Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Japan-related articles/Name order

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The question of the order to use for Japanese names, how to present them, etc, in Wikipedia has been under discussion for more than a year; we have been debating a new policy regarding these issues. This page has been created to:

  • summarize the problems and proposed solutions
  • preserve the discussion for those who are new to the issue and are looking for justification for whatever the policy is or not at present.

Once we have settled what to do (if we manage to do so at all), then this page will remain as a historical note.

[For the archive of the original voting page, see Wikipedia:Manual of Style for Japan-related articles/Naming order/archived votes]


This poll will be closed on December 31, 2004. To vote, put your name at an option, using #, so it's easy to count the number of people who support any given option. You can indicate that you find several different options acceptable, but if so please add some text to give some more detail - e.g. "either this one or that one is OK with me, but I prefer this one". You can freely change your vote at any time.

Question 1 (order in the title)[edit]

SN=Surname, Family name or Clan name; GN=Given name or Penname

SN-GN without exception:

  • pro: simple; consistent with Japanese name order; consistent with academic books and articles (this is the method the Encyclopedia Britannica uses, except that for people who are primarily known by a single name, such as Basho or Shiki, where they use a single name).
  • con: inconsistent with the English name order, violates current Wikipedia article naming policy in some modern cases
  1. Jiang there's no reason to be Western/Anglo-centric.
  2. Exploding Boy 17:05, Nov 9, 2004 (UTC)
  3. Davejenk1ns 12:23, 11 Nov 2004 (UTC) Any sort of half-effort requires more effort on everyone's part: the poster, the reader, the indexer. A Meiji division requires an explanation at every turn, a GN-SN for "popularly known" persons is subjective and inconsistent. NOTE: As this is an English language encyclopaedia, we write the names in romaji and we explain things in English. However, that should not extend to making everything conform to English (as in England) rules. As hyperbole, what if this were an ancient Aramaic website-- would we go through and add "Yoritomo, son of Yoshitsune, son of..." or "George Bush, son of George Bush, son of ..." to every reference, just to conform to that language's cultural rules? I would submit that the "current Wikipedia article naming policy" is as flexible with revision as any other element of the Wiki (thank $Diety).
  4. Taku. Being correct is more important than being looking conventional. We know that the underpinning contract of wikipedia is NPOV not conventionality. The use of the name order that better suits some writing system is planinly POV and cannot be an option. -- Taku 15:39, Nov 11, 2004 (UTC)
  5. Josh 21:44, Nov 11, 2004 (UTC): We need a more concrete standard than the one we have now, and this seems to be the more correct one. I would also be okay with GN-SN only, but I prefer this option.
  6. [[User:GK|gK ¿?]] 05:16, 12 Nov 2004 (UTC) After careful consideration of all the options, and reevaluating some of my earlier opinions, this has become my first choice. I have listed a second choice below, but I also have strong objections to either of the two GN-SN defaults.
  7. —wwoods 09:02, 18 Nov 2004 (UTC)   Simple, clear, and as correct as it gets.
    It may be confusing the first time, but people will likely appreciate not having to guess whether an article's subject was/wasn't famous in America, or was born before/after a half-remembered deadline.
    Every biography article needs a redirect from the GN-SN equivalent (equivalents—both with and without any macrons or other diacritics) to catch searches and links. However, there's no need to track down and fix every use of a GN-SN name in other articles.
  8. [[User:AllyUnion|AllyUnion (talk)]] 12:53, 28 Nov 2004 (UTC) English is one of the most flexible and adaptable languages. First name, last name is a matter of Western tradition, not of an English language tradition. Therefore, it is not necessary to write it first name, last name. If clarification really needed to be made, a simple comma would suffice. However, not having the name in Last name (suriname), first name (given name) order can be insulting to people, and especially of the person in which the article is written about. Additionally, not having it as LN FN order makes this English version of Wikipedia culturally biased. I say it is better for a reader to learn that typical Japanese/Chinese/Korean names are written Last name (suriname) first, then First name (given name) last.
  9. CES 00:21, 30 Nov 2004 (UTC) We need a consistant standard. SN-GN is the way to go (see the discussion section for an expanded version of my ideas)
  10. Kowloonese 01:28, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC) I support using the person's own native convention, not the English convention. Since wikipedia allows redircts, the English convention title can point back to the Encyclopedia Britannica convention.

SN-GN for historical figures (pre-Meiji people) and some others related to traditional activities (namely, Charles Matthews's idea). Otherwise, GN-SN:

  • pro: least surprise (perhaps). e.g. names Junichiro Koizumi and Oda Nobunaga can live happily together.
  • con: no simple rule (case by case); issue with hundreds of figures who cross the Meji division; it could also be a problem for living people who may be well known in Japan, but relatively unknown outside of Japan.
  1. WhisperToMe 03:15, 8 Nov 2004 (UTC)
  2. RADICALBENDER 04:29, 9 Nov 2004 (UTC) (wow, we've been going back and forth about this for a long time. :))
  3. I vote for this, and offer a simple rule: anyone born from the dawn of time up to December 31, 1867 is SN-GN; anyone born from January 1, 1868 to Armageddon is GN-SN. If you don't know, then don't be surprised if someone moves the article. That rule takes away one con. Fg2 09:40, Nov 9, 2004 (UTC)
    1. See (article removed) for an article that would explain the system to users. Fg2 00:59, Nov 11, 2004 (UTC)
  4. Mdchachi|Talk 18:25, 10 Nov 2004 (UTC) - my second choice. I don't like a strict Meiji cut-off but think it's a good general guideline.
  5. Edwinstearns 16:45, 12 Nov 2004 (UTC) This is the least surprising option for me and it reflects most common english usage.
  6. Sekicho 04:54, Nov 15, 2004 (UTC) - This is the convention we used on E2 and it works pretty well.

SN-GN, with the exception of those who are usually known in the English-speaking world in GN-SN order. This is essentially the suggestion in the Wikipedia:Manual of Style for Japan-related articles - "use the form of a person's name that is most widely known and used by English speakers"

  • pro: The is the order that a Japanese person's name will usually be found in reading books, newspapers, etc.; no invention of new order
  • con: no simple rule (case by case); issue with Japanese names because English-speakers usually assume that everybody's name is in GN-SN order
  1. [[User:GK|gK ¿?]] 05:16, 12 Nov 2004 (UTC) This is my second choice, but I could live with any of the SN-GN defaults. However, I have strong objections to any of the GN-SN defaults that follow this choice.
  2. --Menchi 03:32, 8 Nov 2004 (UTC)
  3. →Raul654 04:37, Nov 9, 2004 (UTC)

GN-SN, with the exception of those who are usually known in the English-speaking world in SN-GN order

  • pro: consistent with English name order
  • con: no simple rule (case by case); issue with obscure historical figures; e.g. there would be Oda Nobunaga, who is well known but Nobusada Oda, who is not.
  1. Noel - If we systematize SN-GN, people who don't know anything about Japan (the majority of our readers) get it horribly wrong. (Which is exactly why newspapers write about Japanese politicians, etc using GN-SN, I suspect.) We aren't writing the names the way Japanese people would, either - we are transliterating them into English characters - and this is an English-language encyclopaedia. I spent all day recently being interviewed by a reporter from a Japanese magazine - and on his bilingual business card the English side gives his name in GN-SN order (which is the standard on all of these I can recall seeing) - for the exact reason that that is the standard in the English-speaking world. But I could live with any of them except GN-SN without exceptions ("Nobunaga Oda"?) or SN-GN without exceptions ("Kurosawa Akira"?)
  2. Mdchachi|Talk 18:21, 10 Nov 2004 (UTC) - I think the end result of this option and the one above are essentially the same but I prefer the wording of this one better because it implies that the default is GN-SN which is in keeping with the rest of the wiki ie if somebody not yet widely known is mentioned, they should be put in GN-SN order.
  3. Revmachine21 14:24, 24 Nov 2004 (UTC) My second choice if the GN-SN option fails to pass. Redirects should be used in case people invert names.

GN-SN without exception:

  1. Revmachine21 14:24, 24 Nov 2004 (UTC) - My first vote is here for the following reasons - When an English speaking person reads about Japanese people, most of the time the naming order is GN SN. See examples in the Japan Times, Mainichi Shimbum and Asahi news online. Even some, but admittedly not all, scholarly works follow the GN SN convention. Furthermore many, but again admittedly not all, Britannica being the major exception, online encyclopedias follow GN SN. Assuming that an English speaking person knows about the different naming convention for Japanese names means that many English speaking people won't find the information they are looking for. Finding information easily is the whole point of an encyclopedia and redirects should be used for those topics where inversions might occur due to familiarity with the Japanese naming convention. Why complicate this for the masses?

Question 2 (first sentence)[edit]

I think we need to clear something up with the GN-SN options below. Are we talking GN-SN:

  • Without exception?
  • With the "Meiji split"?
  • Going by "common convention" on a name-by-name basis?

And does it make sense that we might have a different convention for article name and first sentence? CES 15:09, 19 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Junichiro Koizumi (小泉 純一郎; Koizumi Jun'ichirō):

  • pro: common use in the Wikipedia at present; clear about the order to those familiar with the Japanese order
  • con: less clear about the order to those unfamiliar with the Japanese name order
  1. Noel - Strongly prefer this one or the next one - either with or without superscript link is OK with me.
  2. Mdchachi|Talk 15:12, 11 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Junichiro Koizumi (小泉 純一郎; Koizumi Jun'ichirō)1: (note the link can be Japanese name or something else.)

  • pro: very similiar to current Wikipedia usage; link will show the person how a Japanese name is ordered in Japan. (that is, mitigate the problem in the option above)
  • con: the link is not prominent and it may be unclear about where the link will lead.
  1. gK
  2. WhisperToMe 03:13, 8 Nov 2004 (UTC)
  3. RADICALBENDER 04:29, 9 Nov 2004 (UTC)
  4. I vote for this, and propose that we put the link in the See also section (a footnote is acceptable, but I prefer See also). Fg2 09:48, Nov 9, 2004 (UTC)
    • See (article removed) for an idea of an what such an article might look like. Fg2 01:02, Nov 11, 2004 (UTC)
  5. Sekicho 04:54, Nov 15, 2004 (UTC) - I am opposed to "see also" sections in general because people use them for unrelated or marginally related links. (If there's no way to link the article from the text, it's probably not appropriate to link it from a separate list.) But the footnote idea looks good to me.
  6. Revmachine21 14:28, 24 Nov 2004 (UTC) I vote here. Clean looking, easy to read, the English convention GN SN is followed, the Japanese kanji is also displayed with Japanese naming convention SN GN, the kanji is very helpful to those studying Japanese. 'Strongly' recommend this format to avoid the debate above.

Junichiro Koizumi (小泉 純一郎; Koizumi Jun'ichirō or Koizumi Jun'ichirō):

  • pro: relatively clear about the order
  • con: non-standard in wikipedia and elsewhere; not clear about the order to those who don't know about what the underline indicates.
  1. Jiang - as long as surname is clear

KOIZUMI, Jun'ichirō or Koizumi, Jun'ichirō (小泉 純一郎):

  • pro: clearest to see which one is a surname and which one is a given name; standard in many places, especially for some non-English, non-Japanese languages; no need to repeat the name
  • con: non-standard in wikipedia, a person still needs to know that ALL CAPITALS is the standard for the last name
  1. Jiang - as long as surname is clear
  2. --Menchi: very clear

KOIZUMI Jun'ichirō (小泉 純一郎) or George Walker BUSH:

  • pro: SMALL CAP Convention used by CIA's Factbook of the World. A variation of option above except dropping the comma. Convention works well for both Western or Eastern ordering.
  • con: non-standard in wikipedia; Font display of the small caps loses boldface; require HTML code unless a special wiki surname tagging is developed.
  1. Kowloonese 01:47, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Koizumi Jun'ichirō (小泉 純一郎):

  • pro: no need to repeat; predominant in historical figure articles
  • con: not clear about the name order; inconsistent with the English name order
  1. Exploding Boy 17:05, Nov 9, 2004 (UTC)
  2. Taku
  3. Josh 21:44, Nov 11, 2004 (UTC)
  4. CES 00:31, 30 Nov 2004 (UTC) I'm not sure I agree with those "cons" ... if the title is SN-GN but the first line is GN-SN (as the trend in voting is so far) wouldn't that confuse people even more? Also, as we've seen over and over again "English name order" is always up for debate. I think no matter what we decide for the first line, adding a link to Japanese name or something similar might be a good idea.

Jun'ichirō Koizumi (小泉 純一郎):

  • pro: clean; the format is consistent with any other articles about people
  • con: no information about the name order

Question 3 (editorial notes)[edit]

Put some linked notice about the name order and other editiorial notes using a template to

Every Japan-related article:

  • pro: at least one can figure out the order and any other convention used in the articles.
  • con: not everyone is willing to read notes before reading the article; there are few problems other than the name order
  1. every article containing Japanese names Exploding Boy 17:05, Nov 9, 2004 (UTC)
  2. Josh 21:44, Nov 11, 2004 (UTC): Regardless of what standard we use, we need to let people know.
  3. Sekicho 04:57, Nov 15, 2004 (UTC) - I approve of this as long as the link is discreet. However, putting a big prominent link on every Japan-related page is a bad idea.
  4. WhisperToMe 23:01, 16 Nov 2004 (UTC) The name order discreet footnote as outlined above.
  5. CES 12:35, 3 Dec 2004 (UTC) If it's something that'll take up a small amount of space and clear up (potentially) a large amount of confusion, then it's a great idea.

Every article about a Japanese figure:

  • pro: a reader who doesn't know about the Japanese name order can know about it
  • con:
  1. Noel - I lean slightly toward this one, but would be OK with any of them

Every article about a contemporary and modern Japanese figure:

  • pro:
  • con:

None of articles

  • pro: no need to read anything besides the article itself
  • con: problem remains
  1. Taku
  2. RADICALBENDER 04:29, 9 Nov 2004 (UTC)
  3. Jiang
  4. Mdchachi|Talk 15:20, 11 Nov 2004 (UTC) - I need to see some example of a templated article before I could vote for it
  5. Kowloonese 01:49, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC) - if one of the ALL CAP convention is used on Surnames, there is no need to add any note because it is a well known international standard.

Final Results[edit]

This topic seems to have lost its momentum, unless a dialogue is going on somewhere I don't know about. Anyone want to talk about the results? Should we implement them? To me at least, it doesn't really make sense that we'd go SN-GN in the article title but GN-SN in the first sentence, but what do others think? CES 13:52, 13 Feb 2005 (UTC)

I know. I guess the unfortunate fact is that the results were not conclusive and thus are not quite implementable. As pointed out, Q1 and Q2 seem to conflict and Q3 got tie result! (This is to say I have not forgetten about this; but not sure what we are gonna do.) -- Taku 15:55, Feb 13, 2005 (UTC)
It is unfortunate. I am not really sure how to resolve this either, though. Does this mean we should just keep things the way they are? Josh 19:12, Feb 13, 2005 (UTC)
For what it's worth, by my count,
Old Modern
Famous 16 / 7 10 / 13
Not 19 / 4 13 / 10
there was a strong preference for SN-GN for historical figures, and a split for modern ones.

The table shows a better than 2:1 preference for SN-GN for pre-modern people. I suggest we go with that. Then, for modern people, maybe we should narrow the choices—preferably, to only two—and vote again. It's normal to have inconclusive results when there are lots of choices, but if we narrow it to two, we have a better chance (but still no guarantee) of a clear winner. Fg2 00:42, Feb 20, 2005 (UTC)

I think so too. I will update Manual of Style for Japan-related articles. -- Taku

If I can make a point. It has been official Monbusho (Ministry of Education etc) policy to write Japanese names in English as given-name family-name order since Meiji times. All the English language media uses GN-FN order, all the newspapers, the offical broadcaster NHK and all radio stations. I believe it has changed recently to make this optional but the number of people doing this is low (eg Utada Hikaru). In my opinion this just makes it confusing. Korean and Chinese names are usually kept in their traditional order but if they become citizens of English speaking nations they have to change. My name gets swapped around in Japanese, surname, firstname middlename and I don't complain, when in Rome... Brettr 11:35, 2005 Mar 30 (UTC)

The complication we have is that encyclopedia is not this "English language media". In newspaper or magazines, modern figures' names are given in GN-FN order. On the other hands, in academics it is common to use FN-GN. See Japanese name for more. (Or you can expand the article, of course!) -- Taku 03:43, Apr 1, 2005 (UTC)
I know of an American textbook that uses Western order for two figures in World War II (Isoroku Yamamoto and a photographer of the aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: McDougal Littel's World History textbook. (All of the other Japanese figures that I know of in that book are historical, and we all know what that convention is) WhisperToMe 18:15, 1 Apr 2005 (UTC)
By the way, do any of you guys mind if I add the superscript links leading to "Japanese name"? WhisperToMe 05:07, 3 Apr 2005 (UTC)
I've never actually seen, even "in academics", a consistent use of FN-GN order for famous modern figures; if it's used at all, it's definitely a minority usage. Writers on the subject of musical history write Yoko Ono, not Ono Yoko, and academic discussions of Japanese politics (e.g. in political-science journals) discuss Junichiro Koizumi, not Koizumi Junichiro. --Delirium 21:22, Jun 16, 2005 (UTC)
Unfortunately I wasn't able to find any good reference, but if I remember correctly the current policy ot the Mombusho is that names should be written in FN-GN order when writing romaji. However, as a cursory check can tell you, this policy has not spread to the wider population yet although it should be implemented on official documents. -- Tore July 27, 2005

I think that the Japanese name article does a pretty good job of discussing current usage on Japanese names in English. What I think that it comes down to is that the original policy of using the version of a person's name for which they are best known in English is probably a much better policy for the Wikipedia than trying to use any sort of arbitrary cutoff date for switching from Surname Given name order to Given name Surname order. I know that for what I am most familiar with, haiku and tanka poets, the names of Japanese poets are almost always given in the traditional Japanese order UNLESS that person also publishes in English. BlankVerse 14:03, 17 Jun 2005 (UTC)

The problem of this method is that how to handle cases when a person's name is unheard in English writing. But I agree this sounds more workable. -- Taku 01:23, August 26, 2005 (UTC)

Use of footnote[edit]

There has been a development (who ever imagined!) regarding putting a footnote in an article. Wikipedia is a good example. This seems to become a standard way of annotating an article, and I don't see why we cannot benefit from this in putting a note about the name order, romanization (e.g., tessaiga v.s., tetsusaiga) and such. Please use Manual of style for Japan-related articles/sample for polishing wording and the style. -- Taku 03:56, Mar 22, 2005 (UTC)

Here is a footnote: Wikipedia:Japanese_names WhisperToMe 03:48, 19 August 2005 (UTC)