Tokyo, May 22, 2019-
Ahead of a series of important international events in Japan, including the G20 summit in June and the Rugby World Cup later this year, Japan has requested the English-speaking world to call its Prime Minister as Abe Shinzo, not Shinzo Abe.
In Japanese, people are referred to by their family name first, followed by a given name, the same pattern as used by Chinese and Korean.
For almost a century and a half, however, Japanese names have been written in English the opposite way round, with the given name first. This practice was adopted during the Meiji Era (October 1868 to July 1912) as a part of broader attempts at internationalization.
As it entered the new “Reiwa” era with the arrival of a new emperor, the Japanese government has said it would like to settle the matter once and for all.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said the government hoped going forward that the Prime Minister’s name “would be written Abe Shinzo, just like Chinese President Xi Jinping and South Korean President Moon Jae-in”.
“I am planning to issue a request to the international media,” Kono said, adding he hoped Japanese English-language media would follow suit, CNN reported on Wednesday.
The request comes as Japan is set to host a number of major events, including the G-20 summit of world leaders in June, followed by the Rugby World Cup in September and the Summer Olympics in 2020.
Also, US President Donald Trump will arrive in Japan for a state visit on Saturday, when he will become the first foreign leader to meet Emperor Naruhito since his coronation.
It was unclear whether the US government will conform to Kono’s request.
Last month, Kono told a parliamentary committee on diplomacy and defence that he writes his name in the Japanese order on his English-language business card, and that this issue should be discussed by the government as a whole.
But Japan Sports Agency Commissioner Daichi Suzuki said that the public should be consulted before the move. (Agency)