H ere are some tips for you to understand why Japanese names
written and addressed in reverse order when in a foreign language and how they
should be properly used.
This letter is written in response to your
article in the March 11-24 edition about Japanese backpackers which had some
names incorrectly ordered.
First of all, please understand that names of
Japanese (the majority) are written and addressed in 'surname-given name'
However, when in foreign countries, Japanese customarily reverse
their names and employ 'given name-surname' order like in most western names. In
this way foreigners can easily correctly address Japanese people they meet.
Foreigners should not think this is the proper way to order Japanese names.
Take Yasushi Akashi for example. On no occasion, in Japan, do we call
him this way but he has to be Akasi Yasushi. Neither Mao Tze Tung is Tze Tung
Mao, nor Pol Pot is Pot Pol. Ever heard someone say Kennedy F. John? It sounds
Historically, it is believed that Japanese scholars and
intelligentsia have done good work to introduce Western cultures into Japan
since the Meiji Restoration period. But at the same time, some of them were
blindly flattered with the 'Western style' and advocated people should change
the order of their names to conform to the given name-surname order, adding to
To date, through the experience of economic growth during
the post WWII era, Japan has followed the footsteps of the West, with a priority
to be recognized in the 'international' community. Nothing is wrong with it. But
the 'legend' dies hard. Reversing name order doesn't mean 'internationalism' but
probably 'opportunism' in a sense.
To avoid confusing usage of name
order, I make some suggestions below. (Example: Yasushi Akashi)
- Give it in the correct order as it is used in Japan. - Akashi
- To make it clear, the surname should be written in capital letters while the
given name in small letters. - AKASHI Yasushi
WATAHIKI Masao, Phnom Penh, Researcher
PS: The article titled
'Japan backpackers flood in' (March 11-24) has a good example of such misuse.
The name of one out of three boys 'Yasutaka Ito' is written in a reversed order
while the other two are correct.
I suggest the media check each person's
name and it might be a good idea to ask them why they reverse their name
I definitely hope you'd carry out these suggestions in your