Very rarely will you see a Japanese name in Chinese without 汉字.

  • What rules are there for translating Japanese names into Chinese?

Take for instance the name Yoshi (よし) 汉字 include: 与四、与志、与子、与士、与司, just to name a few (and there are, like, a million different variations).

What standards are there when translating Japanese names that may/may not have 汉字 equivalents?

  • Japanese pronunciations and the corresponding Chinese characters in names have nothing to do with this discussion board. I mean knowing Chinese is helpless for your question. You may want to check: japanese.stackexchange.com – FortCpp Apr 18 '15 at 18:11

1. Kanji with Chinese character counterpart

Wikipedia (ref 1) implies this is the majority case:

Japanese names are usually written in kanji, which are characters usually Chinese in origin but Japanese in pronunciation.

When translating these names, the kanji characters are directly converted to their Chinese counterparts. It's not always 1:1 though, like both 沢(kanji) and 澤(kanji) map to 泽(Chinese character).

2. Kanji without Chinese character counterpart

Wikipedia (ref 1):

Sometimes, a Japanese name includes kokuji. These kanji resemble Chinese characters but originate in Japan and do not have Chinese pronunciations. For example, the word komu (込) has no Chinese reading. When words like this are encountered, usually the rule of "有邊讀邊,沒邊讀中間" ("read the side if any, read the middle part if there is no side") applies. Therefore "込" is read as "rù" which is derived from 入.

This paragraph implies these kokuji are not translated, instead, Chinese pronunciations are 'invented' for reading.

On the other hand, the Zhihu Q/A (ref 3) suggests


In practice we see all different methods being used even in formal occasions (like broadcast and newspaper). No single rule is strictly followed.

3. Hiragana and katakana in names

From real life cases we know this is the place with the most flexibility. One thing I'm sure is the hiragana or katakana have to be translated into Chinese characters, but methods may span 'best guess' kanji conversion, direct paraphrasing, contextual paraphrasing, transliteration (rare), etc.

As mentioned in ref 3, when it comes to ACG (Anime, Comics and Games) or any fictitious names, it's free translation. Examples:

  1. 音译 例如:アラレ → 阿拉蕾(原词为放在拉面里面的小号膨化颗粒)
  2. 按读音填补汉字 例如:ナルト → 鸣人(原词为拉面上面放的鱼饼,常画有粉红色的螺旋图案)
  3. 意译 例如:ピッコロ → 短笛(就是乐器短笛的意思)
  4. 根据人物角色特点进行的完全颠覆式翻译 例如:野比のび太 → 康夫(原文翻译,用填补汉字的方式应为野比延太或野比伸太)

For real person's names I believe 'best guess' kanji conversion is the most common method, with which there is still a lot of flexibility (or say lack of standard) like you said in your question.

E.g. '沢尻 エリカ' (Japanese actress) does not have kanji for her given name and used to be translated as '泽尻 绘里香' as 'best guess kanji'. Later the actress herself picked '泽尻 英龙华' (which has the same pronunciation) as the 'official' kanji name (reference here).

BTW, for Yoshi in your question, I believe the most common 'best guess' kanji is 吉.


  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_name

  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanji

  3. http://www.zhihu.com/question/20423517

| improve this answer | |
  • 有边读边,无边读半边。what a f**king dan directions。I have another like this 秀才读字读半边 if you dont know a Chinese character。 – wolfrevo Apr 19 '15 at 6:04
  • @Jacob 四川人生得憨,认字认半边 | rù (込) is a horrible Chinese name to have! – Mo. Apr 19 '15 at 7:18
  • @user3306356 According to the rules,込 pronounce 走之。 – wolfrevo Apr 19 '15 at 7:42

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