Something I recently thought of while watching Iron Chef: in Chinese, Korean, and Japanese, last names go first (such as Chen Kenichi, Kim Jong-Il, and Suzuki Ichiro). But when we talk about these names in English, an odd pattern emerges: we always talk about Chen Kenichi and Kim Jong-Il exactly in that way, but Ichiro Suzuki is ALWAYS Ichiro Suzuki, never Suzuki Ichiro.
Why the exception for Japanese?
Are you sure the exception is for Japanese, and not for persons currently living in an English speaking country ? My husband is Chinese, and the older members of his family have entirely Chinese names. In anything invoving non-Chinese speakers, (work, banking, the English side of wedding invitations, return addresses on mail) they use the format of personal name first, family name last.
Well, to contrast, Chairman Mao has always been known as Mao Tse-Tung (and the Kim Jong-Il/Kim Il-Sung example), while every Japanese prime minster I can think of referred to in the news has been called by his first name first.
I think it’s generally up to the individual writer/speaker, relative to his medium’s editorial policies.
If you read the name Ichiro Suzuki in the Sports section of your local paper, does the same paper refer to the Japanese prime minister as <Family Name> <Given Name>?
Personally, I’d like to see each media outlet somehow work into every story involving Asian names whether they use the Asian format (Family Name Given Name) or the Western format (Given Name Family Name).