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Spouses Must Have the Same Surname, Japan's Top Court Rules

by Arata Yamamoto /

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TOKYO — Japan's top court upheld a law dating to 1896 on Wednesday which requires spouses to adopt the same surname.

A group of five men and women had challenged the legislation, which they alleged violated their personal dignity and their right to freedom of marriage.

While the law does not specify which spouse's surname that must be used, the country's 2014 census found that 96 percent of women take on their husband's surname. However, it is increasingly common for women to use their maiden name at work.

A small number of Japanese men also take their wife's family name to help preserve them.

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