I understand that -San is a formal way to address somebody. A unisex way of both Mr. and Mrs. Kun is a way to address males, but it's used with friends? I'm wondering about that. Now, Chan is very confusing. Is it also used with close ones, such as friends and family ? I know it's mainly targeted towards females, but apparently, it can be used with males too. Why males? In which situation would you address a male with -Chan ?

If it's someone who you meet for the first time, such as a random person, a future friend, classmate or colleague do you have to use -San, or could you use just -Kun or -Chan when first meeting them ? (someone from Japan wrote me a letter addressing me with -Chan, and I have never heard nor met this person before). Is it rude to call someone by their name and not use -San, -Chan or -Kun ? Well, if they're being addressed as -San and to stop that I'd imagine so, but what about if it's somebody you use -Chan or -Kun with often, as a friend? Do you have to use -Kun or -Chan in your family ? I know this is a lot to answer, but I have to live in Japan and I desperately want to know.

  • Thank you

2 Answers 2

  1. Depends also on language: When speaking/writing English, also the norms change a bit. Below if in Japansese

  2. If you meet someone first time: certianly "san" or "sama" (unless you know the real title) (But in these times "meet for first time" doesn't mean 1st f2f encounter)

  3. If Japan was like Europe or US, I think there would be some "anti-chan campaign", since chan has traditionally been used in an undermining tone on young females. Japan is changing, and I think calling males by chan may be another way to boost the change. At least where I work (startup), a few people are called by chan; all them being males. One person is often called by sama, and she is a young lady. Our great CEO is normally referred to by his plain given name.

  4. As for kun, maybe that won't get similar "campaigns" like using chan on males (now thinking, using chan on males may be a kind of a collective apology towards women). Just better never use kun!


Chan is not limited to girls, especially when it composes one's nickname, e.g. Tetsuya → Tecchan. (I'm not sure why you find it strange to use it to male friends, to begin with.)

That said, if the speaker is female, they may use chan to relatively young female people who the speaker unilaterally knows of and feels familiar with, like celebrities or TV talents, besides their own female friends, to some extent regardless of depth of relationship, who tend to be more accessible for the speaker than the male counterpart.

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