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Why Can't Japanese Women Keep Their Maiden Names?

Why Can't Japanese Women Keep Their Maiden Names?

Much like the marriage debate in the US, politicians in Japan argue over the familial institution. Yet in Japan, the debate doesn't rage over gay marriage, rather over whether women should keep their maiden surnames. Japan is the only major industrialized nation to require spouses have the same name, but only one major political party supports changing the status quo. How come?

Japan's traditional concept of marriage used to guarantee property and businesses passed on to men. Those who want to keep the remnant of this male-centric conception of marriage worry that allowing husbands and wives to keep their maiden names would threaten the family unit and negatively impact a child's identity. They also argue that it could lead to an increase in divorce. Somewhat surprisingly, men are allowed to take a wife's last name, but that rarely happens. So today it's not just about keeping a man's name alive, but also about having a married couple share a public identity.

Thirty percent of TrèsSugar readers say they wouldn't take their husband's name and Japanese women who want to keep separate identities, at least as far as last names go, simply do not register their marriages. Even if you think it's crazy to require it by law, do you think there's value in having a common last name as a married couple?

Image Source: Getty
Choco-cat Choco-cat 7 years
my husband and i have been married for 11 years now and we have different last names - it's never been a problem, why would it be?
ehartsay ehartsay 7 years
If I ever get married (unlikely), I would not change my name. First of all my name is MY identity - and it always has been. More importantly, in many professional fields, such as acadamia, art, etc, your NAME is part of your capital. Name recognition is vital to many careers. If you already are established with your degrees and already have publications and conference appearances and networking (or artistic productions) under one name, it could be very damaging to your career to change that name. My mother did not change her name for that reason, and I won't be doing so (in the unlikely event I get married) fo the same reason. It is still perfectly possible to use both names - in different circumstances.
Gdeeaz Gdeeaz 7 years
If I get married I probably would keep my last name. I can't imagine having a different one. My brother has a different last name then my parents and I. It doesn't change how united we are as a family.
Blynnt Blynnt 7 years
I plan to change my name when I get married, but I don't see any problem with keeping the name you've had your whole life either if that's what you choose to do. More and more now, women are established career-wise before getting married and changing their name would really be difficult with a reputation they have already built with their maiden name. For me and my profession, it wouldn't really be an issue, but I can see how it would for many women, and I think it's just fine to keep the name. I think if the couple is focused on being good parents and creating a strong unity in their family, it wouldn't be a problem for children either.
MeiGaku MeiGaku 7 years
@ mixed tape: in most Vietnamese families, women don't change their names-- so my mother has always had a different last name from my sister and me. never had any "practical" issues. that's just a bs reason some uber-traditionalists give. @ the idea of a united front: as shakespeare said, wouldn't a rose by any other name smell as sweet? yes (well, i don't like roses, but anyway). a "united" family doesn't require having the same name. it requires that you care and love each other. and japan has many more ridiculous issues than just requiring that the family members all have the same last name. look up "parasite singles" and you'll find that many japanese women stay single just so they don't have to be tied down to a uselss housewife position (not that there is anything wrong with being a housewife--power to you if that's what you want. women in japan are EXPECTED to be married at 25 and not work.) my two cents.
amber512 amber512 7 years
I haven't taken my husband's last name. I don't really see a need to change it. I've had my same name forever, and I really like it! It wasn't weird for him since his mom never took his dad's last name. He told it was my name, so it is my choice. Although he has asked that if we have boys we give them his last name. I'll probably give all of our kids his last name with mine as a second middle name.
mix-tape mix-tape 7 years
I can see the practicality of everyone in a family having the same last name. Let's be honest, those really long hyphenated last names can be a mouthful. And when a mother and child have different last names it gets confusing, like is that really her child? I don't think a government should restrict a person from keeping their birth name though, that seems like a misuse of gov't efforts as well as degrading women into second class citizens.
Pistil Pistil 7 years
What's in a name? A name might symbolize unity, that's all.
xgreenfairyx xgreenfairyx 7 years
That's pretty crap. There's no 'value' in taking someone else's name, unless you're the type of person who values weird, submissive roles. I'm legally married, and took my dude's name because I didn't want anything to do with my birth family, and it was a good opportunity to change it. Otherwise, I would have kept it. It's just an outdated tradition that has no real impact on anything whatsoever, as relationships shouldn't be about the black-and-white nonsense. If you want to change it, fine, but the state shouldn't have any say in it.
starbucks2 starbucks2 7 years
I always assumed I would take my husband's name someday...but now that I'm actually getting married I really don't know. It's such a weird thought...having a different name! Geez! But I do like the thought of unity. Our daughters already has his last name, so I think it would be nice for us three to all share that. I don't think it should be dictated, but I am glad that it doesn't necessarily require the wife to change the name...
zeze zeze 7 years
I hate it when the government requires anything, and especially when they meddle in the private life. What is it to some politician whether I have the same name as my husband? The happiness and unity of a marriage does not depend on legal paper or the name you sign, it depends on maturity and compromise. And, personally, I could NEVER imagine my name being something else - I've been that name forever, it would be totally strange to go by another name. I'm glad that in my religion, women are technically not allowed to change their names. It's not a sin or anything to go by your husbands name, but when it comes to religious ceremonies, burial, etc...your birth name and your birth identity stays the same - no one goes to the afterlife as a couple apparently, lol.
skigurl skigurl 7 years
yes, I see the value in it having a law dictate that you must is a litte strong, seeing as it should be a personal decision but I will change mine, so it wouldn't much matter to me I would like to be seen as a united family, a united front, and share a name with my children and husband
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