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Why married couples in Japan must have same surname

82 Comments
By Oona McGee, RocketNews24

With Japan consistently appearing in the lowest ranks for gender equality in industrialised nations, the adoption of Prime Minister Abe’s recent bill to promote the role of women in the workplace has been a welcome development in what remains a traditionally patriarchal society.

What the headlines fail to mention, however, are the archaic laws entrenched in the country’s Civil Code that continue to hold women back, including same surname requirements upon marriage, and differences in the minimum marriageable age and re-marriage prohibition period for both sexes.

The U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women has again called for a revision of Japan’s current laws, slamming the country for being one of the few industrialised nations where it remains illegal for married couples to have different surnames.

Despite ratifying the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in 1985, Japan is yet to pass any revisions on glaring inequalities in their Civil Code. While revisions have been presented to the Committee for Discussion of the Legal System for fourteen years now, there has been no progress in respect to the following three points of contention: Article 731, which sets the marriageable age for men at 18 and women at 16; Article 733, which prohibits only women from remarrying within six months unless a woman is pregnant before the divorce; and Article 750, which states a husband and wife must have the same surname upon marriage.

Two landmark cases, contesting the constitutionality of Articles 733 and 750 have been taken to the Supreme Court, with hearings to begin on November 4 this year. A woman in her 20s from Okayama initially filed her case with the District Court in 2013, suing for 1.65 million yen in damages due to the discriminatory nature of the Civil Code after she had a daughter with her new partner and was unable to remarry nor register her new child’s birth. According to Article 772 of the Civil Code, which is also under review for revision as it pre-dates the advent of DNA testing, a child born within 300 days of divorce is still considered to be the legitimate offspring of the former husband.

The other case, contesting the constitutionality of the same-surname requirement, has been brought to the Supreme Court after the Tokyo District Court ruled against five people seeking a total of 6 million yen in damages. The plaintiffs believe the law denies equality for all and impinges on the dignity of individuals, which is in direct violation of the Constitution.

During the Edo Period (1603-1867), commoners were not allowed to have surnames; the legal obligation for married couples to take on the same surname came about during the Meiji Era (1868-1912). In 1996, the Justice Ministry’s Legislative Council recommended introducing a system which would allow women to choose whether they wanted to retain their maiden name or taken on the surname of their husband. Conservative lawmakers continue to oppose any changes, fearing it would be detrimental to family values and society.

With more women joining the workforce in line with Prime Minister Abe’s push to promote women in the workplace, a recent poll shows 48 percent of people support a change to the surname law. Many women feel that the same-surname requirement violates their privacy, as a name change can reveal sensitive personal events such as a divorce or re-marriage. As a result, there are a large number of women who continue to use their maiden name at work, which causes confusion.

With the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination again calling for Japan to modernise its discriminatory laws, we hope women across the nation will soon be able to enjoy equal rights and the power of choice, bringing the country up to the forefront of the modern world, where it thoroughly deserves to be.

Update: Thanks to Jake Adelstein for reminding us of one exception! Japanese citizens married to non-Japanese citizens don’t necessarily have to have the same surnames. This rule applies only to Japanese couples.

Source: Niconico News

Read more stories from RocketNews24 -- Japan government hard at work trying to prevent Shibuya Ward approving same-sex marriages -- Is Japan really racist? A look at where things stand -- Japanese man suffering from dementia could lose house after forgetting about court hearing

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82 Comments
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I know of a couple cases in which the man has taken the woman's surname because there are no males in her family to "carry on the family name".

10 ( +12 / -2 )

Yet Japan continues to insist to the rest of the world that they respect human rights. Someone needs to call them on that the next time a Japanese representative to the UN makes that claim.

3 ( +13 / -10 )

Japanese citizens married to non-Japanese citizens don’t necessarily have to have the same surnames. This rule applies only to Japanese couples.

I agree that this has never been strictly enforced when it comes to foreigners, but what is the actual source of authority for claiming that it only applies to Japanese?

It seems to me that Art. 750 applies equally to everyone unless there is another law that provides an explict exception for foreigners. So far, I haven't found it and I would suggest that it doesn't exist. It seems more likely that Art. 750 does apply to foreigners but that the laziness of bureaucrats at ward offices has created a little pocket of lawlessness which nobody has any incentive to correct and everyone is happy to turn a blind eye to.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Another exception we can't put down to "culture" then.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

but what is the actual source of authority for claiming that it only applies to Japanese?

actually, when a Japanese person marries a non-Japanese person, in order for the couple to have the same last name, they have to submit an extra form外国人との婚姻による氏の変更届(戸籍法第107条2項の届 family registration law article 107-2). When it comes to international marriages in Japan, unless you submit this extra paper, your last name won't change.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Article 731, which sets the marriageable age for men at 18 and women at 16;

What is the problem? Everyone knows that generally, females mature faster than males. Why should the law not reflect that reality? And isn't letting a female marry younger empowerment to the female?? If anyone should be whining about disenfranchisement on that score, its males.

Article 733, which prohibits only women from remarrying within six months unless a woman is pregnant before the divorce;

What's the problem? I agree that should be fixed, but a woman might have to wait six months to remarry? What is the big deal? Surely its not that big of a problem to wait six months?

Anyway, not only does she have to wait, but so does the man who wants to marry her! So its not sexist! It was just an attempt to prevent paternity issues before the advent of DNA testing.

Article 750, which states a husband and wife must have the same surname upon marriage.

What's the problem? I don't see how that discriminates against women. Women can insist her husband take her surname, but they generally don't. If women demure, that is their own fault. You cannot blame the law for that or call the law sexist.

The problem with that law is that it infringes people's freedom of choice, both men and women.

According to Article 772 of the Civil Code, which is also under review for revision as it pre-dates the advent of DNA testing, a child born within 300 days of divorce is still considered to be the legitimate offspring of the former husband.

That is the only serious problem stated, and its not sexist either. Even as a pre-DNA testing law, its still screwball. After DNA testing its just downright irresponsible and inexcusable that politicians let it go so long.

-14 ( +5 / -19 )

"Article 733, which prohibits only women from remarrying within six months unless a woman is pregnant before the divorce;"

Are you sure about this? It contradicts what the article seems to be saying overall (and everything I've ever read on this subject). Perhaps the author doesn't understand the meaning of "unless."

While the first part of the article has some hints as to the actual situation with phrases like this, "illegal for married couples to have different surnames", it veers off into misleading those who are not already familiar with the subject. For instance with this, "In 1996, the Justice Ministry’s Legislative Council recommended introducing a system which would allow women to choose whether they wanted to retain their maiden name or taken (sic) on the surname of their husband." Japanese women already had (and still have) that right. The requirement is that two Japanese who marry must have one surname, either the husband's or the wife's. If they select to use her maiden name that becomes their married surname. In practice, the vast majority select the husband's surname, but men can and do give up their name and take on the family name of the wife.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

@Fishy

Yes, your right. That's certainly the proceedure for actually changing your name. But, the question still remains whether this is completely optional or not (if your spouse is a foreigners).

The nearest hint of an implicit exemption is Art. 6 of the Family Register Law. It says that where one spouse is a foreign national, two seperate family registers must be created. However, it doesn't actually say that having their information split across two seperate family registers allows a married couple to have two seperate surnames. This might be how the government sees it but it seems like a bit of a stretched interpretation.

Of course, most foreigners aren't complaining and it's a bit of a technicality. I just find it annoying when the rules that govern foreigners are just a bundle of unclear practices that might vary depending on where you go or who you talk to rather than clearly defined law which you can rely on and is strictly followed.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

I agree that this has never been strictly enforced when it comes to foreigners, but what is the actual source of authority for claiming that it only applies to Japanese?

Perhaps because so many married foreigners do not share the same last name as their Japanese spouse? I know I don't. I was under the impression that it was really forced on locals until/unless they had a child. I have heard of cases where city hall has refused to issue birth registration until both parents have the same last name. It's BS and this law needs to go away. As does the "two name only" rule.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

"one of the few industrialised nations where it remains illegal for married couples to have different surnames."

This statement is erroneous. I know a number of Japanese female academics who have kept their birthnames after marriage, as they had published numerous journal articles before marriage that affect their professional status, aademic rank w/in their institution, etc. Not a common practice, but not impossible.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

Good luck to the individual women with their court cases.

Shame on the lawmakers in the country for not changing the laws sooner. Shame on all the so-called "public servants" too who continue to enforce such cruel laws without creating a groundswell against them.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Update: Thanks to Jake Adelstein for reminding us of one exception! Japanese citizens married to non-Japanese citizens don’t necessarily have to have the same surnames. This rule applies only to Japanese couples.

What does this mean? If the couple is Japanese, then they are not foreigners....

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

shonanbb -

what do you mean? the same surname rule applies to japanese-japanese couples while the rule does not applies to japanese-foreigner couples.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This statement is erroneous. I know a number of Japanese female academics who have kept their birthnames after marriage, as they had published numerous journal articles before marriage that affect their professional status, aademic rank w/in their institution, etc. Not a common practice, but not impossible.

Everything I've ever read or heard says that it is only possible for married women to keep their surname if their Japanese husband takes on the wife's name, or if the husband is a foreigner. I've also known of married women who continue to use their maiden name at work after marriage, even though their legal name is their married name.

I'm thinking that your example falls into one of these cases.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

It would be nice to have an option, so the course can decide themselves. Nevertheless if you are marrying someone and promise to become one, then it is absurd to be upset about the name. Consider the effect on children, because they would sense the gap in between their parents - which one can call emancipation equality, and other love (?). Just use your common sense....

0 ( +2 / -2 )

It's strange that the article makes no reference to the family register system which is a main cause of the surname issues.

It says that where one spouse is a foreign national, two seperate family registers must be created.

@M3M3M3 Can you clarify? I was under the impression that a foreign national can't create a family register. Has that changed? I married before 1985 when there was a big change in the law. But I don't remember that allowing foreigners to create a register.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Well... how about changing the marriage age to 20 and make it all fair. 20 is the legal age to go to be convicted as an adult, drink and smoke.

The time for women to remarry... that is a buffer for an "I ain't the baby daddy" incident, but nonetheless it will not stop this issue. Should be equal despite any contradiction they may put out there.

Same last name thing needs to also be applied for children. I don't have backing on this and hopefully I am wrong, but the children of divorced parents have to have the same name as their custodial parent.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@albaleo

I was under the impression that a foreign national can't create a family register.

Yes, you're right. Sorry, I misspoke. They won't create a seperate 戸籍は(koseki,family register) which is only for citizens, but since 2012 they will now record foreigners on their own 住民票(juminhyo, resident record).

It's quite confusing and I can hardly claim to be an expert on this, but as far as I can see the question still stands: where does it say that married foreigners or people married to foreigners are exempt from Art. 750? Perhaps it does exist somewhere in some obscure ministerial ordinance, but if it does, it's certainly not easy to find.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

M3M3M3

Yes, you're right. Sorry, I misspoke. They won't create a seperate 戸籍は(koseki,family register) which is only for citizens, but since 2012 they will now record foreigners on their own 住民票(juminhyo, resident record).

It is true that foreigners cannot create a "koseki" (family register) in Japan however their names can be on the Japanese spouse's koseki as a husband/wife. About "Juminhyo" (resident record), as long as you are on a spouse/work visa, your name can be on the record. For instance if you are a military person living in Japan and married to a Japanese spouse, your name is not going to be on the Juminhyo (but your name is on the family register).

where does it say that married foreigners or people married to foreigners are exempt from Art. 750?

good question... my guess is that it doesn't exist, but I'd be curious, too.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@fishy

For instance if you are a military person living in Japan and married to a Japanese spouse, your name is not going to be on the Juminhyo (but your name is on the family register).

That's interesting. I forgot that people in the US military are largely outside of the Japanese system but if they marry a Japanese person they do end up getting recorded. I guess the same thing might happen to people who marry a Japanese person abroad but never live in Japan. It's a pretty complicated system.

Whether people support it or not, alot of these issues will probably be solved if they roll out the 'My Number' system. Once they can link up two numbers as being married, I suspect the government will loosen the restrictions on married couples and perhaps even on people who just want to change their names for other reasons.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@M3M3M3

Thanks for clarifying. I agree it's confusing.

Amidst the bureaucratic fog of juminhyou, koseki, honseki, and what have you, there are occasional moments that lift the spirits. My wife always uses my surname except when she requires one of the usual certificates. Back in 1984, she wanted to change her name on the health insurance card to mine as she used that name at the hospital and it was confusing when it was time to settle up the bill or fill out paperwork. So she asked at the ward office in Osaka and expected the usual rigmarole and shoganai refusal. But the guy at the desk just asked, "You want me to change your name on the card?" "Yes", she replied. He shrugged his shoulders, ran a pen through the name, added the new one, and handed back the card. (I wonder what that guy is doing now.)

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Back in the day, when I got married it was against the law for my wife to change her surname and a man could not get a spouse visa whereas a woman could. So things have changed a little.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Hellokitty123: Yeah, but there are still problems even then. For example, because we are both foreigners my wife could not get a spousal visa either -- only a 'marriage visa', which allows and disallows different things. Anyway, still a lot of lip-service that Abe said about improving things for women, and that this has not been touched is proof.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

One thing we can all agree on: bureaucracy sucks.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

"... since 2012 they will now record foreigners on their own 住民票(juminhyo, resident record)."

If the foreigner has Japanese family members, the foreigner will be listed on the same juminhyo as whichever family members reside (or are registered) at the same address. The foreigner (in such a case) does not get their "own" juminhyo.

"About "Juminhyo" (resident record), as long as you are on a spouse/work visa, your name can be on the record."

I have neither a spouse nor a work visa (I have permanent residency status) but am on the same juminhyo as my Japanese spouse.

"if you are marrying someone and promise to become one, then it is absurd to be upset about the name."

I have been married for nearly 40 years. I never promised to become one. We are two people married to each other. And perfectly happy to have different surnames.

" I know a number of Japanese female academics who have kept their birthnames after marriage"

I assume you are referring to women whose husbands did not take the wife's family name. I also know many female Japanese academics, actresses, etc. who continue to USE their maiden names for work purposes, but if is not their legal name (although it might be listed on their juminhyo as an aka.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Gosh. I humbly apologize for not jumping on the "women are downtrodden" bandwagon. Its the only explanation I can think of for getting a whopping 5 thumbs down. Yeah. Poor Japanese women. Live is so horrible for them here, its a wonder they don't all get up and move to India! Why don't they? Well maybe because no Indian man would hand her his paycheck every month? Or put up with her putting all her attention on the kids and to heck with him? Or carve out a safe country full of cuteness for her?

Man, can someone explain to me what I said wrong if the above has not got it completely right?

-9 ( +3 / -12 )

As for Japanese and non-Japanese couples, I wonder if it's possible for the latter to change his/her name (改名) upon marriage even if he/she's not a resident or naturalized citizen.

And I agree, the separate juminhyo and koseki records just makes it more confusing.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I don't have the same last name as my spouse, but I am on the family register, and I have my own residence so I have my own Juminhyo. The problem is with children: When you don't have the same last name then the name of your kids goes to the Japanese National. But, if you go to court to fight it, it will get changed. Yes, it is very archaic and ridiculous since it totally discounts any equality or rights for the foreign resident. It also discounts the equality of the national since they may not want to change their name.

If it wasn't this confusing then a lot of city/town officials would lose their jobs. Gotta have that bureaucracy more than human rights.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

@albaleo

He shrugged his shoulders, ran a pen through the name, added the new one, and handed back the card.

That's a great story! Haha. Sure beats filling out a bunch of forms and waiting to get a new card.

@Educator60

If the foreigner has Japanese family members, the foreigner will be listed on the same juminhyo as whichever family members reside (or are registered) at the same address. The foreigner (in such a case) does not get their "own" juminhyo.

Are you sure about that? It sounds like you are describing something very similar to the pre-2012 system, in which case I'd like to know what the 2012 changes were all about. I know my name appears on my wife's Juminhyo and she appears on 'mine', but I'm pretty sure I have my own since my immigration status and expiration date (which is now automatically updated) seems to only appear on 'my' juminhyo.

I have neither a spouse nor a work visa (I have permanent residency status) but am on the same juminhyo as my Japanese spouse.

But if you don't have your own Juminhyo (and considering the alien registry certificate system at the local ward office is now abolished), can I ask how you could every get a copy of her Juminhyo (with you listed on it) if you were no longer on speaking terms or she refused? If you couldn't, wouldn't that mean you could never apply for a mortgage, a drivers license, a Tsutaya card etc? What else could you show?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Man, can someone explain to me what I said wrong

@Peace Out, I can't be sure, but you used the expression "Everyone knows". And everyone knows that's a no-no. I see that no one addressed your specific points. You should feel good about that. Anyway, please keep posting.

On this point:

And isn't letting a female marry younger empowerment to the female?? If anyone should be whining about disenfranchisement on that score, its males.

Some of us oldies are still trying to work that one out.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

you used the expression "Everyone knows". And everyone knows that's a no-no.

@albaleo I thought everyone knew it did not mean literally "everyone". You really think people took it so hard, as if I said "you people"?

I see that no one addressed your specific points. You should feel good about that.

I do and I don't. I can see both the good and the bad to that. But the biggest bad of all is that we get no where like that.

Some of us oldies are still trying to work that one out.

I don't know what you mean exactly. But if we bring older people into this, I have known plenty of guys who could go for marrying a 16 year old girl, but I cannot say I ever met a woman who wanted to marry a 16 year old boy, or even 18 for that matter. They are a super rare breed we usually only read about in the crime section.

But the truth is the law harks back to a time when teenagers did marry, and the male was expected to support his wife, and a 16 or 17 year old was not considered to be expected to.

Even so, I don't see the problem with either the age or the age difference. If there ever was an actual problem, what was it? And what do people want anyway? Do they want a compromise of 17, or for both to 16, or both to be 18?

Ah heck. I don't even know why I bother to pretend people have actually thought anything like that through. Most people just seem to have an emotional reaction, and that is how I explain my thumbs down with no replies save yours.

Anyway, thanks for your response albaleo.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Peace Out - Don't let the thumbs-down get you down!

I didn't give you a thumbs-down, in fact I agree with most of what you wrote, but this -

isn't letting a female marry younger empowerment to the female?? If anyone should be whining about disenfranchisement on that score, its males.

-- is something I disagree with. True, females tend to mature earlier than males physically, but at 16 few girls are really mature enough to understand what they are taking on with marriage. Simply being able to bear children is not enough. A low marriageable age is not 'empowerment', it's a license for kids to make mistakes and for older people (mainly, as you point out, men) to take advantage of kids. For the sake of females, I would like to see the age at which marriage is legal, raised: certainly to the same level as for males, and preferably to 20 for both sexes. Give 'em a chance at least to get their education done and have a couple of years learning how to deal with the adult world before they jump in with both feet.

Now I'll probably get a few down-votes. :-)

4 ( +4 / -0 )

UN is so eager to criticize anything about Japan. In US they have the same surname too. As for the other two laws, it is nothing wrong to have different rule for women because women have different body function and need protective laws.

Are the committee members are mostly westerners? Don't they have better things to do?

-12 ( +0 / -12 )

M3M3M3

I forgot that people in the US military are largely outside of the Japanese system but if they marry a Japanese person they do end up getting recorded

. I guess the reason the military people don't appear on the juminhyo is because they technically don't live in "Japan", their addresses are registered on military base where they are stationed. Some military people live off base but that doesn't get listed on Japanese papers just like vehicle license plates that the military people have are not listed on the Japanese system. However, if they are officially married to Japanese citizen, their names are on the Koseki (family registry).

Educator60-

I have neither a spouse nor a work visa (I have permanent residency status) but am on the same juminhyo as my Japanese spouse.

I'm sorry I forgot to mention those who hold permanent residency status, YES of course their (your) name get listed on the juminhyo. Here's my question, though... Can a foreigner become the "Setai Nushi" (head of the household)? Foreigners are normally listed on their Japanese spouse's juminhyo as a family member but I'm not sure if it has to be that way. If a foreigners can be the head of household, then it is considered that non-japanese person can have his/her own juminhyo, right?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Can a foreigner become the "Setai Nushi" (head of the household)?

Since 2012, yes. I'm listed is the setai nushi of my home.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@M3M3M3

Good morning!

"The foreigner (in such a case) does not get their "own" juminhyo.

Are you sure about that? It sounds like you are describing something very similar to the pre-2012 system, in which case I'd like to know what the 2012 changes were all about. "

Technically, although we have been loosely referring to the juminhyo, keep in mind the information registered in the jukinet residency registration system and a printed certificate of that information are two different things. Before the changes foreigners were not listed in the same residency records as Japanese (let's not confuse this discussion by including some very rare exceptions), hence my husband could get a certificate based on jukinet records but I was in the alien registration records as certified by my ARC card. Now we are together in the same jukinet system.

"I know my name appears on my wife's Juminhyo and she appears on 'mine', but I'm pretty sure I have my own since my immigration status and expiration date (which is now automatically updated) seems to only appear on 'my' juminhyo."

When you request a printed copy, you choose what parts of the information will be included depending on the purpose of getting the copy. Depending on the transaction, you might need only proof of your registration at that location, or you might need all the info about all family members registered there, etc.

"But if you don't have your own Juminhyo (and considering the alien registry certificate system at the local ward office is now abolished), can I ask how you could every get a copy of her Juminhyo (with you listed on it) if you were no longer on speaking terms or she refused? If you couldn't, wouldn't that mean you could never apply for a mortgage, a drivers license, a Tsutaya card etc? What else could you show?"

I haven't actually needed to get a printed copy for anything yet, but when doing the paperwork when the system changed I got a copy just to confirm what was on it/to commemorate the occasion, ha ha. I believe I just requested a full copy. I certainly didn't need my husband's permission so I think if you are estranged from your spouse but still registered at the same residence, you merely need to go to your local office and request a copy. For routine things you can also use your Residence Card (which replaced the former ARC) as ID.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

You should use the quote function Educator. It's hard to separate what you are quoting from what you are saying.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I don't even know why men would oppose a change to this law. A disturbing sign that as the society here ages, we'll see more conservative lashing out against perceived threats to "traditional values"

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@ Strangerland at Oct. 01, 2015 - 09:25AM JST "You should use the quote function Educator. It's hard to separate what you are quoting from what you are saying."

Thanks for the advice. Sorry if it was confusing. Parts in quotation marks are what someone else wrote. I also put empty lines between parts in hopes of making it clear.

I did try to use the bold, italic, quote, and link buttons in the past but gave up as they didn't seem to function (on iPhone if that makes any difference). Sometimes I see comments including quotes that have a bar running down the entire side and no empty lines between parts making it appear the entire comment is a quote etc. I don't know how people do that but I know I don't want to do the same thing ;-).

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@fishy

Here's my question, though... Can a foreigner become the "Setai Nushi" (head of the household)?

Yes, I'm pretty sure you can. Even under the old system you could make a note on the Japanese person's juminhyo that the foreign spouse was the head of household (even though the foreigner didn't appear).

@Educator60

Thanks for all the good info. Everything you said makes perfect sense and I think you're right. The system is afterall based on each household, and I just read on a Japanese site that anyone who is listed under a particular head of household has a legal right to get a copy of all the data. I think you also hit the nail on the head when you pointed out that it's just data floating around on the computer system waiting to be manipulated and printed. Also, sorry for assuming you were a man!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

You can use the 'greater than' symbol before a line of text, to set that text as a quote. Make sure there is no space between the 'greater than' symbol, and the first character in the text. Note that if there are line breaks, you'll need to add this symbol in front of each line of text. Also note that you need to add a line break (ie - double spaced) after each quote, or the following line is included in the quote (sloppy programming by whomever made this site).

I added a 'greater than' before this line of text

I clicked enter twice before starting this line, which also has a 'greater than' before the line of text

And I left an empty line between the quote and this line of text.

You can also use the 'preview' button to make sure you've done it right.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Actually, my wife who is Japanese said that if she kept her own last name (I'm American), she would have to appear before a judge to get approval to keep her last name for personal or professional reasons.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Actually, my wife who is Japanese said that if she kept her own last name (I'm American), she would have to appear before a judge to get approval to keep her last name for personal or professional reasons

Tim -

I'm sorry but she's misunderstanding. She could have changed her last name (to your surname) when you guys got married with one extra paper work --外国人との婚姻による氏の変更届(戸籍法第107条2項の届 family registration law article 107-2). If she would want to switch it back to her Japanese last name later on, or if 6 months or after the marriage she wants to change her name to yours, then that's when you have to submit papers to the family court for the court approval.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

fearing it would be detrimental to family values and society.

Despite the headline, the question of why married couples in Japan must have the same surname is not addressed in the article. The above comment covering all those topics generally is the closest it gets. So, is there a reason?

TW:

In US they have the same surname too.

Usually, yes, but the fact that they don't have to is the obvious difference compared to Japan.

Another matter not raised here is why the entire koseki system is necessary? Or for that matter, any kind of juminhyo system which includes more than the one individual. Surely it is none of anybody's business if there have been divorces, adoptions, remarriages, or anything else in a person's family background. The whole system should be done away with and replaced with a minimal registration based on the individual, if indeed any registration system is needed at all.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

tinawatanabe: UN is so eager to criticize anything about Japan. In US they have the same surname too.

It's not legally mandated here. My wife and I didn't change names.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

My wife was too lazy to change her name to mine and now it is really annoying me because the kids get her name for some reason.

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Usually, yes, but the fact that they don't have to is the obvious difference compared to Japan.

So UN complains Japan has difference from US. I'd say Interference of domestic issue.

-7 ( +0 / -7 )

So UN complains Japan has difference from US. I'd say Interference of domestic issue.

YOU are the one who compared it to the U.S.

And read the article JAPANESE WOMEN are suing to get this changed.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Actually, my wife who is Japanese said that if she kept her own last name (I'm American), she would have to appear before a judge to get approval to keep her last name for personal or professional reasons.

Funny, my wife said the opposite. Something about it would be too hard to change her name to mine. Once you are married, you learn not to listen to your wife for these things.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I'm American, wife is Japanese. She has kept her family name for 20 years...#Justsyin

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Peace Out — "It was just an attempt to prevent paternity issues before the advent of DNA testing." Well, we do have DNA testing now, so shouldn't that stipulation be dropped?

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Tina:

So UN complains Japan has difference from US. I'd say Interference of domestic issue.

Original article:

The U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women has again called for a revision of Japan’s current laws, slamming the country for being one of the few industrialised nations where it remains illegal for married couples to have different surnames.

Not just a US thing, in other words. Comparing Japan with its peers and pointing out inconsistencies is perfectly legitimate, IMHO. Or would you prefer Japan to be compared with another group of countries which happily surpress women's rights across the board?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

YOU are the one who compared it to the U.S.

I'm complaining UN complaint against Japan although it is the custom common in US too mandatory or not. UN is not a neutral organization ( the chief said so when Japan complained their anti-Japan stance)

JAPANESE WOMEN are suing to get this changed.

Somebody in Japan suing in Japan is fine. Legal.

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

Funny, my wife said the opposite. Something about it would be too hard to change her name to mine. Once you are married, you learn not to listen to your wife for these things

It's easy (just one extra paper to fill out) for your Japanese wife to change her name to the foreign husband's name when you get married.

After 6 months of being married and if she wants to change it, then she has to bring it to the family court (pain in the neck). Basically, she can keep her name or change it to foreign husband's name within the 6 months of getting married and the only extra thing is to fill out one more paper at the city office (very easy).

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Or would you prefer Japan to be compared with another group of countries which happily surpress women's rights across the board?

I prefer Japan be compared with another group of countries called Asia, but that would not work for UN intention, Japan bashing.

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

I'm complaining UN complaint against Japan although it is the custom common in US too mandatory or not. UN is not a neutral organization ( the chief said so when Japan complained their anti-Japan stance)

Somebody in Japan suing in Japan is fine. Legal.

Again, your victim complex is missing the point. . Japanese people are saying their rights are being violated, and the U.N. is stepping in because the government is not listening to the people of the nation. The UN is helping these Japanese women be heard for the complaints the Japanese people have.

I prefer Japan be compared with another group of countries called Asia, but that would not work for UN intention, Japan bashing.

Then talk to your government about leaving the U.N. Japan joined voluntarily, so they have to listen. You do realise the U.N. also make human rights complaints against the U.S. right?

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Funny, nobody mentioned double-names? When we married my (Japanese) wife told me she would keep her name and later change it to double-name, which would involve documents a letter of reason to the family court...Now we got 2 kids, she made like 2 attempts (getting the documents from the office), but that's about it. Never should have given in to her, esp since she has an older brother to keep the family name going.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The UN is helping these Japanese women be heard for the complaints the Japanese people have.

Those Japanese women are not all the Japanese women. Minority. Japan is hearing those minority women and so far supporting the status quo.

Then talk to your government about leaving the U.N.

Or changing UN.

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

Those Japanese women are not all the Japanese women. Minority. Japan is hearing those minority women and so far supporting the status quo.

Yes, they are not all the women. But the woman who want their husbands last name will not be hurt. There is no logical reason to FORCE women to take their husbands name. It should be a choice.

And the problem with the inability to remarry within can have really bad effects on children. I know I do not have to explain how important a koseki is to be a part of Japanese society.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I prefer Japan be compared with another group of countries called Asia

You mean like China and Korea, where women customarily keep their maiden surnames after marriage?

but that would not work for UN intention, Japan bashing.

What is being 'bashed' is outmoded and substandard practices. Of course Japan has the right to maintain those, but it needs to know it is out of line on this issue.

Hats off to you though, every time I think I can't be bothered to log back in to JT, you provide the incentive!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@tinawatanabe As far back as 1980, I got married in the US. My then-wife and I were asked, as a matter of course, what names we wanted to register, and were given the options of both my surname, both her surname, or both/each completely different surnamesnames. I admit that I was surprised by the last option. This was in Hawaii, FWIW.

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There is no logical reason to FORCE women to take their husbands name. It should be a choice

They have a choice to take the woman's name. Some couples decide by rock, scissors, paper.

And the problem with the inability to remarry within can have really bad effects on children.

There are good effects on children too, which is the reason the law exists.

You mean like China and Korea, where women customarily keep their maiden surnames after marriage?

There are other Asian countries too. I have heard that the reason China and Korea women have maiden surnames is not from being westernized but from the women discrimination that women are not traditionally regarded as husband family members.

I admit that I was surprised by the last option. This was in Hawaii, FWIW.

Yes it's good to have other options, but it would have some confusion too.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

They have a choice to take the woman's name. Some couples decide by rock, scissors, paper.

What? I cannot believe this to be true. Do you think I don't know Japanese culture? To take the woman's name, you are basically 'adopted' by her family, I don't think the bride's father is going to take the new son unless it was something discussed beforehand. Either he needs an heir or he doesn't.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

To take the woman's name, you are basically 'adopted' by her family

No. surname has nothing to do with adoption, it is merely a name like ID number. If you want your son in law to be an heir, you need to have a adoption. The same is true with woman.

I don't think the bride's father is going to take the new son unless it was something discussed beforehand. Either he needs an heir or he doesn't.

By marrying, you leave your father (or Setainushi) 's family registry and create a brand new family with man and woman on equal footing. Neither one has any right to the other one's parents' inheritance.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

****My view is when marries he also need to take in his name his rightly wed wife's name too then gender equality seems there.

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@ Peace Out I agree completely with all your points .

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what is the actual source of authority for claiming that it only applies to Japanese?

It's precisely because Japane can only rule about names of its nationals, it has no authority on the name of foreigners.

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Marriage isn't a semi-detached relationship. If a woman doesn't want to take her husband's surname then she shouldn't be getting married in the first place.

I would advise a man to have nothing to do with any woman who didn't want to take his surname. What sort of wife is she likely to be?

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Marriage isn't a semi-detached relationship. If a woman doesn't want to take her husband's surname then she shouldn't be getting married in the first place.

I would advise a man to have nothing to do with any woman who didn't want to take his surname. What sort of wife is she likely to be?

What a ridiculous statement. In China, they don't take their husband's surnames upon marriage. Do you think no Chinese people should get married?

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Why does UN only bash Japan for not allowing seperate surnames? Then why Is it OK that in China and South Korea, women are not allowed the same surname although they are married?

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Tina:

I have heard that the reason China and Korea women have maiden surnames is not from being westernized

Well, yeah, obviously it has nothing to do with 'being westernized'.

why Is it OK that in China and South Korea, women are not allowed the same surname although they are married?

Here you do have half a point, I will admit. But, as far as I know, no women (or men, for that matter) in China or Korea are asking for any change, probably because their traditions are more equal in effect, whatever the original intent was. Conversely in Japan, some women are asking for change. Japan's tradition is the same as the European one, but while European/American/Australian societies have introduced some flexibility which some women take advantage of, Japan has not allowed any flexibility. That is why it draws criticism.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

no women (or men, for that matter) in China or Korea are asking for any change

Did UN investigate China/SK before bashing Japan? Why does UN respect only the opinion of the very small number of Japanese (or non-Japanese) and tell almost entire Japanese who prefer the universal same surname to give up the system?

probably because their traditions are more equal in effect

What traditions are more equal in China/SK than Japan?

Japan's tradition is the same as the European one, but while European/American/Australian societies have introduced some flexibility which some women take advantage of, Japan has not allowed any flexibility.

Why are UN not happy if Japan does not behave exactly like either China/SK or west countries?

-7 ( +0 / -7 )

Tina,

I know you have a certain agenda, but you did ask, and in the unlikely event that you genuinely don't understand, let me help you:

Why does UN respect only the opinion of the very small number of Japanese (or non-Japanese) and tell almost entire Japanese who prefer the universal same surname to give up the system?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

interesting

0 ( +0 / -0 )

tinawatanabe: "Did UN investigate China/SK before bashing Japan?"

I love how everything you disagree with is "Japan bashing". Just goes to show that it is simply a phrase people with no logical response bandy about as a means of deflecting and avoiding the need to face the facts.

"What traditions are more equal in China/SK than Japan?"

Many. For starters China ranked in the 50s in terms of equal employment out of the 120 or so looked at. Japan was... what... 111? Korea was also higher.

"Why are UN not happy if Japan does not behave exactly like either China/SK or west countries?"

I doubt it's less about them 'not behaving like' the nations you love to hate, but more about Japan being WORSE than the nations you criticize in your attempts to deflect.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

When we first got married we had to have my name but the next time I was back in the U.K. I changed my name by deed poll to our combined names then on returning to Japan my wife was obliged to get her own name back again because it was now mine with my own previous name tagged on the end. But you know sometimes these bureaucrats in city halls don't actually know what they are doing because we sometimes got different information from different workers on various matters, not necessarily this one.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Sorry, posted prematurely by mistake the other day then couldn't continue without someone else coming in between. To answer Tina's questions:

Did UN investigate China/SK before bashing Japan?

No idea. But if you are suggesting that there are people in China and/or Korea complaining about their systems, I would be happy to consider the evidence. Frankly, I doubt if there are.

Why does UN respect only the opinion of the very small number of Japanese (or non-Japanese) and tell almost entire Japanese who prefer the universal same surname to give up the system?

Nobody would be told to give up anything. The majority can continue in the current way, exactly as with US/Europe etc.

What traditions are more equal in China/SK than Japan?

The tradition of husband and wife each keeping their own name. Isn't that what we are discussing?

Why are UN not happy if Japan does not behave exactly like either China/SK or west countries?

That is not the point at all. If you are right on the first point, and people in China/Korea want to change their systems, I am sure the UN will take it up. The fact that this has not happened suggests that is not the case.

If Japan changes its system, some people benefit and nobody is hurt. The greatest happiness of the greatest number.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@Peace out

I'll address your concerns

Marriage age 16 for females, 18 for males What is the problem? "Everyone knows that generally, females mature faster than males."

True, but the context of this old rule is that the defining age for marrying comes when families marry their daughters, they didn't expect them for study or work so the best way was to marry your daughter into another family, cutting her chances to prosper by herself in life, and the younger the age the better for the daughter. To lift this rule, you give women time to develop a career or work before choosing a married life.

Women have to wait six months to remarry What is the big deal? Surely its not that big of a problem to wait six months?

If so, why the divorced men can remarry straight away? I think it also there is the issue with children and the surname.

Women taking the husband's surname What's the problem? I don't see how that discriminates against women. Women can insist her husband take her surname.

Are you sure that women can insist the husband taking HER surname? this is a society which the man is the main supporter, and if the husband takes his wife surname, there are a lot of chances he will be bullied at work.

a child born within 300 days of divorce is still considered to be the legitimate offspring of the former husband.

It is sexist, because it denies the woman's right to acknowledge the true father of her child, instead it is imposed by a law that the child it is the former husband's

1 ( +1 / -0 )

if the husband takes his wife surname, there are a lot of chances he will be bullied at work

hmmm.. might have been true a couple of decades ago but not likely anymore ;)

2 ( +2 / -0 )

hmmm.. might have been true a couple of decades ago but not likely anymore ;)

I don't think it would have even been true previously, though I'm entirely speculating here. The reason being that the man taking his wife's name was known as a way for the wife's family to maintain the family name when there were no sons. For families of status, this was important, so when a man took his wife's name, it would have shown he was marrying into status - likely above his own.

But again, I'm speculating on this, I don't actually know if such was the case.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Some inside info. My father in law took his wife's name. He has 5 brothers where she was an only child, with land, I should add.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I don't think it would have even been true previously, though I'm entirely speculating here

right.. and I actually don't know how it was decades ago, but I do know that this is not something that people in Japan would laugh about of bully about. there is nothing wrong about men taking women's surname and while it's not the majority, it's not that rare, either.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

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