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I
read with consternation William Wetherall’s Oct. 11 letter, “Passive influence on family law,” which assessed the weight of the family register (koseki) in the Japanese bureaucratic and legal system. From personal experience, the overriding importance given to the family register by Japanese authorities in making life-influencing decisions is not something that can be readily diminished and described as “passive.”

The Japanese system is built around such documents filed at the ward office. And the courts do not take adjustments to the koseki lightly. The koseki and the culture about it, particularly for foreigners, can be the source of all sorts of problems. It is the meter by which bureaucrats and the courts measure relationships. It defines the world for bureaucrats, a world that is separate from the real one. It is regarded as a strength and an efficiency of the Japanese system.

Go see what your local ward office says about the koseki. Talk to the minister of justice. After having spent years in court contesting decisions made about the koseki in Japan, I am quite certain about its overbearing influence in Japanese life. I found it to be the document that certifies everything. As for questions regarding the koseki, extra-nationals are set behind the eight ball from the word go!

darryl mcgarry