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Do you change your last name when you get married in Japan?


Getting married in Japan is a unique experience with its own set of traditions and customs. One of the most significant aspects of getting married in Japan is the question of whether or not to change one’s last name. In this article, we will explore the cultural and legal implications of changing your last name when you get married in Japan.

History of Name Changes in Japan

In Japan, it was customary for women to change their last name to their husband’s after marriage. This tradition dates back to the Meiji era (1868-1912), when the government encouraged the adoption of Western-style family names as part of modernizing the country. However, in recent years, there has been a shift towards more gender equality and many women are choosing to keep their maiden names.

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Legal Considerations

Legally, there is no requirement for a woman to change her last name when she gets married in Japan. However, if she chooses to do so, she must file paperwork with the local government office to register the change.

Cultural Attitudes Towards Name Changes

In Japan, there are mixed attitudes towards name changes after marriage. Some people view it as a way to show commitment and unity as a family, while others see it as a patriarchal tradition that reinforces gender inequality.

Benefits of Changing Your Name

One benefit of changing your last name after marriage is that it can make administrative tasks such as opening bank accounts or obtaining credit cards easier. It can also be a way to avoid confusion if you have children and want everyone in the family to have the same last name.

Drawbacks of Changing Your Name

On the other hand, changing your last name can also be a hassle and cause confusion with professional contacts or in social situations. It can also be seen as giving up part of your identity and history.

Alternative Options

If you don’t want to change your last name but still want to show unity as a family, you can consider using a hyphenated or combined last name. For example, if your name is Smith and your spouse’s name is Johnson, you could use Smith-Johnson or Johnson-Smith as your last name.

International Couples

If one spouse is not Japanese, they may choose to keep their original last name for legal or cultural reasons. In some cases, they may also choose to adopt a Japanese-style family name for convenience or cultural integration.

Same-Sex Couples

In Japan, same-sex marriage is not legally recognized. Therefore, there are no laws or customs regarding name changes for same-sex couples.


Ultimately, whether or not to change your last name when you get married in Japan is a personal decision that depends on individual values and circumstances. While there are cultural and legal considerations, it is important to do what feels right for you and your partner.


If you are planning on getting married in Japan and have questions about legal requirements or customs regarding name changes, consult with an immigration lawyer or local government office for guidance.

Do Japanese change last name after marriage?

In Japan, it is a legal requirement for married couples to have the same surname, which can be either the husband’s or the wife’s. This is a unique requirement, as no other country appears to have a similar law.

Does my surname automatically change when I get married?

Many people assume that a woman’s surname automatically changes to her husband’s surname when she gets married, but this is actually not the case. Additionally, a marriage certificate does not indicate what surname a person will use after getting married. This is a common misconception.

How do last names work in Japan?

In Japan, as well as in China and Korea, the family name comes before the first name. This means that someone with the first name “Ichiro” and the family name “Suzuki” would be referred to as “Suzuki Ichiro” instead of “Ichiro Suzuki”.

How do married names work in Japan?

In Japan, there is a legal requirement for married couples to share the same family name, with the woman usually taking her husband’s surname. However, some women may opt to use their maiden name in informal contexts.

Can you have 2 last names in Japan?

According to Article 750 of Japan’s Civil Code, married couples must have the same family name, with the woman being the one who usually changes hers. This law only allows for different surnames in the case of international marriages. This regulation was last updated on June 24, 2021.

Do I have to change my name on my passport after marriage?

If you have legally changed your name due to marriage or divorce, you can request a new passport issued in your new name by completing form DS-82 or DS-5504. For all other name changes, you need to apply using form DS-11 and can find instructions by clicking on the provided link.

It is important to note that the decision to change your last name after marriage is not just a personal one, but can also have professional implications. Some industries and professions may have their own customs or expectations regarding name changes, and it is important to consider how this might impact your career.

Additionally, if you are an expat living in Japan, it is important to understand the implications of a name change for immigration and visa purposes. Changing your last name can affect your legal status and may require additional paperwork or processes to update your records.

It is also worth noting that attitudes towards name changes after marriage are evolving in Japan. While there is still a strong tradition of women changing their last names, more and more couples are choosing to break with tradition and keep their own names. This shift reflects a broader trend towards gender equality in Japanese society and highlights the importance of individual choice and autonomy in modern relationships.

In conclusion, while there are many factors to consider when deciding whether or not to change your last name when getting married in Japan, the most important thing is to make a decision that feels right for you and your partner. Whether you choose to adopt a new name, keep your own, or combine them in some way, the most important thing is to create a family identity that reflects your values and priorities as a couple.

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