All Japanese people will be surnamed ‘Sato’ in 500 years unless marriage law changes: study

All Japanese people will be surnamed ‘Sato’ in 500 years unless marriage law changes: study
via Think Name Project
Ryan General
20 days ago
Unless Japan changes its current marriage law on last names, the entire population could all be surnamed “Sato” by the year 2531.
Key points:
  • Under Japan’s 1898 civil code, Japanese couples are required to use a single surname upon marriage.
  • Advocates argue the single-surname rule reinforces gender inequality because women are much more likely to end up taking their husbands’ surnames.
  • A Tohoku University study reveals that requiring couples to adopt a single surname could end surname diversity in Japan.
  • The study was organized under the Think Name Project by Asuniwa, a group advocating for selective marital surnames.

The details:
  • While Japanese couples can choose surnames after marriage, 95% of women end up taking their husband’s name. 
  • In the study, economics professor Hiroshi Yoshida simulated the surname landscape under current marriage laws. He then made a simulation with an alternative model allowing for separate surnames.
  • The study projects that “Sato,” Japan’s most common surname, will be the only Japanese surname left within centuries.
  • “If everyone becomes Sato, we may have to be addressed by our first names or by numbers,” Yoshida said. “I don’t think we can call that a good world to live in.”
  • Yoshida also calculated that allowing different surnames would delay the Sato surname’s domination by 750 years (3310). The study noted, however, that extinction may come sooner due to Japan’s declining birth rate. The population could shrink to 281,866 by 2531 and just 22 by 3310.
  • On March 8, activists in Japan marked International Women’s Day by protesting an end to the single-surname law. They argue that forcing surname changes is rooted in outdated traditions and hinders gender equality.
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