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Tokyo wants media to switch order of Japanese names

25 May 2019

'I plan to ask global media organisations to do this, ' Foriegn Minister Taro Kono said.

In a news conference Tuesday, Foreign Minister Taro Kono said he plans to ask overseas news outlets to write Japanese names with the family name first and given name second - as is the convention in Japan.

By Japanese convention, a person's family name comes before their given name, just as in China or Korea - where foreign journalists seem have no problem getting the names of politicians and celebrities right.

But the system has been inconsistently used in academic and historical contexts, and a 2000 report by the Education Ministry's National Language Council recommended using the traditional Japanese format of surname first.

One senior Foreign Ministry official said he personally wonders if his non-Japanese friends and acquaintances could get confused, because he has always written his given name first and many of those people referred to him using his first name.

Last month, Kono told a parliamentary committee on diplomacy and defense that he writes his name in the Japanese order on his English-language business card, and that this issue should be discussed by the government as a whole.

Abe had his first stint as PM from 2006-2007, before being re-elected to the notoriously unstable post at the head of Japanese government in 2012.

Foreign media outlets contacted by The Japan Times Wednesday declined to give any immediate response.

Japan's Prime Minister Abe Shinzo (in the new style). On the discussion page, where volunteer editors debate proposed edits and additions to Wikipedia entries, the proposer of the change said it is in accordance with the government's announcement.

Some observers see Kono's request to change the name order as a signal of Japanese nationalism that has been part of the conservative administration of Abe. "We have our own style guide. and we use English forms of names", another user wrote. "For now, it's too early to tell if this new directive will take hold".

United States President Donald Trump arrives in Japan for a state visit on Saturday, when he will become the first foreign leader to meet Emperor Naruhito since his coronation. And Japan will soon play host to a number of major worldwide events: the G-20 summit next month, the Rugby World Cup in the fall, and the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo next summer.

CNN's Yoko Wakatsuki contributed reporting from Tokyo.

Tokyo wants media to switch order of Japanese names