Photo/IllutrationEducation Minister Masahiko Shibayama’s Romanized name was revised as “Shibayama Masahiko” on the ministry’s website on May 21. (Mayumi Ueda)

When it comes to names, Japanese language officials say we've got it all backward.

The Cultural Affairs Agency said it will ask public offices, prefectural and city governments, universities and news media to adhere to the policy of putting the family name first for Japanese names written in English.

Education Minister Masahiko Shibayama revealed the policy at a news conference following a Cabinet meeting May 21.

Foreign Minister Taro Kono, who has made it his pet issue that surnames should come before given names, as they do in Japanese, said at a news conference the same day that from now on he will ask foreign media to follow the government's policy.

"It's preferred to spell Abe Shinzo's name as Abe Shinzo," Kono said, explaining that Chinese and Korean names have been written that way in English.

It is not the first time that the government has pushed for a change in how to Romanize a Japanese name.

In 2000, an Education Ministry advisory board published a report saying it would be desirable for such names to be written family name first. The agency then issued a notice, but it never gained traction.

"Nearly 20 years have passed since then, but the idea has not been sufficiently disseminated," said Shibayama, who instructed the agency to re-inform the public.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga took a measured approach to the matter at a news conference the same day, saying: "There are many factors to be considered, as it has been customary (to put given names first). Relevant ministries and agencies will discuss the possibilities."

(This article was written by Mayumi Ueda and Ryo Kiyomiya.)