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How Do You Say “genealogy” In Japanese?

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March 30, 2011 by Valerie Elkins

The short answer is keizu. The longer answer is not so easy. There several reasons why it is difficult for those of Japanese ancestry living outside of Japan to trace their lineage. One of the main reasons is a lack of understanding of the language. I am not going to sugar coat it, learning Japanese is hard, BUT learning how to pronounce it is not.

There are 5 basic vowel sounds in Japanese. They are always pronounced the same unlike in English! Vowel lengths are all uniformly short:

a as in ‘father’
e as in ‘bet’
i as in ‘beet’
u as in ‘boot’
o as in ‘boat’

You do not need to know everything in Japanese but learning some genealogical terms is helpful.

Glossary of Japanese genealogical terms to begin building your vocabulary.

  • koseki ~  household register, includes everyone in a household under the head of house (who usually was male)
  • koseki tohon ~ certified copy which recorded everything from the original record.
  • koseki shohon ~ certified copy which recorded only parts from the original.
  • joseki ~ expired register in which all persons originally entered have been removed because of death, change of residence, etc. A joseki file is ordinarily available for  80 years after its expiration.
  • kaisei genkoseki ~ revised koseki
  • honseki ~ permanent residence or registered address (i.e. person may move to Tokyo but their records remain in hometown city hall).
  • genseki ~ another name for honseki
  • kakocho ~ Buddist death register
  • kaimyo ~ Buddist name given to deceased person and recorded in kakocho.
  • homyo ~ Buddist name given to living converts, similar to homyo.
  • kuni ~ country or nation
  • ken ~ prefecture
  • shi ~ city
  • gun ~ county
  • to ~ metropolitan prefecture (Tokyo-to). Similar to ken.
  • do ~ urban prefecture (Hokkaido). Similar to ken.
  • fu ~ urban prefecture (Kyoto-fu, Osaka-fu) similar to ken.
  • ku ~ ward in some large cities (Sapparo, Sendai, Tokyo) divided in to town (cho).
  • cho ~ town
  • aza ~unorganized district
  • machi ~ town within a city (cho) or ward (ku), town within a county (gun).
  • chome ~ smaller division of a town (cho) in some neighborhoods.
  • mura or son ~ village within a county (gun).
  • koshu or hittousha or stainushi ~ head of household, the head of the family
  • zen koshu ~ former head of household
  • otto ~ husband
  • tsuma  ~ wife
  • chichi or fu ~ father
  • haha or bo ~ mother
  • sofu ~ grandfather
  • sobo ~ grandmother
  • otoko or dan or nan ~ male, man, son
  • onna or jo ~ female, woman, daughter
  • ani or kei or kyou ~ older brother
  • otouto or tei ~ younger brother
  • ane or shi ~ older sister
  • imouto or mai ~ younger sister
  • mago or son ~ grandchild
  • himago or souson ~ great-grandchild
  • oi ~ nephew
  • mei ~ niece
  • youshi ~ adopted child or son
  • youjo ~ adopted daughter
  • muko youshi ~ a man without sons may adopt his eldest daughter’s husband as his own son and the young man will take his wife’s surname and be listed on her family’s koseki
  • seimei or shime ~ full name, family name
  • shussei or shusshou ~ birth
  • shibou ~ deceased
  • nen or toshi ~ year
  • gatsu, getsu or tsuki ~ month
  • hi or nichi or ka ~ day
  • ji or toki ~ hour, time
  • sai or toshi ~ age
  • issei ~ person born in Japan and later immigrate elsewhere
  • nisei ~ child/generation of issei and born outside of Japan
  • sansei ~ child/generation of nisei and born outside of Japan
  • yonsei ~ child/generation of sansei and born outside of Japan
  • gosei ~ child/generation of yonsei and born outside of Japan

There is another Japanese term you really need to know. It is ganbatte which means ‘hang in there’ or ‘do your best’ and either one is will work.


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