I am a 69 year old English speaking Canadian woman. I am about to send a birthday card to a second cousin in Japan. We have never met. This woman is going to turn 100yrs old. How should I address her in the card? Should I use her family name Mrs.____-san? or her given name ____-san? or Dear cousin?

  • 1
    To clarify, are you writing to her in English?
    – Yosh
    Apr 25, 2020 at 2:40
  • Yes mainly in English
    – Nan Lowe
    Apr 26, 2020 at 20:36

1 Answer 1


In Japanese, san is equivalent to Mr/Miss/Mrs/Ms, so it’s unnecessary to say Mrs xxx-san. Just use Mrs xxx(family name) or xxx-san (family name) instead. It’s also OK by just saying Dear xxx (first name) if you are familiar with each other.

  • Hi Allan, can you clarify for the person asking the question of this is what should be written in English, Japanese, or both?
    – ajsmart
    Apr 25, 2020 at 12:48
  • Hi I am going to have to write mainly in English but wanted to be sure I was respectful to this relative. Thank you for your help
    – Nan Lowe
    Apr 26, 2020 at 20:36

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