Japanese “Gender Equality” minister opposes maiden names?

In the name of “family values”, it appears that the Japanese are going to be taking a step backwards and surprisingly little is being written about it here in the United States. This is all thanks to Sanae Takaichi, who was just appointed as (ready for this?) Minister of State for Okinawa and Northern Territories affairs, science and technology policy, innovation, gender equality, social affairs and food safety. Yes, you read that right. Gender Equality issues.
The title’s interesting (especially “food safety”) but I’m just amazed by a woman being appointed to this role who is opposed to women keeping their maiden names, but uses her own maiden name as a politician. Yes, she’s married to another politician, Taku Yamamoto, but doesn’t go by Sanae Yamamoto.
Am I missing some nuance here?


The Japan Times has an interesting article on the subject, Takaichi Undaunted by Wide-Ranging Portfolio, in which you can find the following comments:
“”There has been debate over the issue of different surnames between a married couple, but I think the government should ascertain what the Japanese people really want,” Takaichi said.
“Various options should be prepared, she said, prior to debating a draft bill on the subject, and she indicated her willingness to discuss the topic with the Justice Ministry, which is in charge of the regulation.”
Now I have to admit that personally, I’m glad that Linda changed her last name to match mine, but I certainly support and completely understand women who choose to retain their maiden or family names rather than changing their identity to indicate they’re wed. Either way, having the government make a rule that women must change their last names to match those of their husbands really does seem a step back into the dark ages, when women were viewed as a possession of their husbands, and worse.
Maybe I’m misunderstanding some subtlety of Japanese culture here that explains this viewpoint, but I’d sure love to hear from some Japanese about this issue and their opinion of popular Japanese sentiment regarding women having the option of either keeping their maiden name or adopting their husband’s name.

4 comments on “Japanese “Gender Equality” minister opposes maiden names?

  1. I’m not Japanese, but I do know a little bit about the culture. In Japan, and many Eastern and African cultures, people are not seen first as individuals and second as community members (as is the case in the US). Rather, the wellbeing of the community comes before the wants and sometimes needs of the individual. I agree that women should be allowed to choose, and I would be against such a law in this country. However, I can understand why the Japanese government is considering it. Japanese culture has always put family and community first, and women keeping their maiden names could be seen as a threat to this ideal (however small). The woman has formed a marriage bond and become a part of his family, and she should be proud to take his name. I wouldn’t say they’re taking a step back in gender equality, because we come from a different culture and our view is from a slightly different angle. Gender equality is something I wish for the whole world, but every culture is different and most will have to get there on their own time.
    Hope this was helpful!

  2. Actually, Dave, the system here (in Japan) is, in its own strange way, quite fair for both sexes. The system here is quite different in a basic way from that in most Western countries. All births, marriages etc. are recorded on the “koseki” (a kind of family record). There is no such thing as a “birth certificate” or “marriage certificate.” Here you just get a copy of your family record. When a man and a woman get married, one has to go onto the “koseki” of the other, and their name automatically changes to that of the family register. In almost all cases, the woman’s name will go onto the man’s register, but occasionally the man will go on the woman’s. This would usually be for the purpose of continuing the family name (especially where the family has a traditional trade, vocation, or craft, such as a tea ceremony master or a buddhist priest, etc.) My wife, who is Japanese, has an uncle who changed his name to his wife’s family name just to keep their name going. He was the third or fourth son in a family of five boys (no need to keep that name going), and his wife was an only child.
    In the case of foreigners living in Japan, there is no koseki. It only appies to Japanese nationals. When I married my wife, I had to go onto her koseki. In the case of foreigners marrying Japanese people, or Japanese people marrying foreigners, keeping your maiden name is permitted.
    Still, I think you have a point. Japanese people should be able to choose their legal name when they get married, but it would probably mean major legal hassles because of the differences in basic family registration laws.
    A lot of women do keep their maiden names here for business reasons, and that is quite accepted. I even know one woman who has kept her husband’s name for work-purposes, even though they are divorced, and she is off his register now.
    Complicated, eh.
    Keep up the good work on the blog.
    Peter K.

  3. Japanese couples can take husband’s name or wife’s family name, which they prefer to. Sometimes mans become step sons of the preparents of their wives. And these mmen work to keep the house of their wives and also can have all regal rights as sons of their parents-in-low.

  4. Does any one know the parenting techniques for Japan. I am trying to do a report on this topic, but can’t seem to find any information on it.
    Please Help!!
    Lany K 13

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