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Japan to use 'family name first' in official documents

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Tokyo: The Japanese government on Friday decided to follow the family-name-first order when using the Roman alphabet to write names in official documents, in a break from the long tradition of reversing it in line with other languages such as English.

"In a globalised world, it has become increasingly important to be aware of the diversity of languages that humans possess. It's better to follow the Japanese tradition when writing Japanese names in the Roman alphabet," Education minister Masahiko Shibayama said at a press conference.

Shibayama proposed the idea and won approval from his fellow Cabinet ministers at their meeting on Friday, reports Kyodo News Agency.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said details still need to be worked out but the government will step up preparations for making the change.

Critics doubt whether that change is necessary and note Japanese are used to writing their given name first when using a foreign language such as English. The practice began in the 19th to early 20th centuries amid the growing influence of western culture.

Shibayama is not the only member of the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to call for an end to reversing the name order.

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