Baby names, death tax and crackers


Greetings from Baghdad, where it’s 120 in the shade, the food is great, the people the best and electricity a dim memory. Oh, for the goodness of Japan.

Joint names

I live in Shizuoka-ken. My wife and I were married 1 1/2 years ago and are expecting a child very shortly. We have been told by the local city ward office that we cannot have a joint name for the baby. Yet a friend of mine has been able to this in Sendai.

Generally I am not in favor of joint names, but in the case of both my wife and I, and the child being a boy, it is the only chance to carry on both our family lineages.

Can we have a joint name (Yamamura-Bain) or not, legally speaking, or is it a case by case situation in each prefecture?

I got the impression that the Numazu city ward may not have come across this situation before so “erred” on the side of conservatism. — Alastair

On the subject of joint names, we checked with the Numazu City office, and, in fact, you can name your child anything you want. The only restrictions, one of which applies in just about all countries, is that you must be able to write it in either kanji or katakana, and it should be within reason.

For example you probably can’t name your child “devil” etc. Other than that you can do what you want. They couldn’t figure out who might have told you that you couldn’t have a joint name, but they said come back to them and they will take care of it.

Call (055) 931-2500 and talk to the “shimin ka,” or, better yet, call in.

Death taxes

I have heard that “death tax” is very high in Japan. Is this true? Are there any ways in which the tax can be minimized. This isn’t so pertinent to myself but could be of vital importance to my wife’s parents.

There are many variations on this general rule, but, put simply, any debts you have, plus the funeral cost, is subtracted from your estate and the first 55 million yen thereafter is tax free.

The next 10 million yen is taxed at 10 percent, over 30 million yen at 15 percent, over 50 million yen at 20 percent, over 300 million yen at 30 percent etc.

You can get information in English on this from the Tax Agency at (03) 3821-9701.


Kaoru read the entry about traditional rice crackers in Lifelines (July 22) and wants to recommend Nanbu senbei to readers.

This type is made from flour not rice, and she especially recommends goma (sesame).

Kaoru adds that she was born and lives in Morioka, Iwate Prefecture, where the name of the local ruler during the Edo period was Nanbu. Hence the appellation.