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Japanese CEO, 3 other men sue gov’t over inability to use separate surnames after marriage

14 Comments

Yoshihisa Aono, the CEO of the Tokyo-based software company Cybozu, and three other men have filed a lawsuit at the Tokyo District Court, claiming that the current law, which does not permit Japanese married couples the right to use separate surnames after marriage, is unconstitutional.

Aono, 46, who was officially registered under his wife’s surname, Nishihata, on Japan’s Family Registry after their marriage in 2001, but goes by his birth name Aono, filed the suit with three other plaintiffs on Tuesday, claiming that the system is flawed and leads to a number of inconveniences and financial burdens.

The plaintiffs requested a total of 2.2 million yen in compensation from the government.

Aono and his attorney based his arguments on the fact that the country’s Family Registry Law allows Japanese married couples to decide what surname to use in case of divorce, but allows either partner the choice of which surname to use between Japanese and foreign partners in case of divorce and marriage. Aono argued that there is a clear discrepancy in the law.

The current law requires Japanese couples to use a common surname after marriage and the only choice they are given is whether to use that of the wife or the husband.

Aono told the court that it had cost him almost 800,000 yen to change the ownership name of his company stocks and he was requested to use his registry surname on a number of work-related documents despite using the name Aono at work. He argued that this causes him great inconvenience and an emotional burden on a daily basis.

This is the first lawsuit filed by a man in Japan demanding the right to use a separate surname after marriage, Tomoshi Sakka, the attorney representing the plaintiff, said at a press conference following the filesuit.

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14 Comments
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Flawed system, much more easier system available but NO it's a "cultural" thing let's make it as complicated as we can to show how complicated and special we are. Dumb is as dumb does.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

International couples are free to have separate names, and the world keeps spinning, but Japanese-Japanese couples are restricted - for no real reason.

It is a burden to change your name. It costs time and money. It can cost career opportunities as you lose the reputation you built under your original name and have to start over. Either that, or you commit to using two separate names - the one on your early publications and patents and the other one on your passport. That makes travel to conferences / other business travel difficult. Your the key note speaker, but the name on the international conference site doesn't match your passport.

Unfortunately judges have no experience in the business world and have no idea how things like this really work. They also tend to be old men who married career housewives ages ago.

This time, seeing as it is men making the case, perhaps the courts will listen to sense.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

Good for this guy! I just wish it would never had gotten to this point, it should have been decided when the women brought the same case!

2 ( +5 / -3 )

International couples are free to have separate names, and the world keeps spinning...

Not if you want to add a "family card" to an existing credit card account.

In the US, one simply adds an "authorized user" to one's account using the bank's website, regardless of name, and a card arrives in the mail a few days later.

But, no. It can't be that easy in Japan. While some credit card companies allow an additional card with a different last name (with the online application simply triggering a postal mail application, which is followed by a phone call or two, and some more postal mail, maybe a fax thrown in for good measure), some JP credit card companies require the same last name.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

In the US, one simply adds an "authorized user" to one's account using the bank's website, regardless of name, and a card arrives in the mail a few days later.

There is no such thing as joint accounts in Japan.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

How about petitioning his local representative to pass a bill to change this law? He might win and be compensated but aren’t there others like Aono?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If there is a law that says married couples must use one just last name, then did someone, at some time, make that law? That raises several more questions. Who made the law, and why? And, why can't the law be changed, based on what appears to be a change in customs? Why was such a law made in the first place? Doesn't government have more important things to do than to mandate cultural norms that are inconsequential?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

It is discriminatory. Let people keep their own name or change it as they wish. It's no one's business but their own.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

LudditeToday 12:00 am JST

It is discriminatory. Let people keep their own name or change it as they wish. It's no one's business but their own.

and therein lies the core cultural problem, Japanese government/society is autocratic and top down dictatorial. In Anglo-Saxon societies much is left up to the individual without the state needing to know or get involved (sadly this is changing and not for the better). Therefor this will only change when there is sufficient societal pressure, and then not quickly.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

This is a leftover legacy from the Meiji Restorations.

Japan used to have separate surnames until the Meiji Restoration.

When the reformists took power, they wanted to emulate and become a European country ASAP, so they copies all aspects of European customs, including same surname for married couples. Having separate surnames were deemed as old-fashioned oriental custom that Japan must leave behind in its quest to become a European nation.

The difference is that women adopting husband's surname was customary in Europe and women didn't have to do it if they didn't want to, while Japan made it mandatory.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The issue is here:

but allows either partner the choice of which surname to use between Japanese and foreign partners in case of divorce and marriage

Ironically, this is an instance in which Japanese law discriminates against Japanese citizens because it gives them fewer rights than non-Japanese. Whatever the rationale is for allowing Japanese/non-Japanese couples to have separate surnames, it is equally applicable to Japanese/Japanese.

It would be great if JT were to follow up on this once the verdict is handed down. I'll have a hearty laugh if the court says Japanese/non-Japanese couples are unique given Japan's penchant for claiming it is unique.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

and therein lies the core cultural problem, Japanese government/society is autocratic and top down dictatorial. In Anglo-Saxon societies much is left up to the individual without the state needing to know or get involved (sadly this is changing and not for the better). Therefor this will only change when there is sufficient societal pressure, and then not quickly.

Astute analysis. I would add that this is so because Anglo-Saxon society values individuality whereas Asian society values conformity.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

There is zero chance of them winning this case at the supine supreme court. The judgement (after many years) will be that both men and women are treated equally and the law is therefore not unconstitutional.

The daft supreme court judges have even ruled that there is no discrimination in a law that forces men and women to wait for different periods of time after a divorce before they can remarry. There is no logic to their rulings and they refuse to uphold the constitution. In this respect Japanese courts are no different from those in China.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

There is no such thing as joint accounts in Japan.

That's weird because we have both joint banking and credit card accounts in Japan. So, maybe you need to find a new bank or credit card company. (How do you think husbands and wives have managed household expenses all these years?)

However, as I previously wrote, some banks and credit card companies that have moved into the 21st century allow different last names, and some who are stuck in a previous century do not.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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