From S01E06 of the anime adaptation of the manga The Quintessential Quintuplets:

The male protagonist Fuutarou Uesugi is a smart but poor high school student who is tutoring these 5 (currently 3 in image below) quintuplets who are transfer students to Fuutarou's school and are in the same year as Fuutarou. They don't really respect Fuutarou as if Fuutarou were a tutor who were 1 decade older than them or anything. Each of the quints has their own (initial) way of addressing Fuutarou. The reason for the differences is a spoiler, but I believe of all of which would be how they address Fuutarou :

(in birth order)

  1. Fuutarou-kun
  2. Uesugi
  3. Fuutarou
  4. Uesugi-san (or Uesuuuggiiii-saaaaannn)
  5. Uesugi-kun

The eldest is Ichika Nakano who indeed calls Fuutarou by first name (Fuutarou-kun).

In the scene depicted below, Ichika jokingly addresses Fuutarou as 'Fuutarou-sensei' (Futaro-sensei / Fūtarō-sensei).

enter image description here

Question: What are some situations where you can use 1st name with the honorific -sensei ?

I don't think I've ever seen in an anime, manga, VN or whatever, other than aforementioned, where 1st name is used with sensei. Even like outside fiction like say behind the scenes stuff it's still last name eg [Eng Sub] Konomi Kohara has a request for Akasaka-sensei - Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai for Aka Akasaka.

My own experience:

I never attended a Japanese school (or tutorial centre or had a Japanese tutor), but it varied for the schools I attended.

  1. Pre-university, most schools were 'Mx / Mr / Mrs / Ms / Miss Last name' while some were 'Teacher 1st name'. This is really how we addressed them in our greetings to them at the start / end of classes and so this is how we referred to them among each other and to eg department secretaries. But, we addressed them as just 'sir'/'ma'am'/'madam'/'madame' or 'teacher'/''cher'.

    • So anyway yeah, among the teachers that were 'Teacher 1st name', I guess those would be analogues of Japanese '1st name-sensei', if such a thing exists: Like are there actual schools in Japan that tell kids to say 'Ohayou gozaimasu, Fuutarou-sensei' instead of 'Ohayou gozaimasu, Uesugi-sensei'?
  2. In university, we didn't greet our teachers / instructors / professors at the start and end of class anymore, so technically they were in the registration forms as 'Prof / Dr / Mx LAST NAME, 1st Name Middle Initial.' (eg Prof LORENZO, Jose Martin Q.), but we didn't necessarily have a uniform way to refer to each instructor.

    • If they say their nicknames on syllabus day, then we might refer to them as Dr / Prof / Mx nickname (or 1st name) among each other or even to department secretaries. As for addressing them it could be 'sir'/'ma'am' with or without a name or still 'Dr / Prof / Mx nickname'. This part seems like another analogue of Japanese '1st name-sensei', if such a thing exists: Like are there actual universities in Japan that allow students to say to department secretaries 'Please call Jolo-sensei', where 'Jolo' is a nickname of LORENZO, Jose Martin Q. (if need be, then change this to your favourite Japanese name + nickname. Eg Ina-sensei for Ichika Nakano) ?
  3. In some tutorial centres, the kateikyoushi / tutor might have a title either 'Teacher' or 'Mx'. And then the kateikyoushi may be addressed by 1st name (or nickname) or last name. But these were really just kateikyoushi's not sensei's. Maybe in Japanese tutorial centres (or other tutorial arrangements like in TQQ), I can imagine they can be about as informal as outside Japan esp if the tutors are young. Maybe here they'll indeed say like Fuutarou-sensei here? But, wait, would you use sensei in a tutorial case actually? Maybe there's a lower honorific? idk.

  4. I did take a Japanese course in uni, but we just called the instructor 'sir'/'ma'am' and asked the department secretaries to call 'Mx Last name'. For fun, we just called the instructor sometimes Last name-sensei.

    • Wait omg I just remembered after class ended, the instructor told us we can address h as either just 1st name or 1st name-sensei. Idk, so, what, is that legit? I'm not sure if that's really a Japanese thing or a combination of the Japanese honorific-sensei with the informality in my alma mater's country. Or maybe it's largely in part because the instructor is just a few years older than us. After some classes in uni, might some (former) students address their (former) instructors as 1st name-sensei?

2 Answers 2


I think it depends more on the particular relationship than social status and age. "First-name sensei" can happen when you are (somewhat jokingly) addressing someone you have relation with in a capacity other than teacher-student, and when you usually talk with them on a FN-san or FN-kun basis in that other capacity. I'd also assume that everyone else in the conversation is aware of the relationship. That's why you might not encounter it in public too much. If you do it in a strictly professional, institutional, and non-personal teacher-student relationship (like university), you will probably be seen as not respecting boundaries. It can happen in kindergartens, too, but I think that's more akin to baby talk than anything.


In real schools in Japan (elementary schools and higher), something like this almost never happens. The only exception would be a foreign teacher who hates to be called with their last name, but I personally have never met such a teacher. But it seems that first-name + 先生 is used in a few kindergartens today to address teachers.

In general, fisrt-name + 先生 or nickname + 先生 may happen when 1) you have a friend/relative who allows you to use the first name or nickname to address them, and 2) they are (temporarily) also your teacher.

For example, if you have a friend who you normally call ぽんちゃん, you might use ぽん先生 or even ぽんちゃん先生 to address her when she is being your instructor (e.g., of a video game). A similar thing can happen with any honorifc name suffix including 社長, 教授, 博士 and 師匠. Basically, this is something determined arbitrarily mainly depending on the relationship between you and the other person, and grammar has little to do with this.

Please do not ask about your experience outside Japan. The situation should be very different from that in real Japan.

  • It's not necessary that the foreign teacher hates being called by their last name. In my experience as an ALT (in Kobe, for what it's worth) nearly all the ALTs were called [first name]先生, unless they asked to be called something else, even by other teachers. That might be something specific to ALTs. I'm not sure.
    – Leebo
    Commented Jan 11, 2023 at 0:08

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