The government will write family names first when using the Roman alphabet for Japanese names on official documents from Jan. 1, the education minister said Friday.
Respective ministries and agencies will notify related industries in the private sector of the government’s decision, which breaks from a long tradition of reversing the name order in line with other languages such as English.
The ministries have agreed to use the family-name-first order, unless there are special circumstances, and write family names all uppercase if more clarity is needed.
“We are not expecting this to have an immediate impact on companies and general society,” said Koichi Hagiuda, minister of education, culture, sports, science and technology. “Each industry can decide on its own” whether to adopt the new rule.
The change was first proposed by Taro Kono, now defense minister, and former education minister Masahiko Shibayama. The government has been working out the details after deciding to adopt the order following Shibayama’s proposal at a Cabinet meeting in September.
Japanese people are accustomed to writing their given name first when using a foreign language such as English, a practice that began in the 19th to early 20th centuries amid the growing influence of Western culture.
In 2000, an advisory panel on Japanese language policy recommended that Japanese family names be written before given names when using the Roman alphabet to respect the diversity of languages.
The Cultural Affairs Agency then asked government entities, universities and media organizations to adopt the change, but it hasn’t taken root so far.