What Wives Want: To Keep Their Names. What Courts Call Them: Scofflaws.
by Motoko Rich @motokorich
TOKYO — Japan’s Constitution promises gender equality, and the prime minister says he wants a society where all women can “shine.” But many women say it is hard to do that when they cannot even use their own surnames.
Under a Japanese law that dates back to the Meiji era, more than a century ago, all married couples must use one surname. In theory, a couple may choose either the husband’s or the wife’s last name, but in practice, 96 percent of women assume their husband’s.
Recent court rulings indicate that the law is unlikely to be softened anytime soon, despite rising criticism.
Yoko Uozumi is happily married with a 4-year-old daughter. Two months ago, she took a job in the photo framing business where her husband also works and decided to use only the surname that she was given at birth.d
Ms. Uozumi, 36, said she did not want customers to confuse her with her husband, Shigeru Otsuka, as most employees are known primarily by their last names in Japan.