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Japanese PM Asks For Everyone To Get His Names The Right Way Around

Turns out the man above’s name isn’t actually Shinzo Abe.

And Mr Abe is over it.

For while Abe is indeed his family name, Japanese convention is to put the family name first, so that the PM’s name is actually Abe Shinzo.

“As many news organisations write Chinese President Xi Jinping and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, it is desirable for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's name to be written in a similar manner," said Foreign Minister Taro Kono – or rather, Kono Taro at a news conference yesterday ahead of the G20 summit which Japan is hosting next month.

The report appeared in Japanese newspaper Mainichi Shimbun.

So why do we get the names the right way around for Chinese and Korean leaders, but not the Japanese?

It’s believed to be a custom dating back to the 19th century, when the Meiji dynasty attempted to reform Japanese naming culture to conform to international standards, meaning that both foreigners and locals were encouraged to write their family name last when writing in English.

But the system has been inconsistently used in academic and historical contexts, and a 2000 report by the Education Ministry’s National Language Council recommended using the traditional Japanese format of surname first.

And now that Japan has a new emperor, with Emperor Naruhito succeeding his father Akihito at the start of this month, it is considered the start of a new era, known as “Reiwa”. And from what Mr Kono said, Mr Abe considers that a suitable time to push a return to the traditional Japanese transliteration.

It’s unknown whether it has the support of the rest of the Japanese government. Or should that be government Japanese?