Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Dual Surnames for Married Couples
STILLMAN Mikie / Senior Fellow, Institute for International Policy Studies

April 26, 2004
The first time I heard the English expression, Mrs. John Smith, it came as somewhat of a shock. It was hard to believe that American feminists would tolerate such an expression. This was in the days when I yet had no way of foretelling that I would later be known as one Mrs. Grant Stillman. Since my husband's foreign citizenship prevents him from being an appropriate subject for the census register, the Japanese government thankfully puts me at the head of the household where the said-register is concerned. Since my marriage, therefore, I have managed to live in Japan without having to face an occasion where I have had to choose my surname.

It is often said that while the Japanese are quite adept at detail-oriented activities like bonsai, they are less skilled where the job, e.g. city planning, calls for more of an overall perspective. The above might be true in some aspects; but as can be seen in the systems for addresses and names, the Japanese way of proceeding from the larger groupings (prefecture name or surname) to the smaller is quite efficient. Starting with the given name or the street address is not the best way to get a grip on the whole picture. As far as this author is aware of, international phone calls always begin with the country code, then the area code, and finally ends with the individual phone number.

From the standpoint of 'convenience', it is much more constructive to start with the big categories first, whether the subject concerns addresses, phone numbers, or names. On the other hand, some claim that the above sort of classification gives precedence to the administrative expedience of the nation. While this is acceptable for addresses and phone numbers, such an arrangement might be neglectful of the need for personal identity by the individuals within the same family and under one surname. The English tradition in which first names indeed do come first, however, is also prone to rather predictable names such as Peter, Paul, and Mary, whose popularity lie in their biblical origin; as for the Juniors and Thirds tagged on to the fathers' names, one can see scant motivation for individuation. In addition, the latter case is quite rare in the case of women. I have yet to hear of a Mary Smith Jr, and the only such name that comes to mind is that of Queen Elisabeth II.

For the Japanese people who insist upon the introduction of dual surnames, the central concern also seems to be that of 'convenience' rather than for a rearrangement of the family structure. Even though premarital names can be used for daily use, official documents such as passports and academic theses—often a measure of one's career—require the name recorded on the census register. This, these people claim, is quite inconvenient. The register enforces the selection of one surname upon marriage: While the law does not prevent the husband from adopting his wife's name, the reality remains that the women most likely end up choosing the spouses'last names.

In the case of this author, she can continue to officially use her original name because her spouse happens to be a foreign citizen. Nonetheless, in an arena such as this column where there is freedom of opinion, I have intentionally used my husband's last name. Graduation from a Japanese university followed by a quarter-century in the work-force has been under the surname inherited from my parents: Associations from my professional life necessarily seem to follow this name. Going under 'Stillman' gives me the sensation of implicitly brandishing a caveat emptor: 'Opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and are in no way representative of the organization to which she belongs.' Aside from the officials documents, I have been enjoying the liberty of selecting my name.

There is an author whose nom de plume is Taichi Sakaiya. After being sworn in as the then Director General of the Economic Planning Agency, he is said to have carried a passport with his real name on his foreign excursions as minister. His letter of appointment, however, was issued under his alias. After being elected as an MP, the actress Chikage Ougi has also been experiencing the complications of juggling her real name and her stage name—in the same scenarios found irksome by the supporters of the dual surname—during her extended tenure as Minister of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport. Ryoko Tani, who has been selected to participate in judo for the Athens Olympics Games, has changed her name due to marriage since the last Olympics in which she won the gold medal. There is none who does not know her in the world of women's judo; perhaps her adoption of her husband’s name stems from the confidence in her own well-established status regardless of her title.

The legal modification which allowed the use of one's original name after marriage seems groundbreaking to me. The new situation still leaves us inconvenienced at times, but as long as many continue to think such hassles are relatively tolerable, national support leading to another legal revision will unfortunately be unlikely. At the same time, modern-day democracies increasingly set store on the maximum amount of choice made available to individuals. For the people who fear that dual surnames will bring on a disintegration of the Japanese family system, let us hope that they are able to stretch their imagination enough to see that bona fide problems probably lie elsewhere for families who crumble under such mere pressure. It would be meaningless to bracket individuals under the guise of a single family surname whose sense of family solidarity has long since evaporated.

The writer is Senior Fellow, Institute for International Policy Studies.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

スティルマン美紀恵 / 世界平和研究所主任研究員

2004年 4月 26日
Mrs. John Smithという英語表現を知って驚いたことがある。アメリカのフェミニストがこういう表現を黙認しているとはにわかには信じられなかった。後年自身がMrs. Grant Stillman呼ばれることになるとは知る由もない頃のことである。ありがたいことに日本では、外国籍の夫は戸籍の対象ではないとの理由で、日本人の私が戸籍筆頭者となっている。婚姻以来、姓を選ぶ事態に直面することなく日本で生活し続けている。


「便宜」という観点からは、住所も電話番号も個人の姓名も大分類から始めるのが好都合だ。他方、それは管理する国家の側の都合優先であり、住所や電話番号はともかく、同じ家族姓の構成員である個人の存在証明(アイデンティティ)がおろそかにされる、という意見がある。しかしながら、ファーストネームがはじめにありきの英語表現では、名前が聖書に由来するせいかPeter, Paul, Mary等々、多くの場合予測の範囲内の名前であり、父親と全く同じ姓名にJuniorや Thirdをつけた個人を特定する意図がほとんど感じられない名前まである。おまけに、こういう例は女性名ではきわめて少ない。Mary Smith Jr. など聞いたことはない。思いつくのは女王Elisabeth IIくらいなものか。





一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟