When I hear people talk about Tokyo in Mandarin, they always pronounce it as "dōng jīng" because it's written as 东京. Similarly for Osaka and "dà bǎn" (大阪), and other such places.

Are there any names for places in Japan where this isn't done? For example, is Akihabara still called "qiū yè yuán" (秋叶原) or is it better known as just "Akihabara"? Are there any place names in Japan for which the Japanese pronunciation of the name is better known and more commonly used in China than the Chinese one?

  • For example, I know that in Korean, there is no "Chinese" version of Seoul, and the version that's officially used in Chinese is just a transliteration.
    – Joe Z.
    Sep 24, 2014 at 21:03
  • The Japanese pronunciation of kanji usually makes no sense to Chinese people, whereas the kanji does. So as long as the place names can be written as kanji, they are always read with their Chinese pronunciation of the corresponding Chinese characters.
    – ltux
    May 29, 2017 at 10:47

2 Answers 2


You're right. Chinese people read Kanji using their Chinese pronunciations. For Chinese people who don't speak Japanese, they have probably only learned 'tokyo' from the English word and they don't have a clue what 'akihabara' is. The same applies to nouns, proper nouns and names.

  • 7
    I would add that some transit systems in Japan have stop announcements in Chinese, and they read place names using the Mandarin pronunciations. For place names that have non-Kanji components, they are simply left out of the Mandarin reading (e.g., 西ヶ原 Nishigahara becomes 西原 Xīyuán). One exception to this is ノ no, which is translated to 之, a Chinese character of equivalent meaning (e.g., 丸ノ内 Marunouchi becomes 丸之内 Wánzhīnèi).
    – Claw
    Sep 24, 2014 at 23:02
  • also note: Oxford 牛津, Cambridge 剑桥,San Francisco 旧金山
    – user6065
    Sep 25, 2014 at 0:49

Just adding a bit.

We also use respective Japanese pronunciations when we introduce ourselves in Japan....unless your name contains something really weird.

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