Foreign Minister Taro Kono said Tuesday he plans to ask overseas media outlets to write Japanese names with the family name first, as is customary in the Japanese language.
As an example, Kono said that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s name should be written as “Abe Shinzo,” in line with other Asian leaders such as Chinese President Xi Jinping and South Korean President Moon Jae In.
Japanese names are usually written with the given name coming first when using a foreign language such as English, a practice that began in the 19th to early 20th centuries amid the growing influence of Western culture.
Now is the right time to make the change, Kono told a press conference, given that the new Reiwa era has just begun and several major events including next month’s Group of 20 summit and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are approaching.
“I plan to ask international media organizations to do this. Domestic media outlets that have English services should consider it, too,” he said, citing a 2000 report by the education ministry’s National Language Council that said it was desirable to write Japanese names with the family name first in all instances.
Kono, who was speaking in Japanese but was educated in the United States and is fluent in English, has raised the issue in the past. In March, he said the Foreign Ministry would consider making the switch in official documents, which may include passports.
Education minister Masahiko Shibayama said Tuesday his ministry will also call on other government bodies to use the family name first, though others were apprehensive of such a dramatic change.
“There are a lot of factors we have to consider, including convention,” the government’s chief spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, told a press conference.