Plaintiffs express shock at bad precedent set by court’s decision on shared surnames


Staff Writer

Plaintiffs contesting family laws that require spouses to choose a single surname expressed shock and anger at Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling, saying it sets a bad precedent and will force more women to suffer the misery of having to change their name upon marriage.

In a vote of 10 to 5, the nation’s top court dismissed claims by five women seeking the right to retain their maiden names after marriage. The court said the century-old Civil Code provision requiring couples to share a surname — they can choose which — is “established in Japanese society,” and that the matter should be taken up in the Diet, not the courts.

“I’m sad, I’m in pain,” a weeping plaintiff Kyoko Tsukamoto told a news conference in Tokyo following the ruling. She goes by Tsukamoto, her maiden name, although her husband’s name must be used on legal documents. “My name is something I can’t give up.”

Fellow plaintiff Kaori Oguni expressed anger, saying the reasoning for the ruling was “horrible.”

“This means that future generations of women will be shouldered with the same suffering we have gone through,” Oguni, a 41-year-old mother of a 6-year-old daughter, said. “I’ve told my daughter of (the injustice of) the Japanese marriage system for years. I’m at a loss for how to explain today’s ruling to her.”

Fujiko Sakakibara, a lead lawyer in the case, said the ruling reflects Japan’s poor participation of women in society, including in the judiciary.

“The percentage of female judges in the Supreme Court is only 20 percent now, which has resulted in this outcome.”

In a separate case, the Supreme Court ruled that a Civil Code provision prohibiting female divorcees from remarrying within six months of their divorce is unconstitutional.

Tomoshi Sakka, a lawyer representing the plaintiff, a woman in her 30s, said the Diet should swiftly change the law. In its ruling Wednesday, the court said the period in which a divorcee cannot remarry should be shortened to 100 days from the current six months, citing advances in medical technologies, such as DNA tests, which have made the paternity of children much easier to ascertain.

For women wishing to remarry within 100 days after a divorce, Sakka said, the government should allow them to do so as long as they have obtained proof from a medical doctor that they are not pregnant.

“We request that the government issue a notice allowing such women to remarry, given that the advances in medical and other scientific technologies (in shortening the ban) are cited in the ruling,” Sakka said.

  • Blair

    Oh the horror!

  • AmIJustAPessimistOrWhat?

    If a woman has her own business using her own name, and has received payment to a personal bank account in that name, then if she gets married will the name of the bank account change? That could be very inconvenient, and could cause a loss of income if she changes the name of business to match her new bank account name.

    • Tabula Rasa

      I’ve seen all the paperwork involved when someone in a western country got married: driver’s license, all the information stored by the government, university degrees…etc. This particular person CHOSE to change her name, but it was still her CHOICE.

      I have a friend whose daughter has her surname and her son has her husband’s surname…an alternative to all that hyphenating.

    • Peter

      Only if she goes through the process of changing her details with the bank. If she never tells her bank, I guess they’ll never know.
      If she does tell her bank, then she can tell her customers too. If the risk or trouble is too much, she can have her husband change his name instead.

  • woodynatural

    shock? Suffer? Ok, it’s not one of the best decisions, but shock and suffer lol, than just don’t get married or ask your husband to take your name, suffer, what an exageration

    • Resa Bennett

      If you don’t get married, you lose the legal protections and benefits and your children are officially illegitimate, which carries a stigma in Japan.

      • woodynatural

        there come almost no benefits with marriage in Japan – and if tat would be the case they could weight for themselves what’s more of a gain, getting married but losing the name or don’t get married and lose the “benefits” but keep your name.

      • TV Monitor


        Most Japanese women become full-time housewives upon marriage. So that’s a benefit from a certain point of view.

    • Matt Owen

      Get with the times…Women are not second class citizens!

  • Peter

    I was outraged with this decision as much as the next person at first but, upon reflection, why should a dozen old men decide whether “culture” has changed? This law may inconvenience people but it doesn’t hurt them. Plus it applies to both genders. So I agree with the court that it is up to the Diet to change the law, if they believe that is what the voters want.

  • Karagarga


  • Karagarga


  • johnniewhite

    It seems that this plaintiff’s ideals are that of Korea and China where women can retain their maiden name. Is it just me to find it as being one of many attempts by left-wing activists to lose Japanese values, possessions or territorial claims of islands?

    • mayday

      “It seems that this plaintiff’s ideals are that of Korea and China”

      Source… ?

      ” Is it just me to find it as being one of many attempts by left-wing activists to lose Japanese values”

      Abe has also promoted for more women to work so there’s that.

      • TV Monitor


        Source… ?

        It is a well known fact. Nobody changes names upon marriage in Korea and China.

    • Matt Owen

      Crazy…no relation to the islands.

    • TV Monitor


      Is it just me to find it as being one of many attempts by left-wing activists to lose Japanese values

      When the Japanese traditional value promotes a discrimination against women, then yes such obsolete value must be changed.

  • woodynatural

    judging from the ladies in the picture I wonder who wanted to marry them in the first place lol

  • natureradiant

    This article helps us to know about the Japanese remarriage system which has become controversial among the present women of Japan.

  • Matt Owen

    Sad to see Japan continue to treat Women like second class citizens!
    When will they learn?

    • TV Monitor

      Matt Owen

      Looking at the trend of history denial and whaling in Japan, never would be the correct answer.