Everyone in Japan may one day have the same last name – study

‘Sato’ may end up the only surname by year 2531 if married couples aren’t allowed to use separate last names, research concludes

Japanese citizens will all have the same family name in 500 years’ time unless married couples are permitted now to use separate surnames, a new study has suggested.

Organized by the Think Name Project and led by Hiroshi Yoshida, a professor of economy at Tohoku University, the study is part of a campaign to raise awareness of the implications of not amending a law dating back to the late 1800s.

If the government continues to require married couples to share the same surname then every single Japanese person will be known as ‘Sato-san’ by 2531, the research projected.

“If everyone becomes Sato, we may have to be addressed by our first names or by numbers,” Yoshida explained, according to media. “I don’t think that would be a good world to live in,” the academic added.

According to a March 2023 survey, ‘Sato’ already tops the list of Japanese last names, accounting for 1.5% of the total population, while ‘Suzuki’ comes a close second.

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Japan remains the only country in the world that requires spouses to use the same name. Couples reportedly have to choose which surname to share when they marry, but in 95% of cases, it is the woman who changes her name.

The government has, nevertheless, allowed maiden names to appear alongside married names on passports, driving licenses and residence certificates.

Meanwhile, conservative members of the ruling Liberal Democratic party (LDP) argue that changing the law would “undermine” family unity and cause confusion among children.

The study, published in March but first reported-on this week, sparked speculation of an April fools’ day prank, but Yoshida said that he wanted it to make people reflect on the matter, according to The Guardian.


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