March is Women’s History Month (女性史月間 joseishi gekkan). The equality issue was widely discussed when Yoshiro Mori, the former Chair of the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, made discriminatory (差別的 sabetsuteki) remarks about women (see my blog “How Not to Apologize – Mori of Tokyo Olympics.) Every newspaper and every TV news talked how outdated (時代遅れ jidaiokure) our society was. Japan ranked 121stout of 153 countries (IMF 3/2020) as far as the gender gap is concerned.

So what should I start with?

Japan is the only country that requires a married couple to have the same last name – either husband or wife’s last name. This has been a problem for women who have established themselves professionally. I know many in academia who use two last names combined. But legally, they cannot do so. Tamayo Marukawa, the Minister of State for Gender Equality as well as the Minister for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, along with 50 other members of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP 自由民主党 jiyuminshutou), sent a letter asking members of the local assemblies not to support a policy change (Tokyo Shimbun 2/27/2021) approving of a married couple having different family names. Ironically (皮肉なことにhinikunakotoni), Marukawa is her maiden name (旧姓kyusei). She has used her maiden name for 13 years although she changed her last name legally upon marriage. And why do these 50 disapprove (不賛成であるfusanseidearu) of a married couple using separate last names (called 夫婦別姓fufu bessei) enough to pressure their local assemblies members?

Reasons Cited by these 50 LDP Members

  • Japan has 戸籍 (koseki) a family registry, categorized by a family name.The group fears that a family-centered social unit may be jeopardized.
  • The stability of a child’s last name may be …continue reading