Attitudes Toward Married Persons’ Surnames in Twenty-First Century Japan


Through Article 750 of the Japanese Civil Code, Japan is the only developed country to require that a married couple must choose either the husband’s or the wife’s surname upon marriage. We examine how traditional gender ideology and preference for the three-generation family household are associated with the level of support for conjugal surname sharing, from full support for the wife taking her husband’s surname to support for neither the wife or husband changing their name. We estimate generalized ordered logit models with data from the 2000–2003, 2006, and 2010 Japanese General Social Survey. Findings indicate that those who hold more traditional gender ideology are more likely to endorse surname sharing at all levels. Those who prefer the traditional extended family household are more likely to acknowledge at least some merit in a married couple sharing a surname, but they are less likely to say that the wife should take her husband’s surname without question. Attitudes toward conjugal surname sharing may have important symbolic implications for gender equality as well as potential impact on the surname law.

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    In an additional analysis (results not tabled), we examined the effect of familism using the 2006 JGSS that included an item on families and found that familism positively affects support for the practice at each threshold (p < .05). Nevertheless, the effect of familism is small (log odds = .09). Familism moderately correlated with gender traditionalism and its effect was more limited, controlling for the latter. An analysis by gender showed that at each threshold of support, the effect of familism is only significant for women (men: log odds = .06, p = .31; women: log odds = .15, p < .01), although this gender difference is not significant.


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Correspondence to Hiromi Taniguchi.

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Hiromi Taniguchi and Gayle Kaufman declares no conflict of interest.

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This study is based on an analysis of national survey datasets accessed through the ICPSR, Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research ( These datasets are de-identified, and consent of survey respondents can be reasonably presumed.

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Table 3 Summary statistics of the study variables

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Taniguchi, H., Kaufman, G. Attitudes Toward Married Persons’ Surnames in Twenty-First Century Japan. Gend. Issues 37, 205–222 (2020).

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  • Surnames
  • Marriage
  • Gender
  • Gender ideology
  • Traditional family form
  • Japan