Recently, I faced a little bureaucratic obstacle in Japan. If people tell you Japanese people are very precise, they are probably right: they are very precise. Of course it is a good thing, but it can get annoying at times. A few times I had to be extra cautious to tell people the exact, and I mean exact, name in katakana, as shown on my bank card, because if they used the wrong name with a slightly different spelling, they won’t be able to send me my money, even if the target bank account number was correct.
Japanese people have a family name, and their own name, in that order, because the family is more important than their individual selves.
For my company to be able to wire me my salary, I had to open a bank account. I went to the bank, and during the registration process, I was asked to write down my full name, as shown on my passport, in katakana. Back then, I had barely arrived in Japan and I hadn’t really thought much about it yet. I put down ティーレン・ウォータ・ケース・ジャン in my haste. The worst bit is, it was spelled wrongly, directly from the Western alphabet, with a clear “e” in the last syllable of “Thielen” while it should be a schwa, like the “e” in “taken”. Also, the “Jan” part was transcribed with an English “J”, like in “jazz”, while it really should be like the “Y” in “year”. At first, I thought nothing of it, but the problems started later.