TOKYO – The government of Japan decided on Friday to formally adopt the traditional order of Japanese names, which uses family name first and is followed by the given name, in official documents that use Roman alphabet.
“In a globalized world, it has become increasingly important to be aware of the diversity of languages that humans possess. It’s better to follow the Japanese tradition when writing Japanese names in the Roman alphabet,” education minister Masahiko Shibayama said at a press conference, according to Kyodo news report.
During his daily press conference appearance, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that certain details are still need to be worked out, but the government will step up the preparations to carry out the change.
For example the name of the Japanese prime minister will be spelled as Abe Shinzo and not Shinzo Abe.
Critics doubt the need for such a change and add that Japanese people are used to writing their given names first when using foreign languages such as English.
Around 64 percent Japanese write their names in the Western format when using Roman alphabet when the order is not specified, according to a nation-wide survey carried out and published by Yomiuri newspaper.
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Taro Kono, had also referred to the country’s Prime Minister as Shinzo Abe – given name followed by surname – in a statement about the meeting between the prime minister with his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, in Vladivostok, Russia on Thursday.
The decision adopted on Friday, marks the first step towards the reversal of more than a century old western conventions – where the given name comes before the family name – that was first adopted during the Meiji era (1868-1912) which is known for the opening of the country to the outside and the growing influence of the Western culture.
However, it was not the same in Korea, China and Vietnam.
These countries have followed the same traditional system of name order in their own languages as well as any foreign language.
Although Japan adapted to the name writing format in foreign languages, it never stopped using the traditional order in documents in Japanese, where the surname precedes the given name and the same format was used in the national official documents.