Years ago, a colleague at a company where I worked had a surname written using a character so obscure, that when handing out his business card he used to joke apologetically, 名前の漢字、ほとんど誰も読めない (namae no kanji, hotondo dare mo yomenai, hardly anybody can read the kanji in my name).

He dealt with this problem by persuading the company to make an exception when printing up his cards, allowing him to attach furigana (a superscript, usually in hiragana, used to indicate a character’s pronunciation) to his name. No one else in our office was accorded this treatment, but then no one else had the surname Azami — written 莇 and meaning “thistle” — which qualified as a 難読苗字 (nandoku myōji, difficult-to-read surname) and therefore warranting use of furigana.

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