Tagged: name

What’s My Name? Revisited

This month’s Japan Blog Matsuri theme is The Language of Japan, and I’ve been scratching my head all month over what to write. I haven’t studied Japanese for years now, and although I have a few amusing stories of miscommunication, nothing worthy of an entire blog post.

So, I delved into the LongCountdown archives and submitted an article I wrote back in March 2007. It’s about the confusion that arises from having a foreign name in Japan. It’s just as appropriate today as it was when I wrote it. Enjoy: What’s My Name?

The deadline for this month’s Japan Blog Matsuri is this Saturday night, September 20th. Get your entries in quick! More info here.

Tempted by Commufa, a Cheap Alternative to NTT Flets

If you live in the Chubu region, you’ve probably seen the TV commercials for Commufa Hikari, a product of Chubu Telecommunications. They run a pretty aggressive marketing campaign with door-to-door and telephone sales reps, and since I was not opposed to saving 2,000 yen on my phone bill, I agreed to take them up on their offer.

A no-hassle changeover?

At least I did at first. The problem is, although they promise an easy transition from your current phone and internet setup, it’s really not that easy at all. They give you the impression that they will take care of everything for you, but they can’t. It’s still your responsibility to cancel your internet provider (in my case OCN) and your current internet setup (in my case NTT Flets Hikari). Plus, you have to deal with the sales rep, the engineer and the admin person, all of whom phone you at 30 minute intervals on numerous occasions – at least in my experience.

Twenty questions

They weren’t rude at all, but with so many questions about your current set up, including the direction of the room in which your second computer is based, it all gets a bit overwhelming, especially when they fire their list of technical questions at you in Japanese.

Since I also had to contact the phone line rental company in Osaka to confirm whether I could switch to Commufa or not, I found the the hassle was not worth the 1,000 yen monthly savings. Yes, that’s right, once you include the costs to continue using your current phone number and email address, you don’t save as much as you expect.

Enough already

In the end, after about eight phone conversations with Commufa, I decided not to follow through with the switch. If you find yourself tempted by monthly savings and promises of a hassle-free changeover, just remember that it might not be quite as easy as it first appears.

Update: The very next day, someone from Commufa drove all the way up from Nagoya (90 min. drive) and rang our doorbell. He said he knew nothing about my conversations with Commufa the previous day and he was “just in the area”. Anyway, I invited him in and after he looked at my current setup he talked me through everything I had doubts about – and even showed that I’d be saving closer to 4,000 yen a month. So, I’ve signed on the dotted line and now wait for a visit from the electrician.

Pikachu and Bicycle Bells

PikachuA co-worker of mine has that book, You Know You’ve Been in Japan Too Long…, and from it I learned the true meaning of the name, Pikachu.

What does Pikachu mean?

Apparently it comes from the Japanese, pikapika, which means to glitter or sparkle, and chuchu, which is the sound a mouse supposedly makes in Japan. Put it together and you get Pikachu, meaning “sparkly mouse”, or more appropriately “electric mouse” because of the lightning bolt stuck up his bum.

Beat the crowd with a bicycle bell

bicycle bellTying together my recent review of NihonHacks, and the proposed (overzealous) changes to Japan’s bicycle laws, I thought I’d share with you my favorite Japan “hack”. When I lived in Nagoya, I found it ever so frustrating wading through the crowds at train stations, on busy streets and in departments stores, so I went to a 100 yen shop and bought myself a “Dragon Ball” bicycle bell.

You don’t need a bike to use a bell…

As I had hoped, a ring on my bell was enough to induce the natural jump-out-of-the-way reaction from the people in front of me, letting me pass with ease! I used this trick in the street, in stores, on escalators and even on crowded trains!

…but you do need a bell to use a bike

I think the proposed bicycle laws in Japan smack of big brother, but my own country is even worse. According to this 2006 article in the Telegraph, the Labour government were planning to fine you up to 2,500 pounds (over 500,000 yen) or even send you to jail for two years if you didn’t have a bell. I don’t know whether or not this law was implemented, but it makes Japan’s proposals look quite tame!

What’s my name?

In my post about choosing a name for our son, I said that one reason for giving him my wife’s family name, i.e. a Japanese name, is because it would be more convenient. In this post, I’m going to write about my experiences of having a non-Japanese name in Japan.

Nikuman - a meaty dumpling thing.Informally, my name Nick is pretty hard for Japanese people to pronounce. They tend to say Ni-koo, or nikku in romaji. Having been in Japan for ten years, I now introduce myself as Ni-koo, and to help people remember my name, I list a variety of meat dishes – yakiniku, nikujaga, and nikuman. Naturally, having a name similar to the Japanese word for ‘meat’ is funny enough to break the ice during an introduction.

Things get really awkward in formal situations, and I often struggle to remember what my own full name is. At least, I forget the order in which it should be written. Let me explain…

Last, First, Middle names - confusing to Japanese.Here’s a scan from my old passport. You can see that my surname is listed first, then below are my given names, Nicholas (first) and Hannant (middle – don’t laugh!).

The problem arose right at the beginning when immigration decided, based on my passport, that my name is officially Ramsay Nicholas Hannant, and City Hall put that on my alien registration card. Can you imagine how confusing it is to be recognised as Last name, First name, Middle name?

I can’t count how many times I’ve had to rewrite forms at banks and post offices because I got the order “wrong”. When we applied for a mortgage, I had to open a completely new bank account because my existing one was opened without using my middle name, and apparently this was impossible to rectify.

Everything must match my alien registration card: my driver’s licence, health insurance, pension, even our house is owned by Mr. Hannant. It’s a bit annoying that all my neighbors think I’m Ramsay Nicholas Hannant-san, but that was the name on the list at our recent neighborhood meeting.

Having a meaty nickname and a long-winded, scrambled full name is one thing, but the problems don’t stop there. When I applied for a credit card at a shopping center years ago, the staff promoting the cards and signing people up where young, part-timers who didn’t really know how the application form should be filled in. I asked one of the girls if I should write my name in English, romaji, or katakana, and she guessed at the latter. Clearly this was a mistake because when I eventually got my card, it had been converted into romaji, reading Ramusei Nikorasu Hananto.

I was able to use that card, without getting billed, for six months before the credit card company contacted me to say the name didn’t match that of my bank account, and I would need to fill in more forms to correct it!

I could go off at a tangent and talk about how I opened another bank account with the name “Nishi”, but I’ll save that story for another time.

Anyway, I hope from these experiences you can understand why our son Rikuto, will not be given a middle name, or my foreign surname. When something as simple as a name can cause so much hassle, why complicate things for the little fella?

Baby in Progress – Rikuto

It’s been a month since Mami last went to the maternity clinic, but she went back today for another check-up, and everything is fine. I wish I could have gone with her, but I can’t deny my students their weekly English class! Nevertheless, I got to see the latest video of Rikuto, the baby formerly known as “Peanut”.

Since we found out that Peanut is a boy, it wasn’t hard choosing a name. We had pretty much decided long before Mami got pregnant what we would call our first child. If it were a girl, she would have been named after my Italian grandmother Liliana, but since Peanut is a boy, he gets the name Rikuto. We both liked this name because my name in Japanese is pronounced Ni-koo, and he will be Ri-koo.

Of course, Rikuto could be used in English as Richard, Ricky, Rick, Rich, or even little Dicky, if he takes after his father! Okay, so whether a girl or a boy, Peanut’s first name would have been influenced by my own or my grandmother’s name. He will of course take Mami’s Japanese surname, mostly out of convenience, but also to keep the family name alive. Unfortunately, it will sound much less glitzy than Ricky Ramsay!

Rikuto in kanjiBefore we could be sure that the name Rikuto was suitable, we had to find some characters to represent his name. We eventually chose the Japanese characters for land and person. Therefore Rikuto means “Land Person”, or “Person of Continents”, which seems appropriate considering he will be both European and Asian.

These are the latest pictures. The quality this time is pretty poor, but it’s only four more months before I fill this blog with baby photos!

Rikuto at 21 weeks.Rikuto going into his 6th month, in 4D.