Will Japan change its existing marriage law? Study predicts uniformity in surnames by 2531

Everyone in Japan will have the same surname ‘Sato’ in 500 years, study warns

Japan same surname by 2531 Representative Image | AFP

Everyone in Japan will have the surname "Sato" in 500 years if the current practice of marriage law continues. Japan is the only country in the world that requires spouses to use the same name.

A new study, led by Hiroshi Yoshida, revealed that if the government continues to insist that couples select a single surname, every Japanese person will end up having the same surname by 2531. 

Yoshida, an economics professor at Tohoku University, through his study, projected the implications of not amending the law requiring married couples to share the same surname. 

According to a March 2023 survey, Sato tops the list of Japanese surnames, accounting for 1.5 per cent of the total population.

A nation of Satos “will not only be inconvenient but also undermine individual dignity,” he said, according to the Asahi Shimbun, adding that the trend would also lead to the loss of family and regional heritage, reported The Guardian. 

According to Yoshida, the proportion of Japanese named Sato increased 1.0083 times from 2022 to 2023. Assuming the rate remains constant and there is no change to the law on surnames, around half of the Japanese population will have that name in 2446, rising to 100% in 2531, it said.

In Japan, couples have to choose which surname to share when they marry and in 95 per cent of cases, it is the woman who changes her name. 

If Japan's government allowed married couples to use separate surnames, the scenario would have been different. 

The study contained an alternative scenario extrapolated from a 2022 survey by the Japanese Trade Union Confederation, in which 39.3% of 1,000 employees aged 20 to 59 said they wanted to share a surname even if they had the option of using separate ones.

Yoshida's study was commissioned by the Think Name Project and other organisations that want to legalise the opportunity to select your surname. 


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