Japan Grapples with Name Order Ahead of 2020 Tokyo Games

Society

Tokyo, July 28 (Jiji Press)--With around a year to go until the start of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, the age-old question of whether to put family or given name first when writing Japanese names in English has started to garner attention.

The issue was recently put into the spotlight by Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono, who suggested in May that major foreign media organizations should write the name of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as "Abe Shinzo," with the family name coming first.

But the proposed change prompted strong push-back by those who claimed that the reversal of longstanding customs would cause confusion. Even Abe's own cabinet members were divided over the proposal, with Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga saying that his given name should come first in English.

When Japanese names are written in Japanese, the family name customarily comes first, followed by the given name. But when rendered in Roman script, they are written in the opposite order, in line with Western style.

According to Prof. Yasuyuki Shimizu, who specializes in Japanese language studies at Japan Women's University, the earliest public records of Japanese names in English script were written with the family name preceding the given name.

[Copyright The Jiji Press, Ltd.]

Jiji Press