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Foreign Minister Taro Kono Image: REUTERS file

Kono suggests need to end reversal of Japanese names in English


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He's right about this. Recently Japanese kids are being taught by their teachers that either way is fine. But the teachers fail to tell the kids that when they are talking with people from foreign countries that are unaware of the difference, the people call them by Mr. Mrs. or Ms. and their name, not surname.

I just don't understand what the heck THIS has to do with the name thing though, no one says Akihito Emperor!

It's natural to discuss whether (such a change) should be made, including whether it should be in time for the emperor's accession ceremony (in October) or the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics (in 2020)," Kono said.

Emperor Akihito is set to abdicate on April 30 -- the first living Japanese monarch to do so in about two centuries -- and Crown Prince Naruhito will succeed him the following day.

16 ( +17 / -1 )

I'm sorry. The article is not really clear on what he wants to do. Does he want last name first in English or what?

25 ( +27 / -2 )

Japan reversed the naming order in accordance with the "Leave Asia Join West" policy. Japan forces married women to adopt husband's surname in accordance with "Leave Asia Join West".

If Japan were to abandon the "Leave Asia Join West" policy, then Japan must also abandon a lot of things that came with "Leave Asia Join West" policy, like wives forced to change surname.

-27 ( +2 / -29 )

To clarify what the article is stating.

Minister's name: 麻生 太郎 (Aso Taro)

Family name: Aso

Given name: Taro

Standard order of writing names in Japanese: family name - given name (Aso Taro)

Standard order of writing names in English: given name - family name (Taro Aso)

He is proposing writing Japanese names in English as family name - given name (Aso Taro).

This is silly though, as Japanese has no relevance in English. It's the same as when they write し as syi, because that's more related to how it's written in Japanese. Except that no non-Japanese speaking English speaker is going to read 'syi' as 'shi'.

Japanese is Japanese. Do things in Japanese the Japanese way. English is English. Do things in English the English way.

15 ( +22 / -7 )

Actually I think my example above is messed up. し is written shi.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

Kono is different kind, I like him.

-5 ( +8 / -13 )

Except it is still Japanese. The names aren't being written in English as much as romaji.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

At the end of the day the change you want to make may make society feel happier, but it is only an ephemeral emotional one. What would really make us happy is for you to get us out of the post 1992 bubble collapse and all the ills that have come with it, because that is where we still are and the rest is pretty meaningless.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

I tend to think it's 6 of 1 or 1/2 a dozen the other, both convention is fine.

However, I do think that in terms of English and its universality, Japan is more progressive than Chinese or Koreans in adopting English convention with surname after given names, and I am not sure that Kono san would achieve anything by reversing the order.

In my travels I've noticed despite many Koreans speaking English when the local language is other than English (eg Japanese), ie when they need help, they won't ask in Japanese, preferring to ask a Japanese in English. However, in a group of multinationals, they won't speak English with each other despite it being polite to non Koreans in the group that everyone can understand what they're discussing. This is either rude or regressive and Japanese people outshines Koreans and Chinese people in this regard, and name order convention is more evidence of being progressive.

Then there are the Vietnamese, who uses the roman alphabet but kept the convention of surname before given names, BUT reverse the order when they have a western given name. Taiwanese and Hong Kong people also reverse the order if they have a western given name/s.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Fine as far as I'm conserved. No one abroad really cares what order they put their names in.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

Seems this is a non-issue. Either way, people get confused as to which name is the family name. For Japanese living in the west, the current practice of reversing names is much more practical. I don't see why he thinks preserving the Chinese-style is better, unless some sort of misplaced cultural pride is given to word order. Why not eliminate western measurements and calendars, as well?

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Lowering debts and to stop the 10%GST increase in September is of more importance that menial silly scapegoat things.

12 ( +12 / -0 )

Do foreigners in Japan feel their first names should be before their family names in Katakana?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Throw in a middle name, & filling in an official document becomes a joke

9 ( +9 / -0 )

I always tell people my name in the Japanese order, ie surname first. How often has it benefitted me? No way of knowing, but I do now that it confuses the hell out of some people. Most people decide what they want to call me anyway, so that’s fine too. Mr Jane, Peter San, etc. Whatever floats your boat!

And I once spent hours at the tax offices where they insisted that they had no record of me. Eventually it turned out that they had me registered the wrong way round and the clerk had not thought to check both names.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Not bothered. Just don't call me 'Mr -first name-', sounds pretty silly to me. 'Hello Mr Peter/Bob!'

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Attributing everything to the emperor is odd

5 ( +6 / -1 )

When I first came to Japan I was able to open my bank accounts as “Carmen Sandiego”. Then in 2009 the laws changed and the names all had to be re-registered as they appear on official documents (I.e. passport: “Sandiego Carmen Juanita Bellafonte Juachim”. This caused a problem as katakana made it about a bazillion characters long. And when written in English (zenkaku moji) it would get truncated due to the max number of characters the system could have. It also messed up what my first name was supposed to be: “Sandiego Juachim Bella”.

And, to top it off, in 2012 when I moved into a corporation and they insisted that email names were automatically generated in the system according to the romaji spelling, you can imagine my chagrin: sandeiego.karumenhuwaniitaberafuonteihowakimu@stupididiotsinit.co.jp.

i wish they would go back to a straightforward system of letting us record our names in the way we use them “Carmen Sandiego” with appropriate documentation attached, and it would be a LOT simpler for everyone.

Needless to say I held my ground and refused to send out a single email with the above email address until the rectified it.


PS. The names have been changed to maintain harmony with the extreme over-protective paranoia of personal information in Japan.

20 ( +20 / -0 )

I think it should be first name, family name as much as it should be 2019 and not H31.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

English speaking people don't conform to other cultures (like feminizing female surnames like many countries do in Europe) so why should the Japanese conform to the English standard?

If you are in Japan, you are basically forced to put your name backwards in katakana, as all the forms have it that way. Likewise Japanese would have to conform to English if they are abroad, so it makes sense to conform to begin with and get used to it. Nobody is forcing them.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Shimon Masada:

Hong Kong people also reverse the order if they have a western given name/s.

That's just half the story. The chief executive of Hong Kong is Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor. Notice that, yes, her "given" Western name does come before her surname, Lam Cheng, but her given Chinese name comes last. I say "given", because for many if not most Chinese people, these names were not given by their parents, but chosen by themselves when they start learning English. That's where I think people like the Japanese and Indians have a bit more self-pride. They don't see the need to get rid of the names their parents gave them and adopt another name in a language they may or may not speak. And notice that she gets to keep her own surname, like all Chinese, and has her husband's surname added on.

But anyway, you sure do imagine a lot of things.


Throw in a middle name, & filling in an official document becomes a joke

If you think middle names are a joke, try showing a hyphen and even half the websites in Japan throw a hissy fit. This applies equally to the hyphen in foreign names or to the dash in Japanese referring to a long vowel. I once applied for a bank account and I have a hyphen in my name. When writing the furigana, the clerk asked whether the hyphen was pronounced as haifun. True. And now the zairyu card doesn't accept hyphens.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs is Japan's central authority for its implementation of the Hague Convention and other international conventions. Minister Kono who is the head of this ministry is really tackling the big issues here. When is he going to fix Japan's non-compliance with international conventions? This is bad for Japan's reputation for all of its people. Being known as the black hole for parental child abduction affects all Japanese in a globalised world. Get your priorities right Mr. Kono.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

One thing is for sure as of NOW, there are no rules to J-names in English, you see & hear both a lot.

It used to be surname, given name primarily BUT then Japan wanted to be more "western" & here we are a bit a of a mess LOL, but certainly NOT the end of the world

Personally I would hope Kono would have better things to do on any given day than deal with this ""hot"" issue!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

That's where I think people like the Japanese and Indians have a bit more self-pride. They don't see the need to get rid of the names their parents gave them and adopt another name in a language they may or may not speak.

Yeah, but Chinese names are pretty much unrederable in English, as we don't have the mechanisms to write the tones, and most people can't effectively pronounce them anyways. So their names often end up getting bastardized in English altogether. Add this to the fact that because the names are particularly unfamiliar to English speakers, they also become very difficult to remember.

If the Japanese couldn't remember my name, nor pronounce it properly, I would probably switch to being Taro myself.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I’ve had troubles with this teaching in high schools and colleges. I call all the students by their first names and make a point if remembering them. This is partly due to the culture of the English language, but also to prepare the students for studying abroad. However, I don’t learn their family names. This creates huge problems when I Susan to Japanese teachers about certain students because they only know the students’ family names.

Im sure Taro has better things to do with his time than to ponder such a trivial thing.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Let me get this straight: The Japanese Forign Minister, Mr. Kono or was it Mr. Taro, is worrying about the order of names, while tensions with North Korea are wrenching up again, South Korea is threatening to confiscate Mitsubishi's assests and Trump is still thinking about taxing Japanese cars. Only an entirely insular and hermetically sealed mind to anything outside Japan will arrive at that set of priorities.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

It is clear that he is talking about what MOFA would do, not "Japan" at large. As someone who often does Japanese - English translations of texts that include Japanese, Chinese, and Korean names, it strikes me as bizarre that Chinese and Korean names are written surname first while Japanese names are written surname last.

For example, Kim Jong-un (aka "Little Rocket Man") is never Jong-un Kim. Xi Jingping (aka "Winnie the Pooh") is never Jingping Xi.

Academic publications on Japan in English generally use the surname first pattern.

As for royals in Japan or Europe, even if they have a family name, and some do not, the family name is almost never used, only their title/rank. In Britain, even given names are seldom used. It's the Queen, not Queen Elizabeth unless you need to differentiated her from some past monarch.

Incidentally, surname first is not just China, Japan, and Korea. It is the Hungarian pattern and also one found among Basques.

Surname first is logical in the same sense that year month day [hour minute] is logical. Sorting things from the general to the specific is far more logical than the other way around and the way most records are kept. Alphabetical lists don't start with the last letter in a word, they start with the first.

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

So even we will put "Surname,Christan name" for lists (like phonebooks, remember those ?), but address people and letters the normal way.

But then we have longer more varied Surnames.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

It matters if you have a name like, say, Ralph Lauren. All of a sudden you'd become Lauren Ralph,

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Thank God for small changes. Only person in the cabinet I can begin to like. Welcome Kono.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

We have already been through this. Ten or fifteen years ago one of the ministries, I think it was the Education Ministry, said that we should do this—surname first in all uppercase, followed by the given name— but then as time passed things gradually reverted to the Western way of doing things.

Personally, I wish they would do this, as when writing about history it can become quite confusing.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Throw in a middle name, & filling in an official document becomes a joke

Recently the local Post Office refused to give me a credit card that had been sent to me by registered mail because the mailing didn't include my middle name and my multiple photo IDs did. For whatever reason, the fact the postal addresses were all the same didn't seem to matter.

After teaching the post office worker some rather inappropriate English, I had to get the card reissued and addressed to me with all my names in the "correct" order. Somehow in all the confusion, the name on the credit card that was reissued got changed to my first name and middle initial, but this time it was addressed properly so I could take possession of it. (CostCo still lets me use it, which is all that matters.)

Oh yes, and just to add to the confusion, the credit card company only allows one space between all your names, so you end up with your middle and last names concatenated.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

My Japanese clients, Japanese bank, Japanese landlord, etc. write my name backward, and I really don't care, except when they tell my name is wrong when I write it correctly.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Doesn't matter much in the great scheme of things.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I also have a personal preference based on living here for fifty years. Recently the practice of adding h to names where the h is NOT necessary and serves no purpose. Ohtani is the biggest example as his interpreter said it could be either way .... that is arguable. Osaka is not spelled Ohsaka though it is the same character. My pet peeve is the use of h and u when it comes to Japanese names. Komei Oda is spelled Koumei Oda, but pronounce 'cow'mei by foreign announcers. Watching the spring high school baseball spring tournament at Koshien yesterday, I applauded the Otani high school baseball team for spelling their school name Otani and not Ohtani. I then could not understand the spelling of one of my all time favorite high school baseball teams from Chiba as Narashino High School was spelled Narasino on their uniforms with the cheerleaders' uniforms had the Narashino spelling. The biggest misuse in my eyes of the h is Japanese professional baseball. I wish there was a macron on present keyboards.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

They're not unreadable because of tones, which are irrelevant in English anyway.

I was actually trying to write unrenderable, not unreadable, but I made a typo making it ambiguous.

That said, it ends up kind of being the same. There is no way to write Chinese names in English that non-Chinese English speakers would recognize as tones. So I guess rather than being unreadable, they are unwritable.

The tones are irrelevant in English, but they most definitely are not in Chinese. So if English speakers cannot even say Chinese names anyways, then why not just pick a name that they can say?

As a romanization system, pinyin is remarkably efficient at rendering Mandarin words and names.

Doesn't matter - how many English speakers know Pinyin?

You have tried to claim that the usage of English names by Chinese people is due to a lack of "self-pride". I have shown practical reasons why they would and do choose different names, that have nothing to do with "self-pride". So I put it back to you to support your claim that they are choosing English names because of a "lack of self-pride".

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

If they do this then everyone everywhere would have to call Ichiro "Suzuki Ichiro." Ain't gonna happen.

Most everyone outside Japan would confuse Japanese people's first names with their last names.

Leave it as it is.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Its a very profound question, more to do with the age of the culture, in the old days with book keepers they would put surname first, but with modern computers it could cope with Christian name first, find the space and sort by surname, what's of more concern is how middle names are treated.

Left out, initialised or written in full.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Farmboy, that's on the people who call him Mr. Taro not him. T.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I'm sorry. The article is not really clear on what he wants to do. Does he want last name first in English or what?

Bush Burning has the same problem. Understandable. Read Strangerland. He’s got it right.

I once had two credit cards each written in a different style. Endlessly confusing. For official purposes now I just keep mum and show my Japanese driver’s license.

With any unofficial business I try to get away with ONLY my given name whenever possible as the transliteration is relatively easy for a Japanese speaker to pronounce though the result is more British sounding than American. Close enough for government work.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I just remember lower-down and some higher-up officials deciding my middle name was my family name (ie. gaijin therefore English therefore English order therefore final part deemed family name even though it was presented in katakana in the usual myouji - shitanamae form) - even afer seeing my gaijin card.

For me it was just a time to be empathetic towards all those patient people with names from funny places who have to spell them out incessantly.

And I come from a country where its perfectly normal for nobody at work to know the family names of other people there anyway.

Mr Kono is on to something I think.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

First-world country protocol problem: diversion from real problems that nobody dare to tackle.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

“More of a problem is that Chinese people from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia, used (and still use) a mishmash of romanization, often incorrectly spelled. Also, without a single official system in any of those locations, people could spell their names in English however they chose”

Same issue in Korea where, depending on personal preference, someone with the common surname Park, is perfectly entitled to write their name (which is printed in their passport in romaji) as Bak, Paik, Pak, even Bark. Mr Lee’s neighbor, who shares the same surname, written with the exact same Chinese character and Hangul, writes his name Rhee. He could have chosen to use Li or Ri, or Rhie. The same Chinese character can even be pronounced “ee” and written just I. Mr Kim’s cousin calls himself Gim, while the Jung family have relatives who prefer Jeong or Chung, and Mr Choi could just as easily have chosen his romaji name to be Choe.

The real issue we are seeing here however is that the Japanese want to have their cake and eat it. If it’s good enough for a Korean such as Ban Ki-Moon to go by his surname first in the West, then so too should Westerners get used to addressing Japanese by their surname first. By the same logic then, those of us in Japan who hail from surname last countries, should be automatically accorded the same privilege and not have to adjust to Japan’s insistence that on official documents we write our surname first. And to be addressed that way too, at all times. I know, unworkable!

4 ( +4 / -0 )

You say to reverse "into English".

Wen talking, use the language customs.

Do as the Romans do.

For writing, use capital letters for family name, aka surname.

My little story: when starting to work in Japan, I was put in charge of the Japanese part of internationally shared database where names where thrown into without any reflexion. It was impossible to know the real name (mix of kanjis, kana, romaji; mixed order).

When I decided on my own, the rule was appropriately first name (aka given name) then family name in capital letter for English at least. Japanese names were put into another column in Japanese in Japanese order.

Problem was solved although I was brushed by my Japanese boss because I did not set a meeting to put this so basic rule into practice...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Seems harmless enough but then you realize that being just like China really isn't a selling point. Also any authoritarian motives want to travel to an ideal past, not one of freedom of the individual. Freedom should be on a first name basis

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

How controversial! Nobody but Japanese are confused when the lower name comes before the upper name except for Japanese people.

One would think this a non-issue and not news worthy of they didn't live in Japan.

The only way that comment could be construed as "off-topic" is if the people making the judgement call are illiterate or have a tenuous grasp on English.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It is hard to believe that Mr Kono, before slipping into the land of nod, worries about this.

There is a much more pressing problem, several prefectures north that Japanese politicians just don’t seem to bother with....

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Yes but the tones are not needed for the purpose of pronouncing the name in an English-language context.

But the name pronounced in English may be an entirely different name in Chinese.

If your point is that it's impossible to say the name tonally without knowing Mandarin tones, 

No, my point is that choosing a different English name isn’t a result of a lack of self pride. It’s because of an inability to render Chinese names in an accurate manner. I’ve been pretty clear about that.

And once again I say, if you have something to show it is a result of a lack of self pride, support your argument. I’ve already shown how it’s wrong. Your turn to show how it’s right.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Simplicity at its best. Outside the Asian realm an individual’s surname follows the given name. At home in any Asian home given names are used in conversations not the reverse as in public introductions therefore a transition to using the given name vice the surname should be a simple. Matter.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Why change. If it is'nt broken, then don't fix it.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Just about how the names are to be written in order, such thousand words are Not Needed.

Simply Japanese,

Nakadai (Surname) Tatsuya (Given)

Simply English,

Sophie (Given) Zelmani (Surname)

No need to change anything for any matter. No need for any discussion. Keep it as it is.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

You've conflated comments posted by two different people.

Ok. Nevertheless, you're arguing against me on a stance I never took. The original point, that I was taking issue with, was that Chinese people taking English names was due to "a lack of self pride". I pointed out that from the perspective of Chinese people, the phonemes of the English language are too different from Chinese to not only be not accurate at representing those names, but due to the tones of Chinese languages can change the name to something different altogether.

Now, you've started arguing with me that Chinese names cannot be represented in English. I have not made the claim that they cannot be represented in English. They clearly can, as we write names like Xi Jinpeng in the English alphabet.

I am disagreeing with someone's hypothesis on why Chinese people take English names. You're taking issue with me on whether or not Chinese names can be rendered in English. They are different things.

But, if you would like to join the discussion I have with whomever it was I conflated you with, do you feel that the reason Chinese people take English names is due to a lack of self pride? And why or why not?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

To make it even simpler, all Japanese should go by one name, like Koyuki, Rola, Yoshiki, Gackt and Becky!

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

The important thing is that "language" is also the key to national and cultural "identity" which in essence "unifies" people and also requires others to "assimilate" into the host society. One step is to keep one's national language "uniform" and "consistent", not allowing changes that basically affect basic and fundamental national values and standards, its morals and ethics which makes it unique and viable in the world.

The US has always faced this problem with "pocket" societies where assimilation is hampered by not enforcing the "one national language" policy and rule in the educational system and in public. Today such pocket societies are diving what could be a better united USA.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Throw in a middle name, & filling in an official document becomes a joke

Made that mistake when registering for my daughter's J passport.

Middle name not recognised so it was all merged into her given name - an utterly unique 5 syllable jumble for her official Japanese name, which may haunt her for life.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Doesn't matter, just be consistent and clear.

My last name is unpronounceable by Japanese. Too many L's, so I'll forever be "Steve-san", it seems.

A friend from Indonesia only has 1 name. Says his island didn't know they were supposed to have 2. It is unique, not connected to either parent's families. I didn't believe him, then he showed me some credit cards and passport. Turned out his CC name was "None XXXXXXX".

Reminded me of Idiocracy (movie) and the name "Not Sure."

3 ( +3 / -0 )

zichi, are they happy with just zichi at the city office?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The only sensible solution is to introduce a whole new fifth hybrid katakana-romanesque alphabet and second level of furigana to make it easier on everyone

0 ( +0 / -0 )

All I have to add on this is that when I went to register my son's birth, the city office workers had to debate and confer for 20 minutes because he has two middle names containing a total of 17 English letters or 12 katakana. Combined with his first name of 5 katakana and his last name of 4 katakana, we broke the fill in the box form and they couldn't figure out how to enter it all into their system.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The Japanese should stick to their culture and traditions. They will be messed up with soon enough :-(

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

It may be a good first step move to eliminate the "katakana" now being forced to be used for foreign languages which sadly cannot properly and adequately meet the phonic and phonetic requirements of foreign languages. Katakana basically murders foreign languages and creates an environment where businesses and corporation use them to create new words combining many foreign languages to suite their "nice sounding" brand and product names. That basically "destroys" the educational system trying to teach foreign languages.

Eliminating the Katakana will ":reduce" the extra written words that students in Japan must master. Think.., they are now mastering Old Classic Japanese, New Japanese, Old Chinese Kanji, Modern Kanji, Romaji, Katakana and Hiragana with more than one (multiple) pronunciation and use of written Kanji based upon the sentence structure and place of usage besides formality of the relationship and situation. With the world adding more and more foreign word into the already confusing basic Japanese language and its use, "simplification" can be a major task.

Trying to change word order may help in reducing the need to think twice before naming a person.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Not sure the sound matters but the ORDER of machine readable letters that constitutes your "name", certainly does, so you need to get this most basic question answered, first name second name or second name first name ?

Same date; do you put day then month or month then day ?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I'm Matsumoto Natsuki. Matsumoto is my family name and Natsuki is my personal name. I use this order. It's no problem for Japanese to use the Japanese way, isn't it?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It's no problem for Japanese to use the Japanese way, isn't it?

It’s no problem for Japanese to use the Japanese way, is it?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"Kono, who is fluent in English, drew a contrast with Chinese and Korean names that are used in the same order regardless of language, citing Chinese President Xi Jinping and South Korean President Moon Jae In."

Ah, so it's more about the usual inferiority complex. Anyway, I always tell people here who ask me that if they want to introducing themselves overseas (or here, to foreigners) using the family name first, as is the way in Japanese, then fine -- but they had better very quickly thereafter explain that their "first" name is the last name they said. Otherwise people will be saying, "Hey, Kono, come on over here!", which I daresay is a whole lot ruder. The bottom line is, unless they are familiar with Japanese culture, which 99% of the people in the countries being visited wouldn't be, a person will not know what is the family name, and what is the given, and may well assume the family name is the first name if a person introduces themselves "backwards to that country. When I introduce myself in Japanese I use family name first, and when I introduce myself in English I use my first name first.

I knew a Japanese guy in Canada when I was a kid who introduced himself as Shouji Taro, Shouji being his family name and Taro his first. I had no idea at the time and thought Shouji was his first name, so for three years I always called him "Shouji". Finally, at one point, he seemed rather upset and asked me, "Why do you call everyone else by their first name and only me by my family name?" I was shocked and embarrassed, but explained that when he introduced himself he used his family name first, and I thought it was his first name. I still keep in touch and once in a while jokingly call him "Shouji", and he calls me by my family name, but he carried that around with him for three years because he insisted on introducing himself the Japanese way, in Canada, with no context.

So, Kono, feel free, my friend. Just don't cry about the results or when formal letters come through as, "Dear Mr. Taro".

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Ah, so it's more about the usual inferiority complex

Knowing Japanese culture, do you honestly think Kono san possesses an inferior (to Chinese, Koreans) complex? I don't.

What surprises me about this thread is the number of posts, at almost 80 posts and still no confidence of one way or the other, yet people are so strongly defending their own preference.

I personally think it's progressiveness that has driven Japanese to adopt the English order, and Kono san's direction is a regressive step.

When you take into account that Japanese language now incorporates so many english and western words, and introducing a convention just to write these words, the current naming order is just a natural progression of development of the language, ie internationalising it. Remember a satellite that leaves orbit discovers new worlds, though some may say it has gone strays.

Then there are publishers like Junichi Yamada (Kabunsha?) that has been going even further by incorporating a much higher english content in his work and printing like an English book, ie read from left to right (ie reversing order).

At the end of the day, does it matter that much that a minister has to dedicate resource to it? People drive on the left and right side of the road, Indonesians don't even have surname, Hong Kongers uses both conventions....just saying.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Not especially. Even if it's true in some cases, which it might well be, why would anyone think this practice can be traced to a single reason?

The only person claiming it to be a single reason is the guy who made the original post I took issue to. Once again, my point was that taking on English names is not due to a lack of self respect.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

As a westerner myself, I say, do what you want, whatever floats your boat.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Glad to see that Japan's Foreign Ministry is really on top of the major issues of the day.

Wouldn't want to see them wasting time on trivial matters -- like trade issues, North Korea, the deterioration of Japan-South Korea relations, refugees, or nonsense like that.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

When my father told me as a child that in English one writes the given name first and the sir name last, I thought I learned something very novel and ingenious. Later, we school children enjoyed ourselves by telling each other how in America things are reversed from us, for example, that one's address is written in the order from small to large areas, that on the globe we are located opposite to each other, that our day is their night and their day is our night., and so on and so forth.

During the Meiji Restoration, elder statesmen tried to conform everything to a Western pattern, thinking that's a shortcut to Japan’s modernization. Everything traditional was considered behind the times and was given away very easily. They adopted the solar calendar in lieu of the lunar calendar, forgetting people’s daily life and traditional festivals were firmly interconnected with lunar calendar dates. Traditional events, such as Obon or August Moon festival, is based on the lunar calendar. If you celebrate Obon or August Moon based on the solar calendar, the last day of Obon and August Moon might fall on a moonless night. Fishermen can’t calculate the times of high and low tides unless they knew lunar calendar dates.

The way Roman numerals are counted is different from the Chinese counting system which the Japanese and East Asian peoples have been accustomed to for centuries. In the Roman system the figure 1234567890, for example, is read by demarcating every three digit as 1,234,567,890, and so read easily as 1 billion 234 million 567 thousand 890. In the Chinese system, however, the demarcation is done every four digit, like 12,3456,7890, thus read 12億(oku) 3456万(man) 7890. Ordinary people in Japan, except bankers, find it very difficult to read large numbers like 1234567890 if it’s demarcated as 1,234,567,890.

If Kono is right, and I think he is, all these Westernized systems must also be reverted to traditional ones once again. But will people like it? That’s the problem.

A better solution might be to use two systems concurrently like we do in Okinawa. Obon is celebrated during July 13-15 on the lunar calendar. In some fishing and farming communities, a lunar new year’s day is celebrated more festively.

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Its not really an issue of changing the culture...if you are going to introduce yourself in English, the order is first name - last name. Anyone unfamiliar with Japaneses names will not be able to differentiate and immediately think one's family name is their first name if the order is reversed.

As far as foreigners go, I've always filed paperwork in Japan in the western order of First Middle Last name and I've never had problems. I think I've had more grief dealing with the stupid hanko culture more than anything else...

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The modern way of writing and saying J names in English is a journalism convention dictated by western English editors at Reuters and AP. Even AFP. Has nothing to do with J pride or Western prejudice. In English newspapers and websites he is Haruki Murakami, and Mr murakami not Mr haruki. So blame the editors and style guides at English language newspapers and websites, Japan times, Taipei times, New York Times , Reuters afp dpa, daily yomiuri, guardian, etc

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

This is yet another example of a pointless exercise. I will always call my Japanese friends by their given name, and never by their surname - it sounds more like a public school assembly.

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Here they called you by surname or name. So don t mind until there are 2 people of the same surname

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I get business cards in both orders, but usually with family name in capitals so either ASO Taro, or Taro ASO is OK, but you do need to know. If there is a common surname, eg, Sato, you often need the full name for clarification and that is usually done the the European order in my experience. Use of surnames first/only isn't that uncommon with older people and in some contexts in a lot of countries, but it is inappropriate in others. As an academic, I remember surnames a lot better, so I find it easier in Japan, S. Korea, etc.!

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"Call me what you like, just don't call me late for dinner." Also, its not like there are large families with recognizable surnames that much anymore. People have left the inaka in droves.... so what is the use of using one's family name first.... know one knows anything about these families. And its not like reversing the trend will lead to a reverse of individualism in Japan.

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This is the worst article ive read all week. I still have no idea what Kono wants to do regards to the order of surname and given name..

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It's pretty simple- you use the convention of the language you are speaking/using. Don't assume that the person you are speaking to: a/ knows where you are from, and b/ knows the naming convention of your country.

Official paperwork is usually quite clear, stating where to write which name (family, given). The trouble comes when Japanese people see my name on a document where I have written in Japanese order- family name, given name, and then call me by given name. They usually say it is because "foreign people write their names in that order"... enough confusion already exists.

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This is the worst article ive read all week. I still have no idea what Kono wants to do regards to the order of surname and given name..

Careful what you say about others, we all have to justify our existence, politicians even more so.

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if you are writing your name in english, then you should write it naturally in the english order.

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The Statistics Bureau of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications tells Japan's current population is 1億(oku) 2612 万(man). The figure is represented in accord with the Chinese number system. If it's written as 126,120,000, like bankers and accountants do, that'll be really difficult for an ordinary person on the street to read and grasp.

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I 'm afraid some people may say my post above has nothing to do with what Kono has suggested. But no. It's quite relevant because all these matters, Kono's proposal  included, are concerned a lot with traditional vs. imported Western values. So everyone should have some say about it.

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