Converting Written Names From Chinese to Japanese
Japanese is written using a combination of two scripts:
- Kanji (漢字) which is based on Chinese characters
- Kana (仮名०カナ) which is a phonetic script used exclusively for Japanese
Japanese names are written using Kanji, and Kanji is usually used to write the names of individuals and proper nouns from regions which use Chinese characters in formal documentation, including the People’s Republic of China, Republic of China (Taiwan), Hong Kong, and Macao.
If one is searching for a person or entity crossing between jurisdictions, accurately converting names between character systems can be a valuable tool for furthering investigations.
This article will advise analysts on how to convert written Japanese and Chinese (both simplified and traditional) when performing cross-jurisdiction searches of entities or individuals.
Japanese Kanji were taken directly from traditional Chinese characters, and have been part of Japanese written tradition for over 1000 years.
Modern Kanji are based on traditional Chinese. Some characters have been modified or simplified making them now visually distinct from the traditional Chinese characters they were based on. Nevertheless, there is a high degree of overlap between modern Kanji and traditional Chinese characters.
Names and other nouns can be converted between Japanese Kanji to either traditional or simplified Chinese characters without losing their intended meaning for the reader.
Converting names across jurisdictions
Nearly every Japanese Kanji character has a corresponding Chinese character, and vice versa. Exceptions to this rule exist but are extremely rare.
Often, individuals or companies who cross jurisdictions will translate their name based on the corresponding character system used locally. Likewise, Japanese and Chinese news organizations will write names in one another’s jurisdictions based on characters.
For example, newspapers in Taiwan will convert Abe Shinzo’s name from Japanese Kanji to Chinese characters. Similarly, a businessman traveling from Beijing to Tokyo will usually convert his name into its corresponding Japanese Kanji.
There are exceptions to this rule. At times, an individual or organization may decide to use Japan’s phonetic Kana alphabet to transcribe names when in Japan. These instances are a matter of choice by the individual, organization, or news writer.
Even when the official name of a Chinese organization or individual is converted into Japanese phonetically, Japanese news reports may still use the characters associated when writing stories making conversion into Japanese Kanji still a highly useful tool for searches.
Search results using the incorrect characters for a given region will return limited or no results. Converting characters, on the other hand, will allow researchers to search official government documents and major newspapers.
Online translators and dictionaries will allow you to convert between Chinese characters and Japanese Kanji. Even if one does not read Chinese or Japanese, it is possible to copy and paste characters and their converted form to perform searches.
Suga Yoshihide (Prime Minister of Japan)
China National Chemical Corporation (ChemChina)