There are diverse forms of partnership and family from country to country. Some countries accept same-sex marriage; others do not. Systems of families and couples have been renewed as societies progress. Many countries let married couples use different surnames. In some nations, couples combine their surnames. Japan is the sole country in which husband and wife are legally obliged to use the same surname. Germany, for example, in 1993 revised its law to allow married couples to use different surnames.

Events in January have given rise to hopes that things may change in Japan. Two married couples, among them Yoshihisa Aono, president of software development company Cybozu Inc., filed lawsuits with the Tokyo District Court, charging that the Family Registry Law, which prohibits Japanese couples from having different surnames whey they marry, violates Article 14 of the Constitution, which guarantees equality under the law.

Aono, who adopted his wife's surname upon marriage at her request, says he had to spend ¥810,000 to change the names on his stock shares. He also had to update his credit cards and bank accounts. He still goes by the name Aono in his daily life, but says he encounters many inconveniences, such as mistaken identity when he makes hotel and airline reservations.