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So today in class, I actually learned that the Japanese game company "Sega"'s name is actually written in Katakana, not Hiragana. I learned the same also applies to some other notable companies, such as Toyota and Honda. But it seems there are also companies that don't have katakana names, such as Mitsubishi.

Is there any way to tell right off the bat whether or not a Japanese company's name is in hiragana or katakana? When I asked my teacher, she mentioned it might have something to do with how famous or popular the company may have been.

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    Look it up? Sega is apparently derived from the English "service games" so it wouldn't really make sense for it to be hiragana. If it's a foreign word it's probably going to be katakana. – ssb Oct 31 '13 at 17:19
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    There is no rule - best to check wikipedia or the company website. – nkjt Oct 31 '13 at 17:20
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    My sensei also mentioned that fact that some company names use Katakana because it makes them "cooler", rather than using so-called "clunky" hiragana. Is this true? – yuritsuki Oct 31 '13 at 17:24
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    I'm pretty sure there's no rule. Just like how company names in English can be in all-capitals (e.g. DKNY) or all small-letters (e.g. fcuk), I think it just has to do with how the company wants to present itself. On a related note, I was surprised that that Nissan(日産) and Hitachi(日立) were actually written in Kanji. – ishikun Nov 1 '13 at 1:18
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    Companies generally choose names that are recognizeable/will stand out, and katakana is just another way to do this. In general, katakana is associated with cool foreign words/buzz words. It's a stylistic choice. – user4060 Nov 1 '13 at 6:56
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You can't not tell them Hiragana or Katakana.
Because they are desided arbitrarily by companies.

I think using Hiragana as a company's name impress a bit childish and soft.
Because in old times, Hiragana was used for private documents especially by women.
And formal documents were written in Kanji.

Maybe by that historical reason, I feel a company's name in Kanji has a classical and steady atmosphere.

Naming a company in Katakana is relatively new culture.
Words which named in Katakana mostly have been imported with new things and knowredge from foreign counties.
That's why Katakana has images of something new and western and cool.

We still worship western culture unconsciously.

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    It seems that you are claiming that the use of katakana in company names is a result of unconscious worship of western culture, but this claim is quite misleading. Note that the practice of reserving katakana for loanwords is a new thing. (I think that it was established after World War II.) Some companies such as Toyota Motor Corp. used katakana in their company names before this practice was established. – Tsuyoshi Ito Nov 2 '13 at 14:59
  • Even before WWII, katakana was used rather than hiragana in hiragana-kanji text (not katakana-kanji text) to mark loanwords. – ithisa Nov 2 '13 at 21:57
  • Oh please,I never said "after WWII" and just said "relatively new culture." I said "We still worship western culture unconsiously(actually very cousiously)" and I want to explain that. Please see below one. matome.naver.jp/odai/2128702310428498001 There are many antique posters with their ages. Some of them like "サッポロビール" are very interesting. "ビール" is of course loanword, and "サッポロ" isn't.But their 2 words are given same treatment. Their commercial posters suggested new life style with prodacts of western origin in "Katakana" and introduced company's name in "Katakana" too. – yuuya Nov 3 '13 at 4:01
  • Here,katakana is not only a phonogram,but also cool western symbol. Many western culture and words continue to be imported in "Katakana" as cool symbol even now. We feel Katakana words are cool,that means,we longed for western. Although maybe there are other reasons like to give them an impression of global company,I think "worship" is one big reason of applying Katakana to company's names. – yuuya Nov 3 '13 at 4:02
  • The phrase “relatively new” is misleading because what you claimed to be “relatively new culture” actually dates back older than the practice of reserving katakana for loanwords. Today many company names use katakana for stylistic effects (including the effect to look like loanwords), but if you write history, please write the correct history. – Tsuyoshi Ito Nov 3 '13 at 9:45
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There is a "rule". ( Like FASB statement in the U.S )

The very basic rule is, Commerical Code, Article 11,12.

Article 11 (1) A merchant (excluding companies and foreign companies; hereinafter the same shall apply in this Part) may use his/her surname, full name or any other name as his/her trade name.

Which means even you can even select your name as your company's name.

There are bunch of regulations such as in Article 6,7,8,9 in Company's Act

Ex.

Article 7 No person who is not a Company may use in its name or trade name any word which makes it likely that the person may be mistaken as a Company.

Granted, here is the ranking of the names of companies that exist in Japan.( The number is how many companies use the word somewhere in company's name )

Please scroll down and pick the numbers to check.

Starting with companies with the name ひまわり、at 25th, ( 427 companies use this word ),さくら at 27th with 414 ( companies ), みらい at 125th with 228, みやび at 196th with 191, みのり at 322th with 159, あすなろ at 340th with 155th, こころ at 360th with 152, あさひ at 367th with 151, ひかり at 421th with 143, たんぽぽ at 467th with 136 companies.

And all the other names are either Katakan or Kanji.

But what we can presume from the data above, is I think, entrepreneurs tends to choose Hiragana as their company's name, when they are related with flowers, lights, souls, future things IMO.

I think the reason why there are so many Katakana companies is because up until late 19th, we did not have European style "companies", I guess. ( And they sound like European, probably. )

  • I appreciate the downvoters describe the reason. May be I have misread the OP's intent. – Kentaro Tomono Jan 15 '18 at 8:59

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