Some laugh it off as a First World problem. 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.