When I meet a lawyer (弁護士{べんごし}) or physician (医師{いし}) in Japan, I address them using the (augmentative) suffix 先生{せんせい}. To be clear, I am not a lawyer, physician, or teacher. (I read about how peers should address each other in another Q&A.)

Is it overkill to use the same suffix when addressing a judicial scrivener (行政書士{ぎょうせいしょし})? Further, if I choose to address using suffix 先生, is this only used during the initially meeting / introduction? Or should I use it always (repeatedly), throughout the (business) relationship?

If there are other similar cases, please kindly share your experience and opinion.



I don't feel myself privileged to answer this question, but knowing there is no answer to this difficult question, I am going to try my best. First of all, the scope of using -先生 is not clearly defined, so I think it safe to use -先生 when you are doubtful of using it or not. Talking about 行政書士, my brother-in-law is a judicial scrivener 司法書士, and he is always addressed by his clients as '~先生'. And my wife, a teacher of flower-arrangement, has always been called '~先生'. It may safely be said that the scope includes 医者, 司法書士, 行政書士, 会計士, 税理士, 政治家, and teachers or instructors in any field. Almost no Japanese would feel it disrespectul for non-native speakers of Japanese to address her or him as '~先生'. Secondly, I think it better or safer to use -先生 not only during the initial meeting/introduction but also some time after that. But you should take much care, when he or she does not like to be called '~先生', they will surely say '~先生ではなく、~さんと呼んでください'.

  • Another interesting case is authors or mangaka, who often get referred to as 〜先生, especially when they are being referred to in the context of a derivative work (like an anime). Mar 27 at 23:14

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