The government on Friday decided to follow the family-name-first order when using the Roman alphabet to write Japanese names in official documents, in a break from the long tradition of reversing it in line with other languages such as English.
"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.
Shibayama proposed the idea and won approval from his fellow cabinet ministers at a meeting on Friday.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said details still need to be worked out but the government will step up preparations for the change.
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology will decide whether to ask the private sector to follow the government's decision, according to Suga.
Critics doubt whether the change is necessary. Whether the public will support it also remains an open question.
Japanese are accustomed to writing their given name 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.
When asked if he will use the Japanese order "Suga Yoshihide," the top government spokesman said at a press conference, "I think I will."
Shibayama is not the only member of the cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to call for an end to reversing the name order.
Foreign Minister Taro Kono, who was educated in the United States, also raised the issue, saying that Asian leaders such as Chinese President Xi Jinping and South Korean President Moon Jae In retain their original name order in English.
In 2000, an advisory panel on Japanese language policy recommended that Japanese family names should be written before given names in the Roman alphabet to respect the diversity of languages.
The cultural affairs agency then asked government entities, universities and media organizations to adopt the change but it did not take root.
On the official English website of the education ministry, Shibayama's name, along with those of his deputies, is written in the same name order as in Japanese.
However, many other high-ranking Japanese officials, including Kono, continued to be listed in the currently conventional order. As of Friday, the Foreign Ministry uses "Taro Kono" on its website.© KYODO