Japanese names

  • Capitalization: Japanese words are not capitalized unless they are proper nouns — note that samurai and geisha are not proper nouns and therefore should not be capitalized.
  • Particles are not capitalized (even in titles: Tokyo no Monogatari) and neither are suffixes unless translated as part of a proper name (e.g. Chiba-ken becomes Chiba Prefecture).
  • Brand names: Many Japanese place and brand names are capitalized for effect but should otherwise be written in as normal e.g. Line messaging app, not LINE messaging app (just like “Facebook” is not “facebook”, the stylised logo version). The exception is with assignments, where we will accommodate a partner's request.
  • Italics: Loan words such as geisha, tsunami, karaoke, shiatsu, haiku and sushi are not italicized, nor is bento. Other words should be italicized on their first usage in a piece and defined in parenthesis. They remain un-italicized on subsequent use. Proper nouns are not italicized.
  • Hyphens: When using hyphens with Japanese words, there are no hard and fast rules but do consider what is good readability e.g. Nagoya-ekimae, not Nagoyaekimae.
  • Suffixes: The use of suffixes in Japanese place names has led to various representations. We recommend the following:
    • In articles, it is helpful to use both original Japanese name (e.g. Sumida-gawa) as well as the English version (e.g. Sumida river). This is useful as both an educational aid (to teach the equivalence of the terms) as well as good SEO (to reach users searching for either term). How this is done largely depends on the context of the wider text and what has already been revealed to the reader.
    • Avoid both Japanese and translated versions together (eg Sumida-gawa river).
    • When writing out addresses, use the localised version (e.g. Ota city = Ota-ku).
  • Kanji: Use kanji/kana sparingly and only when strictly necessary (e.g. to follow a sign that is not in English).
  • Ruby: If you must use Japanese text, consider using 'ruby' HTML tags to help convey pronunciation, which some readers may be able to understand. You can add HTML directly by selecting "Source" within the text editor: eg 漢字かんじ can be marked up as <ruby>漢字<rp>(</rp><rt>かんじ</rt><rp>)</rp></ruby>

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