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Japan tells world everyone has been getting Shinzo Abe’s name wrong, 13 years since he first became PM

The Independent logo The Independent 22/05/2019 Zamira Rahim
Shinzo Abe wearing a suit and tie smiling at the camera © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited

Japan will ask the world to call its prime minister by his correct name, Abe Shinzo, instead of Shinzo Abe, 13 years after he first took office.

Taro Kono, the country’s foreign minister, said he would ask overseas media outlets to identify the leader with his family name, “Abe”, first.

“I plan to ask international media organisations to do this. Domestic media outlets that have English services should consider it, too,” he said.

Gallery: Politicians before they came to power (Photos)

Japanese names are customarily written with the family name first and the given name second.

But in English they are written in the reverse, a practice which began in the 19th century and later became the norm.

Mr Shinzo served as prime minister from 2006 to 2007 and then returned to office in 2012.

His name has typically been spelled “Shinzo Abe“ internationally, despite the Japanese government producing a report in 2000 which concluded that Japanese names should be written with the family name first in all instances.

Gallery: Japan ushers in a new era (Reuters)

Mr Kono said the change would be made as Japan enters its new Reiwa (beautiful harmony) era, which began at the start of May with the ascension of Emperor Naruhito.

Masahiko Shibayama, Japan’s education minister, said his department would encourage all government bodies to use family names first.

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But Yoshihide Suga, the country’s chief cabinet secretary, was more cautious about the change.

“There are a lot of factors we have to consider, including convention,” he said.

Chinese president Xi Jinping and South Korean leader Moon Jae-in are both known internationally with their surnames first and given names second, the same order as in their native languages.

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