-dono , but that’s ofcourse in line with his character. πŸ˜€
    A few years ago I started to look it up to understand better and I found an exhaustive explanation on
    but I can’t tell which is for everyday in use in Japan.

    Dutch used to know around 40 to 50 honorifics, depending on the profession, diploma, level of priesthood ( from priest to pope ) , royalty, military, etc..
    They’re still in use , but mainly in writing ( except for religion and royalty.)
    I find the Japanese way of adding the honorific much better πŸ˜‰

  3. Walter April 26, 2009 at 8:49 pm #

    Actually , I’m glad you brought it up , because I’ve been sometimes calling you Kirin-chan, when replying to a comment on my blog, but always as Kirin-san on your blog , because I find it more polite .
    I wonder if that’s a correct way of doing it ❓
    If not, a thousand apologies 😳

  4. kirin April 27, 2009 at 2:23 am #


    I’m sorry my explanation was not good enough. 😯
    I should have mentioned that our culture is totally family name oriented, which is quite opposite to the U.S. style.
    In that way, at office or any social places we call each other “family name + san” until we get close to each other enough to call “first name + san” or “first name + chan”.

    Back to my story, for example,
    I called Kinako-san and Inko-san nevertheless it was first time meeting with them (both are first name. normally I should call them their family name followed by san) and this is maybe because they use nickname, or their first name sounds so unique and much more stands out from their family name. πŸ˜›

    I’m so sorry for confusing way of my expression. (-_-;)


    You can call me whatever you want to ❗ πŸ™‚
    Please never worry about “san” or “chan” or anything.
    Actually as far as I blog in English, you don’t have to follow our (Japanese) honorific rules at all! πŸ˜† Just call me Kirin, and that’s fine with me. πŸ˜‰

    I should’ve explained -kun, for boys as you mention. (@_@;) Gee…it’s not easy to tell people how we use our language. I’m far from a Japanese teacher, πŸ˜† forgive me of my poor explanation. I’ll try some better ways next time! :mrgreen:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: