Japanese Women Fight to Keep their Name
I filed to legally change my name to my husband's the morning I returned from my honeymoon. If I could have done it sooner, I would have. I couldn't wait wait to ditch my cumbersome, hard to spell, three-word Brazilian maiden name.
But as I signed on the dotted line with my new, zippier signature, I paused for a nano-second to consider hanging on to the identity of my youth. Even though I hated the arduous spelling of my name, it did seem somewhat outdated and callous to throw it away, almost erasing my life up until my marriage. I chose to give up my maiden name, but plenty of my friends' held on to theirs, not wanting to give up the career equity tied to their family surname.
Japanese women don't have the luxury of choice when it comes to maiden names. Japanese law dictates that married Japanese women have to have the same last name as their husband, regardless of their age or other considerations. But that may soon change.
After living with her husband's last name for 50 years, 75-year-old Kyoko Tsukamoto is taking the Japanese government to court to have the right to return to her maiden name. She has been using her maiden name at work, but her legal documents bear her husband's name. As she comes to term with her advanced age, she longs to legally be named who she considers herself to be.
Four other people will also be suing the Japanese government seeking compensation as a group for the government's failure to make change. Although rumors of a change to this antiquated law have popped up in the last five years, this is the first time a case has come to court and thus the closest Japan has come to repealing the law.
Japan is the only country in the Group of Eight major industrialized nations to forbid women from keeping their maiden name.