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Do wives take their husbands last name in Japan?


In Japan, there are cultural and legal factors that influence whether wives take their husbands’ last name. This article aims to explore these factors and provide a comprehensive understanding of the practice.

The history of name changes in Japan

Historically, women in Japan did not change their names when they married. However, after World War II, the government encouraged women to adopt their husband’s family name. This was seen as a way to promote family unity and traditional values.

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Legal requirements for name changes

To legally change one’s name in Japan, an individual must submit an application to the government. The process is relatively simple, but there are strict rules about what names are allowed. For example, names cannot be too similar to those of famous people or organizations.

Cultural expectations

Even though it is no longer legally required, many Japanese women still feel pressure to take their husband’s last name. This is partly because the traditional family structure is highly valued in Japanese culture.

Modern attitudes towards name changes

In recent years, there has been a growing trend of women keeping their maiden names after marriage. This is often seen as a way for women to maintain their professional identities and independence.

The impact of globalization

As Japan becomes more globally connected, there is increasing exposure to different cultural practices around the world. This has led some Japanese couples to consider alternative approaches to name changes, such as hyphenating both names or creating a new name together.

Legal considerations for international couples

When Japanese citizens marry foreigners, there may be legal implications for name changes. In some cases, foreign nationals may be required to adopt a Japanese name in order to obtain certain visas or residency permits.

Mixed opinions from men

While many Japanese men still expect their wives to take their last name, there are also those who are open to alternative arrangements. Some men even take their wife’s last name or create a new name together.

The impact on children

In Japan, it is common for children to take their father’s last name. This can create difficulties for families where the mother has kept her maiden name or a hyphenated name. However, there are some Japanese couples who choose to give their children a unique family name.

Alternatives to last name changes

For couples who do not want to change their names, there are other ways to show their commitment to each other. For example, they may choose to wear wedding rings or exchange personalized gifts.

The role of feminism in name changes

Many feminists argue that the tradition of women taking their husband’s last name reinforces patriarchal power structures. They advocate for women’s right to choose whether or not to change their names.


In Japan, the decision of whether or not to change one’s last name is complex and influenced by various factors. While traditional expectations still play a role, modern attitudes and globalization are leading more couples to consider alternative options. Ultimately, the decision should be based on what feels right for each individual couple.

Can a woman keep her last name after marriage in Japan?

In Japan, it is against the law for married couples to have different last names and they must choose one to share. The majority, 96%, opt for the husband’s surname. It is important to note that same-sex marriages are not recognized in Japan.

Do you have to change your name when you get married in Japan?

In Japan, if a citizen marries a foreign partner and wishes to take on their last name, they must register for a name change at a city office within six months of the marriage. If the six months have passed, the Japanese spouse will need to apply for a name change through the family court.

In what country can the husband take the wife’s last name?

In Germany, it is possible for a woman to take her husband’s last name or for a man to take his wife’s last name since 1977.

Do Japanese take their mothers last name?

According to Article 790 of the Civil Code of Japan, if a child is born to married parents, the child takes on both the father’s and mother’s last name. However, if the child is born out of wedlock, the child will only take on the mother’s last name.

Why do Japanese men take their wife’s last name?

In some cases, a man may take a woman’s surname for practical reasons such as inheriting a family business. If the woman’s family operates a reputable business that is managed by the family, and the man is planning to enter and eventually lead the business, he may legally be adopted by the woman’s family and take on her surname.

How do last names work in Japan when you get married?

In Japan, it is mandatory for married couples to share the same surname. Typically, women take on their husband’s surname after marriage. However, some Japanese women may opt to use their maiden name informally.

Religious considerations

In addition to cultural and legal factors, religion can also play a role in name changes in Japan. For example, some Christian denominations may encourage women to keep their maiden names as a way of preserving their individual identity and connection to their families of origin.

Practical considerations

Aside from cultural and legal factors, there are also practical considerations that can influence a couple’s decision about whether or not to change their last name. For example, changing one’s name on legal documents such as passports, driver’s licenses, and bank accounts can be time-consuming and expensive.

The influence of media and pop culture

The media and pop culture can also influence attitudes towards name changes in Japan. For example, popular TV dramas and movies often feature storylines where characters struggle with the decision to change their last name after marriage.

The role of same-sex couples

As same-sex marriage becomes more accepted in Japan, there is increasing discussion about how name changes should be handled for these couples. Some argue that both partners should have the option to change their names, while others advocate for the adoption of a neutral family name.

Future trends

As Japanese society continues to evolve, it is likely that attitudes towards name changes will also evolve. It is possible that we may see more couples choosing alternative options such as hyphenated names or unique family names, or even deciding not to change their last names at all.

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