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Japan seeks a new name order, with last names coming first

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More than a century ago, Japan established as its norm that its people should be listed, in most countries, with given names first and family monikers second.

[TOKYO] If Japan has its way, US President Donald Trump and the reporters accompanying him on a visit to Tokyo that starts Saturday will call Japan's Prime Minister Abe Shinzo - putting the world on notice that the nation wants to change its personal name style.

More than a century ago, Japan established as its norm that its people should be listed, in most countries, with given names first and family monikers second.

But at home and in Asian neighbors, the order is reversed, with the family name coming first.

Hence, in Japan, the leader is known as Abe Shinzo - while the US and Europe call him Shinzo Abe.

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Japan's Foreign Minister Taro Kono this week requested foreign media "to consider making the change", saying at a news briefing in Tokyo that since they write Chinese President Xi Jinping and South Korean President Moon Jae-in with the family name first, they should do the same for Mr Abe.

Mr Kono said the time was ripe for the switch, with Japan starting a new imperial era and set to host major international events including the Group of 20 world leaders' summit in June and the Rugby World Cup a few months later. There's also the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

‘SHINZO ABE'

Japan adopted a Western style for names in the 1880s as it ended centuries of isolation and adopted European and American ways, seeking to modernise itself.

But politicians' desire may not be enough to yield change - and Japan has been down this road before.

In 2000, a government panel recommended ending the double standard for names, but to no avail.

Many English-language media outlets and global leaders have continued to use "Shinzo Abe."

Mr Trump usually refers to the Japanese leader as Prime Minister Abe, often saying his family name as Ah-bee when the correct pronunciation is Ah-bay.

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