You may have noticed while reading “Kogitsune” the use of Japanese honorifics like “-sama” or “-san”, family titles for father and mother and greetings. I would like to spend some time to explain each of the them and my choice of using them.
At the beginning of the story I mention “Amaterasu-sama” and later on “Kami-sama”.
The honorific “-sama” is a highly respectful version used for: 1. people of a higher rank than oneself, 2. divinity, 3. one’s guests or customers and 4.sometimes toward people one greatly admires.
Amaterasu’s correct name is “Amaterasu-ōmikami” which means “the great august god who shines in the heaven.” I decided to add “-sama” instead of “
ōmikami” because I did not want to over confuse the readers who are not familiar with the Japanese pantheon and honorifics. Another reason for using “-sama” was that Amaterasu is discussed from the perspective of Kogitsune, the son of a god himself, so he uses “-sama” to show that Amaterasu is above him and he shows her his respect, but not so high that he needs to use “ōmikami”. Humans, who are on a lower level than gods, should be the ones using “ōmikami”.
“Kami-sama” is used when addressing to a god. You may have noticed this address when the kodama calls for the Inari god and asks to speak to him.
“-san” is the most commonplace honorific and is a title of respect typically used between equals of any age. Although the closest analog in English are the honorifics “Mr.”, “Miss”, “Ms.”, or “Mrs.”, -san is almost universally added to a person’s name; -san can be used in formal and informal contexts and for both genders.
Other honorifics not used in Kogitsune (by choice)
The ones familiar with the Japanese honorifics might ask me why I haven’t used “-kun” when Kokaji was speaking to Kogitsune and viceversa. Here is an example of Asian subtlety I’ve used for which you need a little experience with Japanese culture to understand on the get go.
“-kun” is generally used by people of senior status addressing or referring to those of junior status, by anyone addressing or it can be used when referring to men in general, male children or male teenagers, or among male friends. It can be used by males or females when addressing a male to whom they are emotionally attached, or who they have known for a long time.
Although “-kun” is generally used for boys, it is not a hard rule. For example, “-kun” can be used to name a close personal friend or family member of any gender. “Kun” can mean different things depending on the gender. “Kun” for females is a more respectful honorific than “-chan”, which implies childlike cuteness. “Kun” is not only used to address females formally; it can also be used for a very close friend or family member. Calling a female “-kun” is not insulting, and can also mean that the person is respected, although that is not the normal implication
Details credited to Wikipedia.
Why I haven’t used “-kun” and I have decided to not use any honorifics between Kogitsune and Kokaji?
Because in Japan, when two people call themselves by their first names without a honorific it means they have the strongest of bonds. For example couples in love don’t use honorifics.
I could have gone down through the honorifics as the time passed between Kogitsune and Kokaji and their bond grew stronger from “-san”, to “-kun” to nothing, but it would have been too complicated and frankly this story is not a lesson in Japanese honorifics.
Okāsan = mother.
Otōsan (or Otousan) = father
There is another way of saying Mother and Father which is “chichiue” for Father and “hahaue” for mother. This is formal speech used by Native Japanese speakers in formal conversations. Like fancy talk. I wanted to keep them informal and casual.
Hajimemashite is an expression which roughly translates to, “It is the first time (meeting you).” However, to make it closer to the equivalent English expression, it is more often translated as “Nice to meet you.” Hajimemashite is usually the first step to introducing yourself in Japanese.
Yoroshiku. The definition of “yoroshiku onegaishimasu” is really hard. It’s one of those words that isn’t really translatable. It’s a concept that’s hard to grasp and hard to define in the English language. There are two uses.
One use is “Yoroshiku onegaishimasu”= Used in more formal situations, with people that have a higher status. It means any of the below:
- “Be Kind to me”
- “I am in your debt”
- “I’m counting on you”
- “Please help me”
- “Please take care of me”
- “Nice to meet you”
“Yoroshiku” is pretty much the same thing as yoroshiku onegaishimasu, but it’s not as formal.
Kogitsune and Kokaji used “yoroshiku” when they first met because I wanted to already set their relationship on a informal ground that didn’t need a lot of formality.
Details credited to Tofugu.com.