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Can the government change my name? asks ‘Madame Spouse’

by Ashley Thompson

French citizen DTMV is concerned about the name listed on her alien registration card, which includes her maiden name, married name, two first names, and “epouse” (listed before her married name), which means “spouse” in French. As such, she is often referred to as “epouse,” despite the fact this isn’t her actual name.

“A name is an important part of one’s identity, and it is extremely frustrating to have it messed up in this way. ‘Epouse’ is definitely not one of my names! I’ve tried explaining, but they won’t budge.

“Is it even legal for a government to change a foreign citizen’s name? Do other nationals have this problem in Japan?”

We inquired at our local city hall, and according to officials there, the name on your alien registration card must match the name on your passport. Even though “epouse” or “ep.” is not officially your name, and despite it being printed lowercase to indicate it isn’t your name, if it’s listed on your passport, they will include it.

They suggested contacting the French Embassy to see about removing the “epouse” from your passport if you’d prefer it to be taken off your alien registration card.

Is it standard practice? It is according to @jjtokyo and @eprouveze, whose wives are both French.

@jjtokyo writes: ” ‘Ep.’ for my wife. But that’s the way French authorities wrote it on her passport to start with. The fun starts when the kuyakusho (ward office) asks, ‘How do you read out ‘ep.’ for katakana transcription? Epu? Eppu?’ “

Readers, have you had the same experience, or have you been able to get around this rule? Please let us know.

Reader SR has a question about the 25-year pay-in pension requirement:

“I have been living and working in Tokyo and contributing to the pension system for the last 12 years. If I cannot complete the required 25 years — let’s say if I stop making contributions now — will I still be getting money (12-years-worth of contributions) at the end of 25 years, or will I lose it completely? I am a permanent resident.”

In order to answer this question adequately, we would need more details, although the answer depends on various factors.

First of all, you are officially required to pay into the pension scheme as a resident of Japan, unless you qualify for an exemption of some kind or you no longer have a registered residence in the country. So in theory, there would need to be some reason for you to stop making pension contributions, and that reason would hold some weight as to your eligibility to receive a pension after 25 years.

As you are a permanent resident, it is possible that the years you don’t contribute may qualify for kara kikan, if you aren’t under an exemption, but as we discussed in “Permanent residents, mind the ‘gap years’ in your pension payments” (June 21), you wouldn’t necessarily automatically qualify for kara kikan; this is something you would need to discuss with the pension office.

If you qualify, and apply for an exemption (due to unemployment, low income, inability to work due to injury or illness, to name a few), then it’s certainly possible to not make contributions for a period of time and still potentially meet the 25-year requirement.

Alternatively, if you worked in and paid social security to a country with a totalization agreement with Japan for the other 13 years, you might still meet the 25-year requirement. (We addressed this topic previously in “Japan pension answers often case-specific” (April 19).

As you can see, the answer to your question isn’t clear-cut, and largely depends on your circumstances, so it would be best to inquire at your local pension office. To locate your nearest branch, please visit this page (in Japanese): www.nenkin.go.jp/office/map4.html

Thanks to David Thompson for his research assistance. Ashley Thompson writes survival tips and unique how-tos about living in Japan at www.survivingnjapan.com. Send all your questions to lifelines@japantimes.co.jp