Right now, getting married in Japan means someone is changing their name.

Japan has adopted a lot Western wedding conventions, such as bridal gowns, exchanging rings, and taking honeymoons. But there’s one aspect in which Japan hasn’t followed suit: in Japan, couples aren’t allowed to keep their pre-marriage family names after tying the knot.

While this is often framed in discussions of Japanese society as “women must take their husband’s surname,” the actual requirement of the law is that both members of the union have the same family name, and there are cases of men instead taking their wife’s name when they get married, as SoraNews24’s own Mr. Sato did. However, in the vast majority of marriages it’s the wife who changes her name.

But while the law demands a shared surname, how do Japanese people themselves really feel about the subject? To try to find out, Waseda University professor and family law expert and Masayuki Tanamura and activist group Selective Married Couple Surname National Appeal Action conducted an online survey. 7,000 responses from people between the ages of 20 and 59 were collected, and 71 percent responded with “I don’t mind either way if other married couples have the same last name or different ones.”

The specification of “other married couples,” means that not everyone who responded that way necessarily wants two different surnames in their own marriage, but it does show strong support for giving people the freedom to make the choice for themselves. On the other side of the debate, only 14 percent of the respondents said “I want my spouse and I to have the same name, and other marred couples should have the same name too,” suggesting that even the remaining 15 percent of the respondents aren’t dead-set against couples with different surnames.

Sorting the responses by prefecture, the strongest support for allowing different names was found in Okinawa, where 77 percent of respondents were in favor of giving couples the option, followed by Aomori and Wakayama (tied at 75 percent). In fact, a majority of respondents for every prefecture supported letting couples have different surnames, with the lowest figure being Ehime’s 60 percent.

It’s worth taking into account that among working Japanese women who’ve gotten married and taken their husband’s name, it’s not unusual to continue using their maiden name in the office. Japanese business culture usually involves calling coworkers and colleagues by their surname, and women who opt for continuity even after getting married don’t become targets of criticism from people who insist they start using their new legal surname in meetings and emails.

▼ Just like how we didn’t all start calling Mr. Sato “Mr. Yamashina.”

Still, 94 respondents to the survey said they’ve given up on or postponed getting married to their partner because they don’t want to change their name, so no doubt they’re hoping for a change in the law.

Source: NHK News Web via Otakomu
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Pakutaso, SoraNews24
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