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What to call your boss. co-workers, and clients in Japan

Equivalent to Mr, Miss and Ms, there are Japanese titles used when calling individuals at an office. Though it is rather complicated to use, it will help you make a friendly or polite attitude in business settings. Since Japanese titles have no difference in use for male or female, it would be easier than using Mir or Ms once you learn how to use them.

What to call your boss, subordinates and co-workers at the office

For calling your boss or seniors at the office, you are to use their title instead of his/her family name. For example, if you have a boss whose name is Mr. Suzuki and is a section manager, you can call him just “Kacho (=Section manager)” or “Suzuki Kacho” in office.

For calling your subordinates or co-workers, you are to use their family name with -san.

If you have a co-worker whose name is Mr.Tanaka, you can call him “Tanaka-san”. Seniors sometimes use -kun” for calling male subordinates, like “Tanaka-kun”. Since Japanese people have difficulty in pronouncing foreign family names, first name with–san is often used for foreign workers, for example, Cathy-san” is for the person named Catharine.

Names to use when talking with your clients or people outside the company.

If you need to mention the name of your boss or co-worker in a business talk with clients or people out side of your company, you are to use his/her family name, without –san. If you have a boss whose name is Mr. Suzuki, you are to call him just “Suzuki” with "uchino (means of our company)". The example in such a business talks is;
“Regarding the contract, Suzuki (of our company) reviewed and…..”
Keiyaku-ni tsuki mashite wa, uchino Suzuki ga kentoushi...

Names to use for clients or seniors

For calling your clients or seniors, use his/her family name with –sama instead of -san. –sama is much formal than -san. Using –san sounds too casual for clients and should be avoided.


For politicians, lawyers or consultants, we use “Sensei” instead of “san”, for example, “Suzuki-sensei”. “Sensei” is commonly a title used for a teacher.

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