The chairman of Japan's biggest business lobby, Keidanren, for first time Tuesday expressed his explicit support for the introduction of a system to allow married couples to use separate surnames.

"I personally think it should be done. I want it to be implemented as a top priority to support women's working styles," Masakazu Tokura, head of the Japan Business Federation, said during a news conference.

Tokura expressed bewilderment at why the issue "has been left hanging for so long" after a Justice Ministry panel in 1996 recommended the Civil Code be revised to allow separate surnames.

The proposal was not submitted to the Diet at the time due to opposition by conservative lawmakers who argued that such a change would undermine family cohesion and traditional family values.

Keidanren plans to draw up recommendations by October on a system for allowing different surnames for spouses and submit them to the government, Tokura said.

Japan's Civil Code requires that married couples share the same surname, with the overwhelming majority traditionally choosing the husband's name.