when addressing a Japanese man in business, Which name does the -san go behind his surname or his given name?

1 Answer 1


In business you should speak more formally. You should refer to a person by their family name. If you use their given name for any reason, you should use their full name. For example:

Your business acquaintance has the family name "Saito" and the given name "Kenji". In conversation, you should call him "Saito-san". If you need to call him Kenji, you should call him "Saito Kenji-san".

Never use "-san" after your own name.

  • 1
    Not sure why this is so downvoted, since the main point is correct. Though, foreign names are more likely to be said in their foreign order when said in full (I.e., ジョン・スミスさん). Also it’s weird to say someone’s full name in a conversation, since it sounds like you’re doing a roll call or something; but it’s not like you were recommending to do that, so... Jul 4, 2019 at 1:25
  • @DariusJahandarie I just came by now but IMO it's not fully responding to original question on the same layer if you don't have basic knowledge of Japanese convention. Jul 4, 2019 at 2:53
  • You make a good point about the different conventions for foreign names. I wrote it that way since it seemed like the poster was unfamiliar with Japanese language and culture and might not recognize a Japanese name as a surname or given name.
    – Karandora
    Jul 20, 2019 at 3:54
  • Maybe the downvoter focused on BtB and did not think of BtC being a "business" (One could use "Saito Kenji-san" e.g. to call in the patient to enter the doctor's room). In "traditional industries" one wouldn't use the entire name + san, though. [OK, Maybe for non-Japanese Asians], but [having chosen a such an informal structure as using "san"] for non-Asians one would probably just use the one that easier to pronouce, so, if you your buddies at work included the former boss of CA and the current boss of Russia, you would probably call them Arnold-san and Putin-san rather than the opposite.
    – Tuomo
    Jul 20, 2019 at 14:12

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