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druk (Offline)
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Japanese Names - 04-10-2009, 01:14 PM

Hi all,

I'm trying to send a formal email to a Japanese university and the contact person name is 'OKAWA,Harumi' but I'm having some issues with the person name. Is OKAWA the last name? and is this a man or female name?

I thinking of addressing the person as Dear Mr OKAWA, but I'm a bit unsure.

Sorry for my ignorance and thanks for the help.
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Nagoyankee (Offline)
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04-10-2009, 01:20 PM

OKAWA is the last name (family name). That's for sure.

But Harumi is the problem in that it's not decisively masculine or feminine. I would say 80% of the time, it's a feminine name. It might help if you knew how it was written in Japanese.
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druk (Offline)
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04-10-2009, 01:33 PM

In the official document is only written that way, but I did a Google search and found this information in another document.

留学生課長
大川 晴美
OKAWA Harumi

If this does not help, I will change to Dear Harumi OKAWA, it still follows the formal rules.
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04-10-2009, 01:52 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by druk View Post
In the official document is only written that way, but I did a Google search and found this information in another document.

留学生課長
大川 晴美
OKAWA Harumi

If this does not help, I will change to Dear Harumi OKAWA, it still follows the formal rules.
With that kanji...I think it's a girl. You could go with Okawa Harumi-san, just to be safe? (Maybe?)


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04-10-2009, 01:54 PM

In that case, the percentage would rise to 90-95%. But I couldn't say anything more definite.

Be careful when someone tells you it's a feminine name just because s/he has met one 晴美 that was female. I've known both.
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04-10-2009, 01:55 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kayci View Post
With that kanji...I think it's a girl. You could go with Okawa Harumi-san, just to be safe? (Maybe?)
In a letter? Not a chance.
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druk (Offline)
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04-10-2009, 02:13 PM

Just to be safe I sent without the 'honorific' part, but I really appreciated the help!
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04-10-2009, 02:29 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nagoyankee View Post
In a letter? Not a chance.
May I take this oppertunity to ask how formal letters are started in Japanese, Nagoyankee?


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04-10-2009, 03:56 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by SHAD0W View Post
May I take this oppertunity to ask how formal letters are started in Japanese, Nagoyankee?
Yes, this is interesting to know. I will probably be sending more formal mails and if I make a good first impression the better.
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04-10-2009, 05:09 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by SHAD0W View Post
May I take this oppertunity to ask how formal letters are started in Japanese, Nagoyankee?
Yes, you may, SHADOW. I won't write a book about it, though, I warn you.

In Japanese, formal letters are written in a langauge of its own. It's nothing like what you see in newspapers or magazines. It certainly has very little in common with the kind of Japanese you guys learn outside of Japan.

Between businesses, business and individual, government and business, and gov. and ind., you will find the most formal language used along with a format expected by every party involved. Go against these rules and you will not be taken seriously.

A formal letter starts with a short paragraph of seasonal greeting. You write about what you see in nature around you at the time of the year when the letter is being written. It can be about certain trees or flowers, the temperature, weather, annual events, etc. You are expected to express not which season out of the four but what part of a particlular season. This must, however, be done with your description of the natural phenomenon and NOT by directly stating what part of the season. In other words, you cannot just say, "We are at the beginning of (insert season)." You must say, for instance, "The sakura buds have finally started opening up." This isn't always easy for the native speaker, either; therefore, there are books and websites for these phrases. You finish this first paragraph by saying that you trust that the reader stays healthy.

Then a new paragraph (maybe two or more if necessary) starts which is the actual "content" of the letter. You need to be precise and not too lengthy.

Finally the closing message comes in.
______________________

Some important points:

Throughout a formal letter, you address the reader "Family name + 様(さま)". さん is out of the question and so are any second-person pronouns.

Don't get carried away with the seasonal greeting. No one expects you to be a poet in a business letter. Don't try to be creative.

If your textbook has taught you that です/ます are polite, forget it. Those may help you sound on the politer side in daily conversation. But in business situations, they aren't even considered "medium polite". You wil end up sounding like a dribbling junior-high student trying to talk like an adult and failing miserably. I've mentioned this on JF a few times and I get ignored each time. But I have to repeat it once again because it's true.
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