In a Sept. 5 Twitter post, university instructor Akiko Orita pointed out that four of the five women appointed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to his new Cabinet do not use their legal names. Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Sanae Takaichi, state minister in charge of abduction issues Eriko Yamatani, state minister in charge of female empowerment Haruko Arimura and Justice Minister Midori Matsushima all go by the names they were born with rather than their husbands'.
According to the Civil Code, married couples must use the same name, and while a man can take his wife's name, that happens only 2 percent of the time, and usually because the wife's family doesn't have a male heir to carry on the name. The husband of the fifth new female Cabinet member, Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yuko Obuchi, took her surname because she belongs to a political dynasty and is, thus, expected to take over the family business.
In its interview with Matsushima, Tokyo Shimbun asked if she would do anything in her capacity as law minister to allow married couples to have separate names, a common situation in other developed countries but one the Liberal Democratic Party opposes because it thinks it undermines family unity. Without mentioning her own situation, she said the matter "is related to the core being of a family," and thus "it is difficult to make a decision right away." Actually, politicians have been discussing separate names since the early 1990s and legislation was once drafted to change the Civil Code and make it legal, but nothing was done. "Right away" in this case seems to mean "forever."