A call for a law or civil code in Japan that allows married couples to have an option to keep their own family names, called “optional dual-surname system” is creating a great controversial argument in the political world of Japan.

As of now, the Japanese Civil Code does not allow married couples to have separate surnames. Therefore, one of the parties is required to change their surname. Needless to say, in the majority of the cases, wives change to that of their husbands’.

Due to such tradition, the disadvantages and inconveniences that women have had to bear in society has recently brought up for debate. This eventually became a movement to implement the new law, “optional dual-surname system”.

However, there are some concerned voices from those who are against it. Their concern is that it will become hard to decide which surname the children should take on.

Sankei News reported that there have been many heated discussions within Liberal-Democratic Party over this issue, whether or not to implement the law:

“On November 17th (2020), it was announced that volunteer members of Liberal-Democratic Party will be launching a Parliamentary League group, “Growing Kizuna (Connection) group”. On the 25th, they are inviting a speaker to discuss more about the potential issues of the Optional Dual-surname system in their very first group meeting.

Founders of the group are; Mrs. Sanae Takaichi (Minister of ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication), Mrs. Eriko Yamatani (Former minister in charge of the abduction issues), Mrs. Satsuki Katayama (Former Minister of State for the Promotion of Overcoming Population Decline and Vitalizing Local Economy in Japan) to name a few. In the group-founding memorandum, they stated that the global pandemic has affected their perspectives on family relationships and how a family should be. “Relationships within communities and family relationships are essential to the development of our country. It is our foremost intention to search for the best strategy in this matter which serves and contributes to the growth of our country.”

A Japanese Twitter user and manga artist, Usako Yonehara (@yoneharausako) created a short manga to express her feelings about the controversy over the matter of the “optional dual-surname system”. She posted the manga on Twitter, and it has generated some discussion about the topic.

You may hear that it could have a negative effect on the family relationship with different surnames within a family. But when you think about it….

Panel 1: To those who are concerned about the potential loss of relationships with your family because of having different surnames among one family… That’s not gonna be the case!!!

Panel 2: Even now, those who take on their partner’s surname after getting married (96% female), end up with a different surname from their parents or grandparents, right?

But guess what, the relationship with them isn't lost, is it?

So, it will be okay!!!

Panel 3: “An example of possible result in a family; the grandpa is Yamamoto, the father is Suzuki, and the grandchild is Tanaka.”

So to the politicians concerned of this being a problem!! There are tons of families just like that already exist. It’s totally fine!

Panel 1: You have to acknowledge that there are many families, even in the existing system, with different surnames among them. The idea that “same surname = family relationship” needs to be reconsidered. It is forgetting that those families exist.

Panel 2: I have many Chinese friends, where their country allows married couples to have different surnames. So, I know that it does not cause problems because of different surnames between the kids and the parents.

Their love for each other is traditionally very strong. The children remain in close touch with their parents even when they become adults.

Panel 3: Besides, it is a law to make it “optional”. If you want to have the same name as your partner, you can still choose to do so!

So it's totally fine!

Even now, most women change their surnames once they are married.

Does it mean that those women lost their relationships with their parents or siblings? That is quite doubtful. This leads us to think that the controversy and concerns over this issue, or the idea that “separate surnames = lost relationships”, is simply unnecessary.

Lastly, there are many countries that already have this policy implemented. We can always look at their examples as a reference to think about it.

The manga strip received a lot of feedback:

If you are going to lose family relationships over such a small thing as different surname, there probably wasn’t any before.

It’s only an option. I have no reason to be against it.

Just because your surnames are different, if you think your family is going to fall apart and there will be conflicts within, it only makes me question the quality of the relationship to begin with.

Surnames do not build our relationships, but our time together and to care for each other, does.

By - Mugi.