Japan is very big on showing respect towards one another. You’ll very quickly learn that when addressing someone, depending on their gender, profession and social status, there are different ways to do this. The Japanese would call this adding an honorific title.
I’m sure you would have come across the common ones such as さん (san) used for both men and women; ちゃん (chan) used for girls;くん (kun) used for boys, and 様 (sama) used for someone in a very HIGH position or God like.
Another one you may have come across quite often is 先生 (sensei), used for teachers, doctors, authors and the like.
As you can see the Japanese have put in a lot of effort in these different types of honourifics, so it’s important not to leave them out if you don’t want to come across as rude. However, when people start building a closer relationship, the Japanese sometimes (but VERY rarely) do what is called 呼び捨てにする(yobi sute ni suru) or for short 呼び捨て (yobi sute). This means calling or addressing someone without any honorific title.
As a non-Japanese I always find it very awkward when I’m referred to as san, especially when the other person is older than me. I have tried many a times to tell people they didn’t need to, but in vain.
As a foreigner, do you also find it awkward? Let me know what you think!
senpai 先輩 – This is used for seniors, at work or at school. But be careful, you would not call your boss, manager or instructor senpai.
dono 殿 – In English this would roughly translate as milord. It is not one that is often used, but you may hear it being used in movies or dramas sometimes.
ue – This is a rather old fashioned term, which is rarely used nowadays. But I have come across it a couple times used in contexts such as 父上、母上 (chi chi ue, haha ue). It is used for someone you highly respect.