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Court ruling is latest setback for Japan's working women

43 Comments
By KEN MORITSUGU

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43 Comments
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Quit with the comparisons to America. How about making a comparison to another Asian country instead? Japanese are not, and will not (thankfully) ever BE American, continually using the USA as a comparison is off the mark as the cultures and values are so different.

Like comparing apples and star wars movies, not even close!

3 ( +17 / -14 )

widely viewed as a setback for women’s rights and a victory for conservative family values

How is this a victory for "conservative family values"? There has been no evidence presented that spouses having different names undermines the family in any way. There is abundant evidence from a variety of other countries that allowing separate names doesn't destabilize the family, because not all countries have this law and, shockingly, they didn't descend into anarchy either.

This is only a victory for "conservative family values" if you interpret the term in the way a certain petty minority in the western world does, where anything feminist-minded women call for is automatically viewed as threatening and rejected in a knee-jerk fashion.

12 ( +20 / -8 )

upheld a 19th-century law that requires married couples to adopt one surname for legal purposes.

Again, this ONLY holds true if the couple are both Japanese. So in effect the government is allowing a double-standard with regards to this issue. It conveniently overlooks foreign spouses who are married to Japanese citizens but do not require them to take the family (surname) name of the Japanese spouse.

Hypocrites!

4 ( +12 / -8 )

An article with this headline had the potential to be interesting. Instead, the article, while well intended, was poorly written and just seemed rather forced.

Do working women face challenges in Japan? Yes. Most certainly. Is the court ruling upholding the requirement for one family name for married couples a major problem for MOST women who work? No. However, the genesis for this article was that court ruling.

The author has thrown 3 ideas together - the court ruling, lowered goals, and housework - together as evidence of the challenges. The first and last may be challenges, but the second is more of a result or evidence of the challenges. And is the court ruling and housework done by husbands really the best the author can do in terms of the challenges facing working women?!

These are merely side shows to the real issues. First, low economic growth. Low economic growth results in less job opportunities for all potential employees, including women. Second, the sexism in the hiring of women and the career path they are "assigned". Women who desire careers are most limited by a work culture that continues to expect that most of them will drop out of the workforce once they get married and have children. Third, a very real lack of a support infrastructure to support households where both parents work (or the sole parent, in the case of single parent households).

Those are the real issues. The stuff the writer is talking about is really more useful to illustrate the mindset that still pervades the thinking in Japan, particularly among older Japanese, and ESPECIALLY among older Japanese male politicians!

10 ( +10 / -0 )

How is it that J-women married to foreign men can have a different surname? How doe this square with the Supreme Court ruling? There can only be one Japanese surname per family? But then it would get interesting if a J-woman married a foreign man of J-descent.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

violates a gender equality article in the constitution

As many have pointed out, if either name can be taken then it is not really a gender equality issue. Conventionally it may be, but legally it is not. It is, however, a violation of Article 13: "All
 of
 the
 people
 shall
 be
 respected
 as
 individuals.
" Being forced to share a name is not being respected as individuals. This is where the judges have failed.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

How is it that J-women married to foreign men can have a different surname?

Maybe because Japanese govt have no authority over foreigners' surnames.

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

Maybe because Japanese govt have no authority over foreigners' surnames.

That's true. Japan could find itself in trouble with another country if it tried to switch surnames of that country's national. But then, why not just apply the same standard accross the board.

An annual gender gap report released last month by the World Economic Forum ranked Japan 101st out of 145 countries

That's actually really really bad. That's near the bottom. I mean who's below Japan? Saudi Arabia? Iran?

3 ( +5 / -2 )

'...viewed as a setback for women’s rights and a victory for conservative family values...'

There are most definitely good values within the culture. Still the conservation of values is the premise of the Court and womens rights conflict with the patriarchal system of rules. Keeping the balance while evolving any culture is difficult.

As most developed nations have a patriarchal system of rules in one stage of evolution or other.

When any culture is be free to choose the surname of either gender in marriage, it becomes evident there is real cultural evolution. Steady steps bring less chaos.

However cultural change is inevitable, the Supreme Court is just limiting the generational damage.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

What I don't understand is why the government still insists on organizing society into family units with the same surname even when they've just spent a fortune rolling out the My Number system. If you're going to issue every individual with a unique identification number, why not let them choose whatever name they want?

7 ( +9 / -2 )

'How is it that J-women married to foreign men can have a different surname?

That's an interesting question Joeintokyo.

Because, if there is no differentiation between cultures there will be less patriarchy. Then there is the fear of the chaos of change brings, however slowing the inevitable change does not alter what follows.

It is good to remember emerging generations see time at a different cadence. The metronome of time runs slowly for earlier generations and change seems faster.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

M3M3M3 - What I don't understand is why the government still insists on organizing society into family units with the same surname even when they've just spent a fortune rolling out the My Number system. If you're going to issue every individual with a unique identification number, why not let them choose whatever name they want?

Spot on. Or if they value the family above everything, then they should have made a 'Family Number', or 'Household Number' instead. Japan quite often appears to me to be a mishmash of bureaucratic nonsense.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

Why is this so difficult to understand? This is Japan where people are told and instructed to do everything. There are even notes in the toilets telling you how to wipe your bottom! It's just the hive-mind scenario that spreads through every aspect of Japanese life. Gender equality in Japan will never happen, simply because the only people whose opinion is important are the old cronies, who still believe it's 1915, not 2015.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

Quit with the comparisons to America. How about making a comparison to another Asian country instead?

Probably the US has the 3rd largest population in the world and the largest of the 1st industrial nations. For data purposes, it would seem more appropriate to use the US for the comparison. Makes sense.

Japanese are not, and will not (thankfully) ever BE American,

But many want to come and live in the states, especially in California and Hawaii. What's wrong with that?

continually using the USA as a comparison is off the mark as the cultures and values are so different.

It depends.

Like comparing apples and star wars movies, not even close!

More like Oranges and tangerines.

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

i think the only issue that would arise from having the parents of a household having two different surnames is that, when a child is born, which surname do they use? obviously it can't be the child's choice cause they were just born etc lol

But then you could go about using a double surname instead etc. but then family names will just get longer and longer over generations..

i have both my mothers maiden name and my father's name (his one being my main, last surname) joint together as one.

Basically what i'm saying is that, i personally don't see an issue with them being told that they HAVE to take the father's name, the issue comes when they don't have the option to keep their own names legally. if i married i would still keep my own name legally but would be known as MRS..... whatever.

ah, i'm confusing myself xD anyway, maybe next time Japan.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Keeping with the male family name is a part of culture and heritage of the Japanese people, we should embrace this and stop trying to be Western. Women has every right to excel and achieve in Japanese society which is the most important thing we should strive for, instead of complaining about following the male family name. Its trivial but its a part of our heritage!

-10 ( +3 / -13 )

But then it would get interesting if a J-woman married a foreign man of J-descent.

Why? Same thing applies, as the Japanese woman gets to keep her name if she chooses, no matter if the spouse has a Japanese name, they are a foreigner.

How do I know? I have a few friends down here who were born and raised in Brazil (Citizens there and not here) and other SA countries and NA countries as well, they have Japanese surnames, BUT their wives who are Japanese citizens keep their surnames and the husbands keep theirs too.

The Japanese spouse has the option to take, or change her name to her husband's in either case, it's their choice.

When I first came back here with my Japanese citizen wife she chose to use her maiden name, as there was a hell of a lot more discrimination against females back then, particularly those with "katakana" family names. It was easier for her and I saw nothing wrong with it. To this day she still uses it and when I took Japanese citizenship I took her name as my own. No problem there either, but in the interim we had separate official names.

The courts are full of guano in their reasoning, even though the numbers may be small in comparison, there are plenty of couples in Japan with different family names registered here.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

@The Tiger. You seem not to quite understand. The Supreme Court, as a Supreme Court, is charged with deciding whether a law is in accordance with the constitution or not. It was not asked to decide if "keeping with the male family name is a part of culture and heritage of the Japanese people". That is for others to decide and, in fact that is not even the case now. If the Supreme Court had been asked to decide on "culture and heritage" it would have had to take into account that for most of Japanese history there were no family names for the bulk of the people. This only changed in the Meiji period, when, in fact, most of what you know as Japanese culture and heritage was consciously decided upon by an elite for their purposes. So, you are getting lots of things mixed up. If you don't much like what the Supreme Court judges have to do and think they should have to decide what is "culture" well you have ways to change the constitution, which also states what their role is. I would suggest you would then be in accord with many of the right who have always been happy to declare what culture is for ideological reasons.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

This issue also raises conflicts with Abe`s (purported) goal of raising the number of women in the workforce.

Being forced to change your name can have adverse consequences for professional women. If you are a lawyer or doctor for example who has established a practice and a good reputation, then your name (which is not just your personal name but also your professional one) has economic value due to the good will you have built up. Forcing them to abandon that imposes an actual business cost on such professionals since it more or less amounts to forcing them to change their brand name.

The same plays out in academia. If you are a professor and have established a good publication record under your maiden name, having to change your name means that people who go looking for books or articles you wrote, they will miss out on some of your work (which is important).

These arent necessarily devastating to ones career as they can be worked around, but the point is that forcing them to change their name is just one more hassle that the legal system places on women trying to build careers, and given the sheer stupidity of the reasons for maintaining it, Japan really should ditch this rule.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Archaic family values would be more appropriate. I'm all for women's rights

0 ( +4 / -4 )

... so, for taking steps toward greater gender equality this week it's Saudi Arabia 1, Japan 0.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

The idea of taking the husband's name (it's almost always the husband) is a relic of a time in which young girls and women were, essentially, sold to the prospective husband's family. Arranged marriages are just a euphemism for the sale of children. Those young women became property of the new family, thus the name change.

If you are comfortable with honoring this tradition, then by all means take the name of your husband. I'm not sure why anyone would want to keep this alive, in Japan or elsewhere. Some customs deserve to be lost to history. It's nearly 2016.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

'If you are comfortable with honoring this tradition, then by all means take the name of your husband...'

So many miss that about the use of surnames powderb, your point is well made.

After all it's about choice. The right to choose, the husbands, parents or both partners parents surname or family name.

It is interesting many cultures even use both surnames today. This strategy is particularly prevalent where the culture is making the transition out of patriarchal thinking.

Women's rights or in this case Abe's “womenomics” is about giving women choice.

Are “womenomics” moving fast enough for emerging generations though? Time will tell.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Firstly, a single name for a family is easier in almost all respects. It clearly shows relationship to each other (for example, children with the same last name). I don't think the law states the female must take the males last name. When I married I asked my wife which name we should use, she told me to pick one so I chose mine. Case closed. I did not force her, nor did any law force her to. I'm really sick of all this feminist agenda displaying the news as if women are constantly victimized for the choices they make.

-5 ( +4 / -9 )

'15-member panel dissented, saying the requirement violates a gender equality article in the constitution.'

This is a key point; women's rights are about equality. Until the constitutional changes are made the Japanese patriarchal-meritocratic culture is protected and will slip further behind in the globally framed equality rankings.

It would be interesting to see a referendum on these changes in the constitution.

However the more democracy the slower changes are made, so it may be sometime yet. The geopolitical changes in women's rights forcing equality are coming though.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

JoeintokyoDEC. 18, 2015 - 08:12AM JST

How is it that J-women married to foreign men can have a different surname?

Lex Patriae http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/debate-on-separate-spouse-surnames-heats-up-before-court-ruling#comment_2110144

Foreigners really should know this legal system to protect themselves. Japanese court refers to the law of foreign countries to make certain judgments on foreigners.

法の適用に関する通則法

Act on General Rules for Application of Law(Act No. 78 of 2006)

Article 24 (1) The formation of a marriage shall be governed by the national law of each party.

Article 33 Family relationships or rights and obligations arising therefrom other than those provided for in Article 24 to Article 32 shall be governed by the national law of the party concerned.

"National law" means the law of the country of citizenship of a person.

If a Japanese woman marries with a foreign man, they have to choose one family name and the Japanese woman must use the family name by Japanese law. But the foreign man is free from this requirement by Japanese law and he may use the name as the law of his country permits. If the couple choose the wife's name for their family name under Japanese law, the wife does not change her name.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Im American and my Bf is Japanese and he never does any house work. It is utterly frustrating. But its still lame the gender difference for something as simple as household chores no matter what country-,-

3 ( +4 / -1 )

"Japan remains far from reaching his goals."

This is true in everything in society here, unless the goal is to make the rich richer, or if the goal is a PM's personal project.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

and... right there up-front ,3rd paragraph:

Japan remains far from reaching his goals.

not "her goals" or "its goals". No, writer KEN MORITSUGU proves his point and mind set by penning "his goals". 上手です。

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Japan remains far from reaching his goals.

not "her goals" or "its goals".

his goals = Abe's goals. There's no 'mind set', just grammar.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Everyone in Japan should change their name to Satou just to spite the Supreme Court.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@Yubaru

Quit with the comparisons to America. How about making a comparison to another Asian country instead?

I have yet to come across a married Chinese woman who doesn't keep her own surname after marriage. Either she tags on her husband's surname in front of her own, or far more likely, she keeps her own full name as is.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Court ruling is latest setback for Japan's working women

Should read Court ruling is latest setback for Japan. "Traditional values" that keep Japan's women second tier have a lot to do with keeping Japan economy stymied.

Wake up Japan! Its the 21st century.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It is idiotic to describe this ruling as "a setback for women's rights", as this presupposes that all women want the same thing. Far from it.

From my personal experience the ever-ranting feminists are in a minority and most women do NOT want to go out to work. They only do so because they need the money, not because they get any satisfaction from it. In reality women get far more satisfaction from raising happy, healthy, successful children and having a satisfied and grateful husband.

Even for those women who do go out to work, the need to change their surname if/when they get married is not a problem for 99% of them. Thus the number of women who are deleteriously affected by this ruling is a tiny minority of a minority. Big deal. But I don't suppose the feminist extremists will stop whining about it. They never do.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

as this presupposes that all women want the same thing. Far from it.

No, it presupposes individual's do not want to be limited in what they can do because of their sex.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Court ruling is latest setback for Japan's working women

Maybe I'm just missing it, but how does having one particular surname create a "setback" in the work environment as opposed to some other particular surname?

Quit with the comparisons to America. How about making a comparison to another Asian country instead? Japanese are not, and will not (thankfully) ever BE American, continually using the USA as a comparison is off the mark as the cultures and values are so different.

So you're saying an ambassador should be comparing the host country to a country the ambassador may know even less about? It seems like a no-brainer that comparisons made by ambassadors would be between the host country and the country the ambassador represents. At least then the ambassador will have had some experience living in both countries.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This is a people where women call their husbands "master" (主人). Frankly I was shocked when I first learned this.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

This is a people where women call their husbands "master" (主人). Frankly I was shocked when I first learned this.

主人 only means husband, The word 主人 in the meaning of master is hardly used nowadays, "boss"上司 maybe.

Position of Japanese wife is stronger than in other countries. They control household finances and the husband.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

The one surname rule for Japanese nationals only covers the name used on certain legal documents. The name you use for business, professional, and political purposes can be different.

It is not usual in Japan for both men and women to use a legal alias. Korean nationals born in Japan also use this system to operate with a Japanese professional name while keeping their Korean name.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

How does this 'ruling underscore ' the persistent challenges for working women'? It should be for women, working or not. If it about women's rights, working women are a just a small sub population of women that seem to show prejudice against women who make a choice to stay home.

Considering the choice is taking on a father's name or the hudbsnd's name, there is little to gain.

If keeping your father's name is so important, Why not go to family court and change to whatever name you want before getting married?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

主人 only means husband,

But you can't deny, "Master" is the etymology of the word.

Re the main ruling. Frankly, I don't see how the court can rule any other way. Structurally, there is nothing unfair in the law itself - the female name can predominate as much as the male one. That it doesn't may be tradition, but not a fault of the law.

Japanese courts generally try not to rule laws as "unconstitutional", and they make good sense. The Judiciary IS the least democratic of The Three Powers, so every time they kick something out as unconstitutional, in a sense it is a small kick against democracy.

The correct place to get most laws changed is the Legislature, not the Judiciary.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

AsianGaijinYesWeExistDEC. 19, 2015 - 04:56AM JST

This is a people where women call their husbands "master" (主人). Frankly I was shocked when I first learned this.

At the same time, a wife is called 主婦 "mistress" which is the female form of "master".

AsianGaijinYesWeExistDEC. 19, 2015 - 12:38AM JST

I have yet to come across a married Chinese woman who doesn't keep her own surname after marriage.

That is because, in China and Korea, a wife is not considered to be a member of the family.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I am all for equality, but equality isn't everything. Some people insist that women in Japan have it so very, very bad. But its so not true if one bothers to examine all aspects of life. You know, its no picnic being a man here either.

You know, a great many things here do seem to be tailored by women. For one, there are all the manner and politeness formalities and niceties. You really think those were established by manly men? Women tend to control the finances, get his salary deposited directly to their accounts, and dole out little monthly allowances to the husband. I don't think men came up with any of those either. In the grand scheme of things, this surname stuff is just a blip on the radar.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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