Minister of Defense Taro Kono is back on Twitter asking for the English media to use his desired name order, Kono Taro. In the process, he stirred up an 150-year-long public debate on how Japanese names should be rendered in Western languages.
Last fall, Japan embraced a policy to swap the order and write the surname first on all official documents, recommending capitalization to emphasize which name is the family name. Accordingly, Shinzo Abe would become ABE Shinzo and, it follows, Hayao Miyazaki would be MIYAZAKI Hayao, and Naomi Osaka, OSAKA Naomi.
It’s a striking, dramatic change. It retains the order of names as used in Japanese, for one, while giving a visual cue to the importance of family name over given name. The drawback, of course, is that it may seem that in traditional Japanese culture, surnames must be screamed at loud volumes at all times. (That’s because, for all you Japanese readers, all caps in English symbolizes someone yelling.)