Separate Spousal Surnames: Japan Business Group Says Law Must Change

Unseen Japan
4 min readJun 11, 2024

Japanese spouses can’t legally have separate last names. The head of Japan’s most powerful business group says that’s a real problem.

Picture: genzoh / PIXTA(ピクスタ)

By Jay Allen

In Japan, a Meiji-era law adopted from Europe means that Japanese couples have to use a single last name. Recently, there’s been growing support behind changing this. This week, the head of Japan’s largest business association threw his hat into the ring, saying that not allowing couples to use separate spousal surnames poses a “business risk.”

Chairman calls for “swift” action

Tokura Masakazu made the group’s policy known at a press conference on June 10th. The Japan Business Federation, or Keidanren, is the most powerful of Japan’s three major business groups for large corporations, with its head unofficially regarded as the country’s “prime minister of business.”

Currently, Japan requires Japanese nationals who marry to select either the husband’s or the wife’s surname as their joint legal last name. (The law does not apply to married foreign nationals living in Japan or Japanese people…