Hi, I'm unpronounceable
Wherever I go, Japan or otherwise, people have trouble with my name. Am I a Katie? A Kayleigh? A Caddy? Is it short for something? (I'M short for something...)
If I thought I'd been having problems, Japanese names are a whole other ball game.
Sure, the language has fewer syllables to deal with. But this means a number of kanji can be said in a whole bunch of different ways. And as many as 50 different kanji have the same reading.
In the last month-ish, I've met 2 guys with the first name 哲. One of them is called Satoru, and the other is Tatsuya. They don't share even one sound I can pin that kanji down to. Neither of them have the 'furigana' confirming their name on their business card.
Then, in contrast, you meet people who have really common names - but you've got no clue how to write them. Let's say you meet a girl called Eri. Is that 絵里 or 恵理 or 絵梨 or 恵利, or something else entirely?
What the heck do you do?
(Apart from sticking to calling people by their last name at all times, that is.)
In most cases, you keep your mouth shut and wait.
It's fairly common to explain the kanji in a Japanese name with other points of reference when you're speaking. Haruka, as in the 'haru' that means 'spring' and the 'ka' that means 'flower'. Some of it's to do with personalities, like naming a boy with the 'iron' kanji in the hope he'll grow up strong.
Luckily, people tend to offer this info up front. I know I'd feel awkward just asking.
"Rei? Nice to meet you. Is that 'rei' as in 'cold' or as in 'politeness'? Because, uh, you look both cold and polite and I really can't tell what your parents were aiming for."
"Actually, it's 'rei' as in 'the summit of a mountain'. Being tall runs in the family."
At least I'm still learning something new every day.