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One of the features, or, depending on your perspective, problems of the koseki (Japan’s family registration system) is that it embeds deeply into the legal system a very basic distinction between koseki insider and outsider — those registered in it and those who are not. It thus legitimizes — mandates — certain types of discriminatory treatment.

First, members of Japan’s Imperial family are all outsiders, tracked through a different registry known as the kōtōfu. When a princesses marries out of the Imperial family (as they must, there not being any marriageable princes), she becomes a “commoner,” a process accomplished by entering her into the koseki system and noting her exit from the rank of royalty in the kōtōfu.

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