Japanese government documents set to put Romanized surnames 1st

The Yomiuri ShimbunThe government decided Friday to standardize, in principle, the writing of Japanese surnames before given names when writing in Roman letters on official state documents.

The Cabinet Secretariat and other related ministries and agencies will discuss how to specifically deal with this issue. After that, they are expected to encourage the private sector to follow suit.

At an informal meeting of ministers on Friday morning, Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Masahiko Shibayama asked the government to stipulate that official documents and other materials to be compiled by the government should be written in the “surname-first” order. Shibayama confirmed that the government would study the matter with that aim in mind.

“In light of the globalization of societies, it has become important for all human beings to be aware of the diversity of each other’s languages and cultures,” Shibayama stressed at a press conference after the meeting. “It’s meaningful to adopt the notation of names in accordance with the Japanese tradition of writing the surname first.”

After Shibayama and Foreign Minister Taro Kono expressed their intention to recommend putting surnames first at press conferences in May, the Cultural Affairs Agency has coordinated the opinions of other ministries and agencies concerned.

Hereafter, the government is expected to work on rules for the general principle and exceptions related to the name order. It also will study how names should actually be written — such as whether the family name should be capitalized or a comma be placed after it.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a press conference, “The education ministry will study [how the government can most widely publicize the changed name order], taking into account the study by the Cabinet Secretariat.”

In December 2000, the then Council on Japanese Language issued a report stating it was preferable to use the surname-first order. In the same month, the agency issued a notice to administrative and educational bodies and media organizations to recommend using that order.

After the notice was issued, the surname-first order was adopted for English textbooks used at junior high schools.Speech

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