Some woes with the Koseki (Family Registry) system for NJ and others in Japan


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan

Hi Blog.  We’ve had a couple of good comments recently from a couple of mailing lists I belong to, concerning the Family Registry System (koseki) in Japan (not to mention the Juuminhyou Registry Certificate, equally problematic; more on that here).  It affects a lot of people adversely, not just NJ, so let’s devote a blog entry to the issue.  We’re considering making the Koseki System a lobbying issue at forming NGO FRANCA, especially since South Korea, with its similar hojeok registry system, abolished it this year.  

Here are some of the problems as far as NJ are concerned:


This may be common knowledge, but it wasn’t for me (admittedly due to my own failure to properly research the issues), the lesson being that you should never take anything for granted — not even something as simple as your child’s last name.

My wife and I have separate last names; she kept her maiden name when we married. Yesterday, we took the Notification of Birth form for our recently-born daughter to the city hall to file it. Naturally assuming that our daughter would take on my last name, we filled it out with my last name and her chosen name. Fifteen minutes later, we were waved over to be told that because my wife’s maiden name is still on her koseki — and as we all know, my name is just a footnote on her koseki — we cannot use my last name, and our daughter would have my wife’s last name. The only way around this is to have my wife file for a change of name at court, whereupon her name will officially be changed to mine, and thus our daughter will be able to take on my last name.

While it’s a quick fix for the time being, the horrendous legal and familial limitations put on foreigners by the koseki system finally really hit home. I’ve never felt my existence was negated quite so much as the instant where we were informed of this rule. I guess I’m just offering this anecdote as a warning to people considering marrying/having children because this is what you will face if you opt to go with different last names, and as an example of why the koseki system needs a serious overhaul, particularly with respect to foreigners. 

To see an example of this (i.e. a real koseki after an international marriage in Japan, where the NJ is not listed as a “spouse”), go to:


Isn’t it astounding that the koseki system, developed from temple registries by the Tokugawa Shogunate in the early 1600s to locate and persecute Christians, should continue to exist in 21st century Japan? Many countries have central registries of marriages, births and deaths. Japan alone developed the intrinsically discriminatory koseki system, which it forced on Taiwan and Korea to maintain colonial control.

But, just like secret Christians, NJ keep coming up with ways to bend the system. If a man named Lennon marries a Japanese woman named Ono and has a child named Sean, the child can be registered in the koseki as Ono Lennon Sean. Japan will issue a passport in the name of Shoonu Rennon Ono, but there is a provision for listing a second spelling (“betsumei heiki” is the magic phrase) along the lines of Sean Lennon Ono. The Ministry of Foreign affairs has regulations on listing of a second spelling, but whether the regulations are enforced to the letter, whether you can assign your chosen name, or whether you can’t get a second spelling at all depends on the clerk assigned to you. At least in a big city, if the clerk is uncooperative, take back your paperwork, come back the next day and try again.

Most foreign nations will register the above child according to the desires of their citizen, for example as Sean Lennon, and issue a passport in that name.

A foreign parent could of course forget about Japanese nationality for their child and try to register the child under a foreign name in the foreign parent’s immigration registry, but think long and hard about that one. This might lead to a denial of family social benefits for which NJ also pay taxes, and possibly make life harder for the child. Under current law, the child can wait until his/her 22d birthday to choose between Japanese nationality and the foreign parent’s nationality, and can keep both in the meantime. But a baby needs a koseki in order to get a Japanese passport.

If you are looking for allies against the koseki system, try posting on a board for Japanese professional women. They are often angry that, because the koseki can only have one family name, they have to drop the maiden name under which they have their M.D., M.B.A., Olympic medal, etc. in order to be recognized as married. They don’t mind using their husband’s name in private society, but in professional society they may want to continue using their maiden name. No can do in Japan. The alternative, for the husband to take the wife’s name, happens when the wife’s family is rich but has no son, but is not appealing to many financially independent men.

It pays to take the long view on discrimination in Japan: another of the Tokugawa Shogunate’s 17th century creations, the government monopoly on tobacco and salt, didn’t die until 1985.

More on the woes for NJ (and others) with the Koseki system here:

And also how the Koseki System puts NJ at a serious disadvantage when it comes to divorce:


What makes this situation especially difficult for international, and especially intercontinental, divorces is that foreign partners have extreme difficulty being granted custody of children in Japan. In a March 31, 2006 interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, lawyer Jeremy D. Morely, of the International Family Law Office in New York, stated:

“Children are not returned from Japan, period, and it is a situation that happens a lot with children of international marriages with kids who are over in Japan. They do not get returned. Usually, the parent who has kept a child is Japanese, and under the Japanese legal system they have a family registration system whereby every Japanese family has their own registration with a local ward office. And the name of registration system is the koseki system. So every Japanese person has their koseki, and a child is listed on the appropriate koseki. Once a child is listed on the family register, the child belongs to that family. Foreigners don’t have a family register and so there is no way for them to actually have a child registered as belonging to them in Japan. There is an international treaty called the Hague Convention on the civil aspects of international child abduction, and Japan is the only G7 country that is not a party to the Hague Convention.”


Arudou Debito in Sapporo

44 comments on “Some woes with the Koseki (Family Registry) system for NJ and others in Japan

  • We saw that coming and my wife legally changed her last name to my katakana last name and created her own koseki-much to the chagrin of my in-laws. It’s a very important and foundational thing we believed we had to do. So far, there have been no major roadblocks because of this, but I rationally expect some.

  • Debito – What kind of problems could occur if the Japanese wife does not change her last name upon marriage, and kids come into the picture later on?

    –One problem has already been described by Osaka J above. My ex did change her name to my former katakana name, then changed it back, then we had kids. They took her last name (and they kept their American names as we decided to render them, with middle names, on their American passports).

    I think the biggest problem (assuming people stay married) is the naming system. There are ways around it (see HANDBOOK pg 248). That’s been my experience, anyway. Others?

  • I think Jeremy’s point in the last quote above isn’t quite accurate. Resident foreigners have their spouse and children recorded as such in their alien registration records, which have the same force as koseki and juminhyo.

    It’s non-resident foreigners that have to worry about not being in the system — although even a non-resident could conceivably get around this by obtaining a spouse visa, entering Japan, registering themselves and leaving on a re-entry permit.

    That said, yes, the koseki is an increasingly pointless system that doesn’t seem to do much except hassle people.

  • Thanks for blogging this, Debito. I am the author of the first anecdote listed in this entry, and I would just like to add a little information.

    The essence of the issue is that my children in Japan will always, with no ifs, ands, or buts, take on whatever name happens to be listed as my wife’s name on her koseki. Because I am not legally provided with a koseki, she is for all intents and purposes the legal head of the household. Now, having my daughter take on my last name is simply a matter of my wife changing hers to mine — and then our daughter’s name will be automatically updated on my wife’s koseki. Theoretically, my wife could apply to change her name to “Scuttlebutt” or “Moby Q. Dick” and as long as that name change was accepted by the courts, that is the name my daughter would have. Unless the people at city hall are blowing smoke up my rear, that is the essence of the rules as described to us.

    Even if resident foreigners do have their spouses/children listed on their foreigner registration forms, as Joe Jones says, the Japanese partner’s koseki is the ultimate arbitrator of what name a child will have.

    Like I said, although having my wife change her name is a quick fix, if — God forbid — we were ever to be divorced, I assume I would be struck from her koseki, which would leave her as the sole legal guardian of my daughter, and naturally my daughter’s name, too, would revert to my wife’s maiden name (and then take on whatever name my wife might take on in a subsequent marriage). I would love to be proven wrong, but this is basically what we were told at city hall.

    My basic position is that I am all for my wife keeping her maiden name. I would be happy if we could have a hyphenated last name as is possible in, say, the United States. However, the rigidity of the koseki system does not accommodate such practice and thus we are forced to change my wife’s name to match mine (which has, as Daniel mentioned, caused serious problems with the in-laws as well).

    –And regarding City Hall and blowing smoke regarding your wife changing her name, they are correct. I have also gone through the Family Court system to formally change my name to Arudou Debito after my divorce. I’ve been meaning to tell that story for many moons now. Perhaps over the summer.

    Everything else is accurate regarding City Hall’s depiction of the “God Forbid” situation as well, AFAIK.

    In any case, I suggest you make sure you register your kids as you damn well please on their NJ passport. Debito

  • Is it possible to create the baby’s own (independent) koseki?

    第十八条  父母の氏を称する子は、父母の戸籍に入る。
    2  前項の場合を除く外、父の氏を称する子は、父の戸籍に入り、母の氏を称する子は、母の戸籍に入る。
    第二十二条  父又は母の戸籍に入る者を除く外、戸籍に記載がない者についてあらたに戸籍の記載をすべきときは、新戸籍を編製する。

    “Law of Family Registry
    Article 18. A child whose family name is same as his parents’ is recorded in his parents’ family registry.
    2. Other than the case above, a child whose family name is same as his father’s is recorded in his father’s family registry and a child whose family name is same as his mother’s is recorded in his mother’s family registry.
    Article 22. Except in the case that a person is to be recorded in his father’s or mother’s family registry, if a person without family registry is to be recorded, such person is recorded in newly created family registry.”

    It seems the law says that if the family name of a baby is same as father’s who is not a Jananese citizen and thus does not have a koseki, the city official has to create a new independent koseki of the baby.

    Would anyone give it a try?

  • though currently u cant do anything about the surname,
    depending on the country -you can also have 2 names(official j name and nj name) put on the njpassport(you can do this in uk) to avoid any confusion with plane tkts etc..
    middle names ,romanji spelling on the passport is also another area of vexation but if you have a postcard sent to your home address with the name you want for the baby on it this is accepted.
    what is incredibly frustrating is the random way the rules are
    applied depending on where you go-as debito says if youre not getting what you want speak to another person til you do..

  • My wife and I are in a similar situation, but with a small twist; we are based in Switzerland, so everything has to be done through consulates/embassies, by mail or just before oshogatsu when we go back to visit my wife’s family. At the moment, we are waiting to go back to Japan to change the family name on my wife’s koseki.

    We would love to hear peoples experiences going before a court to get a name change, so we can prepare for the process.

    Also, we noticed another interesting difference when applying for our daughter’s passports. When applying for the US passport, both parents had to be present (or one parent could apply if they brought a notarized letter from their spouse giving permission), and both parents have to sign the form and the physical passport. On the Japanese side, however, either parent could complete the application without the permission of the other, and only one parent signs the passport. Apparently it can be either parent, although the staff at the local consulate were reluctant to let the non-Japanese parent sign (actually, I have a series of stories about how unpleasant it is to work with the local consulate; they make the Kushiro branch of the immigration office look good!)

  • Mark Mino-Thompson says:

    Joe Jones Said:
    “I think Jeremy’s point in the last quote above isn’t quite accurate. Resident foreigners have their spouse and children recorded as such in their alien registration records, which have the same force as koseki and juminhyo.”

    While this is somewhat true, it isn’t completely accurate.

    As Jake mentioned above, the ultimate document in Japan is the koseki. A close second is the juuminhyou. NJ are not allowed either document. NJ married to Japanese spouses (as Debito has written about extensively on his website) can have their existance mentioned in the “comments” section of both forms. However, it is my understanding that with the juuminhyou, one has to request a full version in order to “see” the comments section; so it’s not even a fully permanent record.

    As Joe Jones wrote, it is possible to get your spouse and kids’ names written on your “gaikokujintorokugenpyoukisaijokoushoumeshou” (one’s alien resident certificate), but only written by hand (in ink) once the official paper has been printed. When I got mine done a few years ago my local yakuba told me that regulations wouldn’t allow for my family to be “officially” recorded on my resident records, and that this was the best that they could do.

    It’s a serious problem with potentially serious consecuiences that needs to be fixed. Frankly, I cannot come up with any logical reason why the government doesn’t make juuminhyou for all residents in Japan, whether citizens or not. Hopefully FRANCA will have some luck in this regard in the near future.

  • I hadn’t planned on surfing this afternoon as I am melting into my keyboard, but this topic got my attention fast. I have a scanned copy of my wife’s koseki touhon 戸籍謄本, and when I opened it up, sure as shootin’ there I wasn’t! I’m only listed as a bikou 備考. Just like in your example linked above. A further search of our most recently scanned documents showed that I am not on her juuminhyou 住民票 either. So, can I infer, from “tautological law, I cannot be a resident because I am not a citizen?” This has all been a revelation to me!
    The stubborn person not far from the surface in me immediately wondered if this could be played a bit in favor of all of the folks who suddenly find ourselves deemed “non-resident” because of citizenship. If we are “non-resident”, then are we not also exempt from the resident tax? Tautologically speaking, of course.

  • DR:

    It’s a bit of a wake-up call, isn’t it. Although in my case, it was my own fault for not researching things properly beforehand, it feels like a real kick in the nuts (pardon the phrase, but it needs to be emphasized) when you are suddenly informed that legally speaking, you are not the husband of your wife, the father of your child, or a resident of the community where you have been living and paying taxes for (in my case) seven years now.

    I intend to get as involved as possible in pushing for juuminhyo for foreigners via FRANCA and other channels. If it does not seem like it will change in the foreseeable future, I am seriously considering packing up and moving back to the US. This has sort of become the last straw in my mind. I have invested indescribable resources, emotion, and money in Japan but Japan is essentially refusing any return on this. Anyway, we’ll see how things start to pan out, and I look forward to participating in more constructive discussion and action on this issue.

  • Jake, koseki does say that you are the husband of your wife, and the father of your children. What it lacks is your entry.

    Jeff, within 6 months from the date of marriage, a Japanese spouse can change his/her family name to that of his/her spouse without court permission. (Article 107 of Koseki Ho) Just mail proper form to the city office. Beyond that grace period, you have to seek court permission.

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    Perhaps one very small bit of progress, which wouldn’t be a complete solution at all, but might be palatable to the government, would be to get the name of the alien registration certificate changed to some kind of “juumin touroku”. (The alien card would then be called the “gaikokujin juuminhyou” or something similar.)

    Many Japanese people aren’t even aware that non-nationals exist outside the juuminhyou system and thus, when demanding a juuminhyou when accepting a contract or bank acconut application, discriminate without intending to. My own boss needed a juuminhyou from me when opening some kind of company-relted account, and at first told me I’d brought the wrong thing when I offered the proof of alien registration. He had no idea that I didn’t have, and couldn’t have, a regular juuminhyou.

    I can’t imagine why any Japanese person would be against changing the *name* of the alien registration to something that resembles the one for citizens. From there, even if we couldn’t get the alien cards abolished entirely, we could at least get alien family members properly listed with their spouses and children.

    Doesn’t the government find it a bit ridiculous that a child of foreign parents can have his own koseki, as “head of the household”, despite being an infant?

  • HO:

    Actually, we did try to create a new koseki for my daughter–there was a space for it on the registration form, and we filled it in assuming that it would solve the problem. The guy behind the window had different ideas, though! He used a red pen to ‘correct’ our form and then made us fill out a new one. I asked why this was necessary, but he wouldn’t say anything more than 「できないから」.

    To be fair, I’ve had enough problems with them already, so I’m not sure if it is impossible, or if they couldn’t be bothered. Anyone else try this?

    As for the name change, yes we are aware that we have to go before the court–I was hoping someone (maybe Debito) could give a quick overview of what the process is like. As luck would have it, my wife has a friend working at the courthouse, and he assures us that it will be no problem; I was just wondering how everything plays out (especially since we only have a 2-3 week window to get it done).


  • Jeff, my wife will be going to court early next week to perform the procedure. I’ll report back and let you know how everything went. For what it’s worth, my wife also phoned the court in advance and they told her the change would be no problem.

  • Mark Mino-Thompson says:

    Mark in Yayoi wrote:

    “Doesn’t the government find it a bit ridiculous that a child of foreign parents can have his own koseki, as “head of the household”, despite being an infant?”

    Actually, I think what you meant was children with one Japanese parent (and one NJ parent) can have a koseki. Children born to NJ parents in Japan are still NJ and need to be registered.

    However, should the Japanese parent of an international family become deceased, the child would become “head of the household” on the juuminhyou and also the koseki (assuming no older living relatives were alive), while the NJ parent is relegated to “family member” in the comments section (although they CAN be listed as de-facto head of the household in the “comments”).

    As to your idea of changing the foreign registry certificate (and card) to a slightly different name, I can’t agree to. I appreciate the compromise, but I don’t think we should be letting the government off the hook in letting them continue a separate resident registry system, since we all live, work, pay taxes and contribute to the local community as much as the next person. There simply is no reason to have a separate system at the local level. NJ living in Japan (or any foreign country) of course need to be registered with the national government, by means of a visa. But that relationship should have no bearing at the local level. We all pay the same taxes and receive the same services.

    The government needs to understand that the majority of NJ living in Japan are long-term residents; many with families most with Japanese citizens in them and that they deserve to treated with equal respect when it comes to registering them as part of the community.

  • Jib Halyard says:

    The annoying thing is middle names. some ward offices will not accept two given names for a birth certificate, unless they are joined together as a single name without a space.
    Which means a bureaucrat had a say in naming my child (in the eyes of official japan, at least), rather than just accepting his REAL name, as they must do when registering a foreign-born applicant for an alien card. pretty sickening.

  • To Jake and Jeff:

    My wife and I have been married for seven years but it wasn’t until after a year or two of marriage that she changed here name to mine. So we had to go through the court process but it was very easy. After gathering the appropriate documents we went to the Family Court in Nagoya which looked just like a normal office in our local city hall or tax office and handed over the documents. I think we had to fill in a few extra things (can’t remember exactly) with a friendly man behind the counter. I think it was all done in well under an hour. In fact it was fairly painless.

    My wife just gets annoyed nowadays when she always has to repeat here name at least two times whenever she tells it to someone on the telephone. 🙂

  • Comment 8: “As Joe Jones wrote, it is possible to get your spouse and kids’ names written on your “gaikokujintorokugenpyoukisaijokoushoumeshou” (one’s alien resident certificate), but only written by hand (in ink) once the official paper has been printed. When I got mine done a few years ago my local yakuba told me that regulations wouldn’t allow for my family to be “officially” recorded on my resident records, and that this was the best that they could do.”

    The gaikokujin toroku genpyo (外国人登録原票), where all the records are officially kept, does record all this information (see, e.g., here). Not being able to easily get the information on the short certificate is a problem, but it isn’t the same as not having any official record — it’s basically the same problem with getting yourself listed on the juminhyo, in that you have to request a copy of the whole thing in order to get the one nugget of information you want to certify.

    As a more general rant, I think the Japanese bureaucracy is kind of like Microsoft Excel. It is heavily constrained by rules, procedures and formalities which are really hard to figure out, but if you know how to hack everything together you can figure out how to accomplish just about anything. (There are guys who have programmed Excel to display animated cartoons or play Tetris.)

    The solutions are often really counter-intuitive. As a corporate finance lawyer, I’ve seen top talents in the field mull over complicated deals for weeks or even months before they come up with a way for it to clear all the regulatory hurdles, and the end product generally comes out looking really messy (albeit functional). It’s the same thing for complicated personal matters: I recall being denied entry to Japan one time in order to get a landing permit (long story, but it was the immigration inspector’s idea), and similar ridiculous backwards steps in dealing with vehicle registration, real estate registration and other matters which should have been simple.

    Basically, the biggest pitfall here is accepting bureaucrats’ responses at face value. There’s almost always a solution, although it may not be obvious at first and it may not worth the time and effort it takes to reach it. It’s all about patience, perseverance, and creativity, which most civil servants (and, sadly, many lawyers) lack.

    That said, no reason to keep koseki, juminhyo and alien registration separate. Merge the things already–or even do away with them entirely, although I suspect that would have unpalatable implications for the bureaucrats who like to have excessive amounts of personal information at their fingertips. Simplicity is a virtue which Japan sometimes seems to have long forgotten.

  • jib,
    japanese only have 2 names legally (god knows why) so if you have a middle name for your child you have to run them together-but you can do one in kanji,one in hiragana etc to get round it..
    on passports you can put the names the way you want..
    as people have said,the biggest thing is not to believe officials when they say it cant be an example,
    on my first sons jpassport my jwife was forced to run middle name and first name together and the katakana wastransliterated backto english,so my son was initially kurisuteisunrio(some kind of crab maybe?)
    when we went to another office they told her this was rubbish and
    so we went back and demanded it put as rio christison.woman then asked for another 6000yen for a new passport!wife refused and woman ended up forking it out of her own pocket,,funny now but an absolute nightmare then..same woman had also demanded 3month old sons alien card (?)when my wife went to get his jpassport -absolutely ridiculous but im sure im not the only one.

  • I’m confused. I am an American married to a Japanese citizen who legally changed her name to my last name in katakana. What do I have to do, if anything, to make sure that:

    (1) our future kids, when we have them, are registered as Japanese AND American citizens, and

    (2) I am legally recognized as their father in Japan.

    Finally, (3) if my wife and I ever get divorced, will I no longer be legally recognized as our kids’ father in Japan?


  • [quote]When applying for the US passport, both parents had to be present (or one parent could apply if they brought a notarized letter from their spouse giving permission), and both parents have to sign the form and the physical passport. On the Japanese side, however, either parent could complete the application without the permission of the other, and only one parent signs the passport. Apparently it can be either parent, although the staff at the local consulate were reluctant to let the non-Japanese parent sign (actually, I have a series of stories about how unpleasant it is to work with the local consulate; they make the Kushiro branch of the immigration office look good!)[/quote]

    The same as American wau is in Poland, but bear in mind that Japan do not recognize any nation except its own, so your child will always have your wife`s name on J passport and another name on foreign (second) passport, so basically saying children born from Japanese an non-Japanese couple will have 2 identities. When I registered my wife in my country, they asked me whether I want to have my wife`s name (her Japanese surname and mine) written with dash between her surname and mine or without it or just space, how about my future baby name? Do I want to have as my wife`s or just my last name. Of course mine enough. This procedure took me 10minutes. However in Japan you baby will have whatever your wife`s names. If she keeps her middle name your baby will have to have all those names. They don`t care you choose only father`s name, you are not Japanese to be allowed to do so.
    Good Luck

    On the other hand, name changing in Japanese court. For us it was good experience but too much paper work. At the end we had to meet official and “kind of” explain why she wants MY LAST NAME. You have to have a reason. So we showed them translated documents from City Hall in my country.

  • Justin:
    “(1) our future kids, when we have them, are registered as Japanese AND American citizens”
    If your baby is born in Japan, file his birth at the city office where you live (or of her honsekichi). Then apply for a Consular Report of Birth at the US Embassy.

    If your baby is born in the US, apply for a birth certificate in the US. Then file his birth at Japanese Embassy or Consulate General in the US. Be sure to mark the “I reserve Japanese citizenship” line for the baby.

    In either case, it is a good idea that you file the Japanese birth form because the name of the filer is recorded in the main text of koseki.

    Dual citizenship is good until the baby becomes 22 years old, at which time the Government of Japan asks your baby to choose one citizenship. If he chooses Japanese citizenship, he has to “make effort” to loose other citizenships but there is no deadline for doing so.

    “(2) I am legally recognized as their father in Japan.”
    Just fill your name in the “Father’s Name” blank in Japanese birth form. Your name is recorded as the father of your baby in his koseki.

    “(3) if my wife and I ever get divorced, will I no longer be legally recognized as our kids’ father in Japan?”
    Even after divorce, you are the father of your children. However, the right of a parent who does not have custody is very much limited in Japan.

  • Mark in Yayoi Says:
    ‘I can’t imagine why any Japanese person would be against changing the *name* of the alien registration to something that resembles the one for citizens. From there, even if we couldn’t get the alien cards abolished entirely, we could at least get alien family members properly listed with their spouses and children.’

    Well…….I don’t know if I’m being cynical, but I think the name of ‘alien’ registration was chosen very pointedly. The system here goes out of its way to demarcate ‘Japanese’ from ‘foreign’, physically and psychologically, and I think there’s a deliberate effort there to class foreign as separate and inferior. Some city offices have erased the word ‘alien’ from the desks designated for foreigners’ affairs, so obviously they are conscious the word is insulting, but most haven’t.

  • Pipkins:
    Do you think the word “alien” derogatory?

    Look at the US. The legal term for foreigners in the US is “aliens”. “Title 8, Aliens and Nationality”

    How about the UK. They have “Status of Aliens Act 1914”, “Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act 1919” and “Aliens’ Employment Act 1955”.

    I believe lawmakers in the UK and in the US no not think the word “alien” derogatory.

  • Thanks for all the answers to my question. And I ordered a copy of the Handbook from Amazon yesterday!

    –Thanks very much!

  • “Japan will issue a passport in the name of Shoonu Rennon Ono,”

    you dont need second spelling if you have dual citizenship. The form hi-hepburn-shiki can be used to make a passport with a spelling that you wish.

    Im planning on writing a note for my law school’s law journal about the problems associated with the koseki…btw women can register to keep there maiden names as an alias for most professions except for in certain professions like lawyers…actually the tokyo bar associate women are currently researching a way to get around this.

  • I am going thru chotei proceedings and heading towards divorce with my Jhusband of 13 years. I have 2 children which I will have custody of. My real issue is what to do with their juuminhyo and koseki after the divorce. I guess I have to give up the surname, but I am considering taking Japanese citizenship in order to put the children under my koseki.
    Any comments, thoughts advice would be greatly appreciated. I have an apartment here and intend on staying at least until my children finish their education.

  • Here in Okinawa, getting on my wife’s Koseki card was relatively easy. We just submitted our local marriage certificate (also done in Okinawa) and my passport. Both documents were returned to us at the end of the visit to the town office.

    The hardest part of the whole transaction was getting my wife’s Koseki/Juminhyo transferred from Tokyo (her home) down to here.

    After our son was born, this was also a very simple process of adding him to the register which involved merely taking his birth registration certificate to the city hall again for processing.

    Granted, I am here on a SOFA visa, but hope to transfer this to the spousal type when my job here in the islands finishes. I guess we’ll see if there are problems when the time comes to change everything.

    A coworker of mine and resident of Okinawa for more than 30 years is retiring and going through the “switch to spousal visa process”. He said that it wasn’t a problem at all, but that changing his driver’s license may be impossible since, among other things, there’s a rule requiring proof that he’s driven in the US for more than 90 days. When he told them that he hasn’t since he LIVES HERE and has been driving in Japan for more than 30 years, they told him he must take the Japanese driver’s exam since he doesn’t have enough experience on American roads where his license was issued! LOL WTF?!?

    Where’s the laugh track on this site when you need it?

    — Thanks for the information. Meanwhile, please check your wife’s koseki again. As a NJ, you cannot be listed as a “spouse” (in your case look for the “otto” kanji) next to your wife on the koseki. You’ll be listed as being married to your wife, and as the father of your children. But not as a husband. Because as a NJ you don’t have a koseki.

    As for the drivers license woes, that rule is in place because Japanese were going overseas to get American licenses and bypassing the expensive system here in Japan. More on what to do about it in HANDBOOK Chapter 4.

  • gina lumakang says:

    hello…I have a japanese filipino child who was born in Philippines and presently living in the philippines.can i ask what are the necessary documents for the child for family registry. Thank you

  • I think that in Japan it depends on whether the Japanese father admits it is his child, or some awful rule like that.

    Yeah, since the Japanese parent is the only one with a family registry (Koseki) you need the Japanese parent’s help.

    I think that’s the unfortunate situation, but I could be wrong. Hopefully someone else might reply with a better answer.

  • In my understanding if your name is on a koseki you are entitled to it. Here is an example of an application form obtainable at any city or ward office. (they vary but it should work since they are usually sent from town to town throughout Japan). If applied for from Japan you need to send a ¥450 special kind of money order (per copy) with the application. The money order can only be purchased at a Japanese post office. You will also need a copy of your passport and I recommend any document indicating your connection to the family (a copy of your birth registration would be my suggestion). You also need to include a self-addressed stamped envelope with sufficient Japanese postage to get it back to your home.

    Here’s a practical foreign point of view: You can use an International Money Order and Reply Coupons instead of Japanese stamps (at least in Hamamatsu).

    My recommendation would be to call the city or ward office of registry and ask for help to get a koseki tohon. Ask to speak to someone in English if necessary. They will find someone even if it’s a small town. People in local government here are nervous to use English, but they can, a bit. And they’re generally helpful. Also be very careful that you fill out the form accurately. Good luck!

  • Thank you Greg, that is exactly what one should do, if one is ALREADY on the koseki and one just needs to buy a copy.

    Now, what should one do, if one is an NJ woman with a half-Japanese child and NEITHER INDIVIDUALS are on any koseki?

    Wasn’t there some strange law which allowed the Japanese father to easily keep any unwanted children from appearing on his koseki?

    And even though I think that strange law was somehow eventually “over-turned”, isn’t it still impossible to force a koseki addition?

    Meaning, if the J-father refuses to officially add the NJ-born-child to his koseki (possibly comment #30) then what should the NJ-mother do?

    “Hi, I’m a woman living in the Philippines, who was impregnated by some Japanese guy who doesn’t want to admit the situation. How do I get my half-Japanese child, who is living with me here in the Philippines, officially registered as “child of the Japanese father” over on the father’s Koseki in Japan? I know the father’s full name and his city office location, but since he refuses to submit the Koseki “child addition” form, it seems this child will forever remain unlisted on the Koseki in Japan. In THIS case, what should I do? If the Japanese parent refuses to add the child to the Koseki, then legally what should I do?”

  • Im curious, if I am a foreigner and I dont have a koseki, how would anyone know any if the important things about me that are supposed to be recorded on this register? For example if I am married in Japan, or if say I wanted to marry multiple times, what would stop me from anyone (includimg the Japanese government) knowing if I am married or not? In the case of Japanese, they couldnt do this because when they apply to get married they have to show their koseki which would show theyre already married, but where a foreigner doesnt have one, what would happen? I guess this is highly hypothetical but hasnt anyone else ever thought about these things?

    — Yes. That’s why NJ are registered and tracked in official databases the same (actually, more closely) than Japanese. The Koseki is not the only means of registering people in Japan.

  • If you take your J wife’s family name in Japan, can you retain your own family name (NJ) in your own country?

  • In the UK, I believe you can in principle call yourself what you want, so long as there is no intention to deceive (you can do a deed poll but it’s not strictly necessary).

  • #37 James

    That’s correct, one must change their name legally though.

    An old school friend, his brother changed his name, legally, to monkeywrenchloadingbay

  • I’m curious, because i don’t mind having my wife’s name in japan, but outside of it, due to family reasons, I’d like to retain my family name…..

    does anyone know the process in japan / japan consulate?

  • It will complicate things if you have bank accounts or credit cards etc overseas. If you legally change your name in Japan then your official documents will be in your Japanese name, but your other documents like your passport will be in another name.
    This is likely to make complications if, for example, you waanted to take a home loan or something like that. I suggest you talk to en experienced lawyer.

    By the way, what reason do you have for taking your wife’s name?

  • Confused, you do realise that you don’t have to change your name at all when you get married in Japan, do you? Assuming you are not actually a Japanese citizen.

    John K, no, you are wrong and I was a bit unclear. There is no legal requirement to go through any process at all to change your name in the UK. A deed poll is merely formal recognition of the change (as 30 secs googling will easily confirm).

  • no reason. I thought it would be easier in Japan. but i only know from anecdotes that a friend had taken his wife’s name in japan, but remained as his own in the US.

    seems like the story has abit of assumptions there…

  • James Annan

    The deed poll is a legal document. Can’t change ones name (for formal administration ID purposes like passport etc) without it. You can change you name as you see fit…but if you want a new passport or driving licence and thus mortgage etc, you do.
    You can do this yourself, in other words you don’t need a lawyer…, but the required documentation to change ones name – is a legal document – to change ones name for formal admin ID purposes.

    “…A deed poll is a legal document that proves a change of name….” *


  • John, this is getting a bit silly. The web page you quote even makes it clear that the deed poll is only one way of proving a name change (and quite certainly is not the process by which a name is changed). The vast majority of name changes in the UK don’t involve deed polls (being made on the occasion of marriage or divorce). Irrespective of that, you can get a name change on a passport by sending a statutory declaration or affidavit.

    One problem with a deed poll is that I think in making one you normally formally renounce your previous name, and it sounds like the poster doesn’t want to do this. I don’t know if it’s possible to do a deed poll without this part. However, using two alternative names seems legal, again so long as there is no intention to defraud. It is not that uncommon for married people to use two different surnames in different contexts – even in Japan I knew some female scientists who kept their maiden name for work. I assume this has no legal status in Japan, but in the UK both names can be used officially (bank accounts etc).

    — I agree that this is getting way off track. Bring it back.


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