I'm writing a book (travelogue) about Japan, comparing it to Sweden, where I'm from. During my travels I communicated mostly in Japanese but occasionally in English and Swedish. The book is in English with some words or expressions in Japanese that I translate and/or explain in English to convey some of the differences in language and culture.
I'm considering how to best refer to people I encountered while in Japan:
- Swedish language: Very rarely anything but first name-basis.
- English language: Last name-basis unless you have met.
- Japanese language: Last name-basis unless you know the person intimately.
I prefer calling people by their first name, whether I met them or not, because I worry that the text would feel more formal if I called them by their last names.
I would like the writing to be playful and relaxed, at the same time I wouldn't want the book to be considered sloppily written or confusing thanks to the complexities involved.
Say I refer to someone I have not met by their last name as suggested in English, then I will still call them by their first name when quoted, since that's what I do. To make matters worse, Japanese people would call me by my last name despite the fact that we have already met.
Sometimes I refer to people who have inspired me, writers of the past with connections to what I'm doing or people that simply come to mind as I travel. Of course, other than translating the dialogues, I'm keeping them unchanged.
Example sentence: "It made me think of Alan Booth, who walked across Japan in 1977 and wrote the book “The Roads to Sata” detailing his experiences. Alan often spoke of [...]"
Here I think Booth sounds a bit formal, and Mr. Booth sounds very formal, but maybe it's just because I'm not used to it - the equivalent of Mr is rarely used in Swedish.
I know that the people I communicate with in English may have different customs in their countries, but I already feel that this is becoming complicated as it is, so I'm trying to find a good compromise.
What I'm looking for is a relaxed way to refer to people that I have and have not met or am familiar with/know intimately, that leaves room for a cultural flavor but is not likely to confuse the reader by being too incoherent.
EDIT/Clarification: The target market is English speaking countries in general, which largely excludes Sweden and Japan. I'm trying to write in American English, so I suppose the primary target is the USA if I had to pick one.