The government will follow the family-name-first order when using the Roman alphabet to write Japanese names on official documents from Jan. 1 next year, the education minister said Friday.
Respective ministries and agencies will notify related industries in the private sector of the government's decision, which breaks from a long tradition of reversing the name order in line with other languages such as English.
The ministries have agreed to use the family-name-first order, unless there are special circumstances, and write family names in all capitals if more clarity is needed.
"We are not expecting this to have an immediate impact on companies and the general society," said Koichi Hagiuda, minister of education, culture, sports, science and technology. "Each industry can decide on its own" whether to adopt the new rule.
The use of the family-name-first order was proposed by Defense Minister Taro Kono and former education minister Masahiko Shibayama. The government has been working out the details after deciding to adopt the order following Shibayama's proposal at a Cabinet meeting in September.
Japanese are accustomed to writing their given name first when using a foreign language such as English, a practice that began in the 19th to early 20th centuries amid the growing influence of western culture.
In 2000, an advisory panel on Japanese language policy recommended that Japanese family names be written before given names when using Roman alphabet to respect the diversity of languages.
The Cultural Affairs Agency then asked government entities, universities and media organizations to adopt the change, but it did not take root.