Japan urges world to put family names first for Japanese

Plaintiffs and supporters walk to the Supreme Court in Tokyo Wednesday Dec. 16 2015

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono told reporters, "We hope that President Moon Jae-in takes complete responsibility on behalf of the Korean government and respond to the issue".

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.

For while Abe is indeed his family name, Japanese convention is to put the family name first, so that the PM's name is actually Abe Shinzo.

Mr Kono is to ask foreign media organisations to adopt this formula. The Japanese diplomat says that the family name should be first when referred to in English, as it is when it is written or spoken in Japanese.

Ahead of a series of important global events in Japan, including a visit from US President Donald Trump this weekend, Japan's foreign minister has issued a request to the English-speaking world: Call our prime minister Abe Shinzo, not Shinzo Abe.

The practice of putting given names first gained wide acceptance during the late 19th century and early 20th century, when Japan looked to Europe as it sought to modernise its economy and military.

Japan's foreign minister is making headlines - by pushing back on the headlines themselves.

The Reiwa era was designated upon the recent ascension of Emperor Naruhito, officially symbolising success and harmony.

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It's not clear what Prime Minister Shinzo Abe - or Abe Shinzo - makes of the suggestion to change.

This came as Tokyo is set to host G20 summit next month, followed by Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

"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.

Kono, educated in the US and fluent in English, has long advocated for a change.

For nearly a century and a half, however, Japanese names have been written in English the opposite way round, with the given name first.

Mr Shibayama said nearly 20 years ago that a government council had recommended restoring consistency in the naming order in both English and Japanese, stressing the need to "respect the cultural diversity of each country".

However, it remains unclear whether Mr Kono's position is that of the government, with no official proclamation being issued. "All Japanese biographies place the given name before the family name, whereas Chinese ones place the family name first".


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