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How does marriage names work in Japan?


Marriage is a significant event in any culture, and Japan is no exception. In Japan, the tradition of changing one’s name after marriage has been prevalent for centuries. However, the process of changing names in Japan is more complicated than in other countries. This article aims to provide a comprehensive guide on how marriage names work in Japan.

History of Marriage Names in Japan

The tradition of changing one’s name after marriage dates back to the 8th century in Japan. During the Heian period, women were required to change their surnames to that of their husband’s family. This practice continued until the Meiji period, where the government changed the law to allow women to keep their maiden names. However, it was not until 2015 that married couples could legally have different surnames.

Japanese Snack Box

The Current Law on Marriage Names

Under Japanese law, a couple can choose to keep either the husband’s or wife’s surname after marriage. However, they cannot use both surnames or hyphenated names. The couple must decide on one surname before registering their marriage with the government.

How to Change Your Name After Marriage

To change your name after marriage, you must first obtain a copy of your family register (koseki). Then, you need to submit a notification of marriage to your local government office within 90 days of getting married. In this notification, you must state which surname you will be using after marriage.

Consequences of Choosing a Surname

When choosing a surname after marriage, there are several consequences to consider. For example, if you choose to keep your maiden name, your children will automatically take your husband’s surname. Additionally, choosing a different surname from your spouse can cause social and administrative difficulties.

Alternative Options for Marriage Names

If neither partner wants to change their surname after marriage, they can use each other’s names informally. For example, using a combination of both surnames or using one name in private and another in public. However, these options may cause confusion and administrative issues.

The Role of Gender Equality in Marriage Names

The issue of marriage names has been controversial in Japan due to gender inequality. Many argue that forcing women to change their names perpetuates patriarchal values and reinforces gender roles. However, others argue that maintaining a sense of family unity and tradition is important.

Cultural Significance of Marriage Names

Changing one’s name after marriage has a cultural significance in Japan as it symbolizes the creation of a new family unit. It also reflects the importance of maintaining traditional values and family unity.

International Perspectives on Marriage Names

In many Western countries, it is common for women to keep their maiden names after marriage. However, some countries like Spain and Latin America have similar traditions as Japan where women change their names after marriage.

Future Changes to Marriage Names in Japan

The issue of marriage names is still controversial in Japan, and there have been calls for further reforms. Some argue that allowing couples to use both surnames or hyphenated names would promote gender equality and accommodate diverse family structures.


In conclusion, changing one’s name after marriage has been a long-standing tradition in Japan with significant cultural and historical significance. However, it has also been a contentious issue due to gender inequality and social pressures. Understanding how marriage names work in Japan is crucial for anyone planning on getting married or living in Japan long-term.

Who takes the last name in marriage in Japan?

In Japan, it is customary for married couples to share the same last name. Although the woman’s last name can be chosen, social norms and tradition dictate that the husband’s last name is chosen in 96% of cases.

Do Japanese change name after marriage?

Japanese law prohibits married couples from having different surnames and requires them to choose one. In most cases, about 96% of the time, the man’s surname is chosen. It is important to note that same-sex marriage is not currently legal in Japan.

How do last names work in Japan?

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

Do couples in Japan call each other by their first name?

In Japan, it is not common for people to address each other by their first names, unlike in many western cultures. Using someone’s first name can be seen as disrespectful, unless the relationship is very close and the setting is informal. This information was conveyed in an article published on February 11, 2014.

Can you have 2 last names in Japan?

Article 750 of Japan’s Civil Code states that a husband and wife must have the same family name upon marriage. That means one spouse is legally required to change theirs — almost always the woman. Different surnames are allowed only for international marriages.Jun 24, 2021

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

The practice of a man taking his wife’s surname is typically done for practical reasons, particularly in the context of a family business. If the woman’s family runs a well-known business and the man marrying her will eventually take over, he may legally adopt her family’s name to become part of the family and take over the business.

One of the challenges for foreigners living in Japan is navigating the complex system of marriage names. Those who come from countries where it is common practice to keep their maiden names may find it difficult to adjust to the Japanese tradition of changing surnames after marriage. It is important for foreigners to understand the legal and cultural implications of marriage names in Japan before getting married.

Another issue that arises with marriage names in Japan is the impact on international travel. In some cases, if a couple chooses to have different surnames, it may cause confusion or complications when traveling overseas, as airlines and immigration officials may question the relationship between the couple. This can be particularly challenging for families with children who have different surnames from their parents.

As Japan continues to modernize and promote gender equality, there may be further changes to the laws surrounding marriage names. In recent years, there have been discussions about allowing couples to use both surnames or hyphenated names, which would provide more flexibility and accommodate diverse family structures. However, any changes to the law will likely face resistance from those who wish to maintain traditional values and family unity.

In conclusion, marriage names in Japan are steeped in tradition and cultural significance. While there are legal options for couples who wish to keep their maiden names, it is important to consider the social and administrative implications of this decision. As Japan continues to grapple with issues of gender equality and modernization, it will be interesting to see how the laws surrounding marriage names evolve in the future.

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