So, I am writing a story where the MC, while native born in Japan, has a foreign mother and surname, which is Tusinachi.
I understand that typically this would make his surname in Katakana, but I couldn't help but see if there was a way to make his last name make any sense in Kanji. After playing around a bit on romajidesu, I came up with the following translation(?):

    [痛死名地]{つ し な ち}

which translates (at least according to google) to Painful Death Place

Jisho lists the traditional reading of 痛死名地 as いたし なち (itashi-mei chi). Would tsushinachi be an appropriate reading of the name and translation or should I just stick with the katakana reading of the name ツシナチ?

I'm a beginner at learning Japanese, but I've been writing this character for the last decade or so, and it would be really cool if this works (It would make him much more intimidating).

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    Is the name of the MC fixed? Or are you open to modification to make the name more intimidating? 痛死名地 does not exist that's why jisho.org gave you ita-shi -na-chi (that's the individual reading of each kanji). – 永劫回帰 Apr 30 at 22:56
  • It's fixed at this point. In that case, I should stick with the katakana reading? – Joe-You-Know May 1 at 2:45

Sticking to katakana is the safest way. Don't use kanji unless you really know what you're doing.

What you're doing is essentially ateji. Technically speaking, it works by assigning similar-sounding kanji to foreign sounds and declaring "the official kanji for Tusinachi is 痛死名地!", for example. That said, speakers of modern Japanese stopped this habit long ago. Today, foreign (non-east-Asian) names are always written in katakana. By today's standards, I would say assigning kanji is nothing more than a peculiar wordplay liked by some beginner learners.

痛死名地 are unlikely to be read "correctly" by native Japanese speakers. Perhaps most people will first try to read 痛死名地 as ツウシメイチ rather than ツシナチ. As you know, many kanji have more than one reading, and you usually cannot determine the reading of an unfamiliar kanji combination in one way. Dictionaries and Google Translate know the readings of lots of existing words, but they are horribly bad at guessing the reading and the meaning of a made-up word like 痛死名地. However, this isn't a severe blocker if you really want to use 痛死名地. You are the author, and you can always tell your readers the "correct" reading. There are many native kanji surnames that are hard to read, after all.

Finally, even if we accept the use of ateji, why did you pick these characters to represent the sound of Tusinachi? 痛 on its own indeed means "pain" and 死 indeed means "death". Generally speaking, it's not something you want in a person name. You could have chosen a safer kanji like 津 or 都 to represent "tu".

  • Mostly because it's a good representation of his family's past. In any case, I'll stick to the katakana reading. Thanks for the lesson, this was very informative! :) – Joe-You-Know May 1 at 14:29

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