Family comes first: Japan to switch order of names in victory for tradition

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan aims to change the way Japanese names are written in English by putting the family name first, the same way they are written in Japanese, in a triumph for conservatives keen to preserve traditional ways in a fast-changing world.

Education Minister Masahiko Shibayama proposed the change to Cabinet ministers on Friday and the government will now study how to implement it, the top government spokesman said.

“It is better to follow the Japanese tradition when Japanese names are written in the Roman alphabet,” Shibayama said, according to the Kyodo news agency.

“It has become increasingly important for us to recognize the diversity of languages and cultures that humans possess as society becomes more globalized,” he said.

Traditionally, family names come first in Japanese, as they do in China and Korea. But beginning in the late 19th century, Japanese began adopting the Western custom of putting the given name first and family name second, at least when writing their names in English.

The change is in line with the agenda of the conservative prime minister, Shinzo Abe, who wants to revive aspects of Japan’s traditional culture, and it has been championed by those seeking to save traditions.

Some 59% of respondents in a survey by the Yomiuri newspaper this week supported the idea while 27% opposed it.

Foreign Minister Taro Kono raised the suggestion in May saying foreign media should write the prime minister’s name in the traditional way - Abe Shinzo.

Suga, asked if he would also revert to the traditional style, said: “I would like to do so.”

Reporting by Kaori Kaneko and Linda Sieg; Editing by Robert Birsel