When stating a full non-Japanese name, should one use the "Surname Firstname" rule used for Japanese names (i.e. "Smith John / スミス ジョン") or the name's native rule (in the case of an English name, "Firstname Surname" (i.e. "John Smith / ジョン スミス")).

Which format would native Japanese speakers use, when stating an obviously non-Japanese full name?


2 Answers 2


Typically, you state it in the order that is normal for your language. Koreans and Chinese say their family name first, Americans say it last. Japanese people are well aware of that language difference, so they expect us to keep our names in the original order. They also use the original order when saying foreign names themselves.

The only times I put my last name first is when I'm required to do so, as in opening a bank account.

  • I'd want to upvote this if you made some slight changes. E.g., "Typically, Japanese people expect to state it in ..." / "They also use what they've been taught is the original/natural order for saying foreign names -- i.e. given then last for Westerners, family then given for Koreans and Chinese." (i.e., I don't necessarily like the implication we should do so, and there's a whole of implications to accepting the order they default to).
    – virmaior
    Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 12:08
  • "Japanese people are well aware of that language difference" is quite a strong statement. For me it was so common that people thought my last name was my first, so I started applying the Japanese method and now it usually works out.
    – a20
    Commented Oct 29, 2017 at 12:01
  • @bjorn : Interesting, I never had that problem. Maybe it depends on the location.
    – Nick O.
    Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 15:08

When speaking Latin .... do as the Romans do, is one method, and I use it.

In Japan I always use (surname)(given-name) order when writing in Katakana, or when pronouncing my name in Katakana while speaking Japanese. If talking to a person in English, then I will use English pronunciation and (given-name)(surname) order. If, in Japanese, I am asked to pronounce my name in English, then I will use (given-name)(surname) order to do so. My meishi has English on one side, Japanese katakana on the other, and the different order on each.

It has worked out fine. Occasionally someone newly met person will request confirmation, but I think that would happen no matter which system was chosen due to the inherent ambiguity.

Japanese people overseas seem to use the same system, matching their name order to the language they are speaking.

I don't think there is a general fixed rule, but there may be a rule in your company or school.

  • 1
    Do Romans speak Latin ? ? ? Commented Aug 25, 2021 at 12:59
  • @Scratch---Cat -- Good question! If we could find one still alive we could ask them. Commented Aug 25, 2021 at 22:01
  • 1
    @CraigHicks I believe there are several million you could ask :) Probably in Italian though.
    – Leebo
    Commented Oct 5, 2021 at 2:50

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