Foreign Minister Taro Kono to ask media to switch order of Japanese names

The Japan Times

Foreign Minister Taro Kono said Tuesday he plans to ask overseas media outlets to write Japanese names with the family name first, as is customary in the country. For example, Kono said that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's name should be written as "Abe Shinzo," in line with other Asian leaders such as Chinese President Xi Jinping and South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Japanese names are usually written with the given name coming first when using a foreign language, a practice that began in the 19th to early 20th centuries amid the growing influence of Western culture. Now is the right time to make the change, Kono told a news conference, given that the Reiwa Era has just begun and several major events, including next month's Group of 20 summit and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, are approaching. "I plan to ask international media organizations to do this. Domestic media outlets that have English services should consider it, too," he said, citing a 2000 report by the education ministry's National Language Council that said it was desirable to write Japanese names with the family name first in all instances.


Moves are afoot to push media to switch Japanese name order in English, but will it work?

The Japan Times

But others say the topic touches upon issues of identity, sovereignty and press freedom. Foreign Minister Taro Kono recently stirred controversy by saying he wants to change the way Japanese names have long been rendered in English -- given names first, family names last. Kono said he intends to issue a "request" to foreign media that they hereafter refer to Japan's prime minister by the order used in Japanese -- "Abe Shinzo," instead of "Shinzo Abe" -- bringing him in line with Chinese President Xi Jinping and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, leaders of countries where the family name is also traditionally written first. Why are Japanese names automatically inverted in English usage in the first place? Is changing such a long-held custom really doable?


Foreign Minister Taro Kono suggests need to end reversal of Japanese names in English

The Japan Times

Foreign Minister Taro Kono has indicated that his ministry would consider breaking with its tradition of reversing Japanese names in English and some other foreign languages. Kono, who is fluent in English, drew a contrast Friday 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. "The prime minister is Shinzo Abe (not Abe Shinzo as in Japanese) and I'm Taro Kono (not Kono Taro). We need to think about whether Japan should follow the Japanese way of pronunciation," Kono told reporters. Kono, who often prefers communicating in English with his counterparts during official talks, did not give further details. It is customary for Japanese people to put their given names before surnames when they use foreign languages such as English.


Hawaii paper says two more Japanese leaders visited Pearl Harbor in the 1950s

The Japan Times

Two more sitting Japanese prime ministers visited Pearl Harbor in the 1950s, a local newspaper in Hawaii said Thursday, providing further evidence that Shinzo Abe will not be the first to visit the World War II site during his visit to Hawaii this week. The bilingual Hawaii Hochi newspaper posted photos of front pages reporting two Japanese leaders made official visits, adding those to the 1951 visit of Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida, which Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga recently confirmed. On announcing Abe's Hawaii trip, a Foreign Ministry official said he will be the first sitting Japanese leader to visit the key wartime site, a claim that has now been proven incorrect. The images of the newspaper's front pages show Ichiro Hatoyama visited the harbor on Oct. 29, 1956, with a headline reading: "Prime Minister Hatoyama visited Pearl Harbor yesterday." Hatoyama visited the naval headquarters there and was welcomed by a 19-gun salute and a band performing the anthems of both the United States and Japan, the newspaper said.


Narita airport hires more foreign workers as number of inbound visitors grows

The Japan Times

CHIBA – The country's largest international gateway is hiring more foreign workers to better serve overseas visitors as they arrive in increasing numbers under the government's policy to promote inbound tourism. The move by Narita International Airport Corp. comes as the country seeks to attract 40 million visitors by 2020, when Tokyo hosts the Olympics and Paralympics, and 60 million by 2030, to maintain economic growth amid a shrinking domestic market characterized by a graying population and a persistently low birthrate. In late July, Roneta Ratumaitavuki, a 24-year-old Fijian, began working at Narita airport near Tokyo, as one of the first three foreign workers directly employed by the airport operator. Fluent in English, Ratumaitavuki attended to a group of men from Singapore at the reception counter of a paid lounge. She gave them instructions on where to smoke and checked whether they would be paying their bills together or separately.