Is it possible for both spouses to keep their original family names after marriage?

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Upon marriage in Japan a Japanese couple must choose to adopt either the wife’s or the husband’s family name. Therefore, it is not possible for both spouses to keep their pre-marriage names. This is due to the peculiarities of Japan’s family registration system. When two people marry in Japan, one spouse moves into the other’s family tree and takes the other spouse’s family name. Therefore, it isn’t normally possible to have a spouse with a different name from the rest of the family tree. Even though it is equally possible for a husband to take his wife’s last name upon marriage, in a vast majority of cases, the wife will take the husband’s last name.

However, the rule requiring a single last name for both spouses does not apply to marriage between a Japanese citizen and a foreign national. If the foreign national’s home country allows spouses to keep their pre-marriage names, then Japanese law does not require the couple to take only one name after marriage.

If you have questions about marriage in Japan please contact our office for a legal consultation.