Paul Rapoza (PRapoza) wrote:
My own personal preference, being American, is First name + sensei. Japanese use the Last name like we use our first names. It's a matter of being appropriate and polite.
Sorry, but the Japanese do not use last names "like we use first names". When an American calls someone by their first name it is a sign of familiarity and casualness: the Japanese use the family name for the exact opposite reason, in other words, because no such familiarity or casualness would be appropriate.
You may hear the last names used in Japan as often as you hear first names in the states. But the reasoning is the complete opposite. And because of that, family names would always be used for one's teachers. That is the real way to be appropriate and polite.
When they call an American by his first name plus sensei (as I was called while living in Japan) it is for one of two reasons: either they are mistaken that in English students commonly call their teachers or elders or minor acquantainces by their first name in the states (which is instead rare); or they are just intending to remind you that though they must call you sensei out of surface level politeness, they needn't give you the usual Japanese level of respect because, after all, you aren't Japanese and therefore sensei or not are not above them in society.