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Thread: Japanese names : change and law

  1. #1
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Question Japanese names : change and law

    I was told today that men could take up their wives's family name when they get married in Japan. The reverse is obviously more usual, but it sometimes happen when the man wants to join his wife's family, particularily if she comes from a rich or influencial family I guess, but also because the wife's parents don't want their name to be lost if they don't have any son. I don't think it is possible in most Western countries for a man to adopt his wife's name.

    I've also heard that it is possible for a husband and wife to choose a new family name for themselves (so that Tanaka-san and Yamamoto-san could become 2 Suzuki-san). Could anyone confirm or deny this ?

    Otherwise, changing one's name is as hard, lengthy and costly in Japan as in most of Europe (except Britain => see "deed polls" here )

    Another thing I was wondering is whether Japanese are allowed to choose the same first name as the father for one of their sons, like the US practice of senior and junior. The problem is that middle names are forbidden in Japan and so are plural last name (e.g using both parents' family names, like Spanish and Portuguese often do). So there would be no way of recognising the father from the son.

    One more question : do foreigners with middle names or composed family names have to give them up when they adopt Japanese nationality (this one is for Debito ) ?

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    Kongming jeisan's Avatar
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    ooh interesting thoughts, i would like to hear the answers as well. though i know it is fairly easy to change your name in america and australia. ive heard of people changing thier names to very silly things here in the states.
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    Konnichiwa Maciamo-san!

    In Japan, family and family name are very important more than the West. The Japanese wish to continue their family name and they take pride in their family name. An instance, family name is the first and one's first name is second in Japan. And the Japanese call person by one's family name but not first name. You can become more familiar with Japanese if you learn about Japanese family name system.

    I've also heard that it is possible for a husband and wife to choose a new family name for themselves (so that Tanaka-san and Yamamoto-san could become 2 Suzuki-san). Could anyone confirm or deny this ?
    Yes, the Japanese can get new family name. But it is need to the important reason for changing family name. Because it is the cause of confusion if one can get new family name easily.

    Usually the Japanese woman get husband's family name when she get married. But sometimes Japanese woman keep her family name and her husband get her family name by reason of she is an only daughter. If she will get her husband's family name, her parents lost their family name.

    Do foreigners with middle names or composed family names have to give them up when they adopt Japanese nationality?
    In Japan, Japanese government don't approve a middle name, one's name is only Family name and First name. But if you want to leave your middle name in Japanese family register, you only have to write your family name and middle name in blank space of family name. Your family name and middle name is regarded as one family name in this way but you can leave your middle name. But if you choose this way, your children must inherit this family name( and middle name). Of course this middle name is not children's parent name and you can not leave your partner's name as middle name.

    NANGI

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    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Thanks for your reply Nangi-san. I was sure you were going to answer. You have enough knowledge for such difficult subjects.

    Originally posted by NANGI
    Konnichiwa Maciamo-san!

    In Japan, family and family name are very important more than the West. The Japanese wish to continue their family name and they take pride in their family name. An instance, family name is the first and one's first name is second in Japan. And the Japanese call person by one's family name but not first name. You can become more familiar with Japanese if you learn about Japanese family name system.
    That really depends on the country and culture. In English speaking countries (which are often very cosmopolitan), it's usually easy to change one's name. I don't know about all European countries, but in Latin countries, it's extremely difficult to change name.

    As for the importance of family names, that depends a lot on the imprtance of the name (if it's a noble family, they'll try very hard that their name doesn't disappear). Americans usually call themselves by their first names, but British people tend to use more the last name, like in Japan. This is even truer of very formal cultures like France of Germany. But Italians, Dutch or Scandinavians use more often someone's first name (and informal form of "you", which doesn't exist in English anymore) when they are not talking to a superior, older person, etc.

    If she will get her husband's family name, her parents lost their family name.
    Why are Japanese people so attached to their surnames. That surprises me because Japanese family names are far from unique. How many completely unrelated Yamada, Yamamoto, Suzuki, Satou, Tanaka or Watanabe o you know ? I only know a few hundred people in Japan, but that's always the same family names that come back. The reason is that most Japanese people didn't have any family name before Meiji and had to choose some with a limited number of kanji describing geographical locations (like “c‘ºŽR’†ã‰º–{Œû•Ÿ‘ò—¢Î‰ªŒ´X and so on), so that Japanese family names are much less varied than in other, especially Western, countries. In Europe, it's usually so rare to find somebody with the same family name that the first reaction is to try to find if we are not cousins ! I Japan, nobody cares because people meet almost everyday people who have the same last name and are completely unrelated. So people are always sure that their name won't die out.

    In Japan, it's not because someone's name is Nomura that they will be related to the founder of Nomura Securities. If you know a French person whose name is "Chirac" or "de Villepin", chances are they will be related to these politicians.


    In Japan, Japanese government don't approve a middle name, one's name is only Family name and First name. But if you want to leave your middle name in Japanese family register, you only have to write your family name and middle name in blank space of family name. Your family name and middle name is regarded as one family name in this way but you can leave your middle name. But if you choose this way, your children must inherit this family name( and middle name). Of course this middle name is not children's parent name and you can not leave your partner's name as middle name.
    The middle names should go with the first name, as all are given names. If I wanted to keep my middle names, I'd attached them together in one long first name with "-" in between.

    Now can you advice these 3 Europeans (a German, a Spaniard and a Frenchman) who want to become Japanese, but have a problem with keeping all their family name, which are very important to them as they are from very old noble families. They have lots of given names because ancestors might have the same first, second or even 3rd names.

    - Alexander Georg Ludwig Franz Wolfgang von Wahlen-Juergass
    - Pedro Jose Maria de Perez del Barrio-Cortes y Rivero
    - Francois-Xavier Jean Emmanuel Pierre de Montferrier de la Vercourt

    I guess the Japanese administration can't cope with people like that.

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    Where I'm Supposed to Be kirei_na_me's Avatar
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    In Japan, it's not because someone's name is Nomura that they will be related to the founder of Nomura Securities.


    I have never understood the whole "mukoyoushi" process myself. I understand how it works, of course, but I don't understand all the thoughts behind it. Maybe that's for another thread...
    Last edited by kirei_na_me; Sep 16, 2004 at 00:41.
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    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    As for the mukoyoushi, I am eligible since my wife is only daughter too. But that's even more interesting in her case. She actually has a maternal grand-mother maiden name because her father died when she was an infant, her mother was only daughter and had the same situation. So, female names can easily be kept just by having the child taking the mother name, even if the father keeps his.

    Adopting a new family name is particularily attractive for us, if we could find one that is easily understandable in any language, can be written in kana or kanji and romaji without sounding Japanese, just to show we are international.

    Anyway, I don't care about my ancestor's names since when one counts, everybody has 8 great grand parents, 16 great great grand parents and going back 24 generation (that is only 600 years with an average of 25 years per generation), we 16.777.216 ancestors, which was probably more than the population of any European country at the time. Going back 1000 years (40 generations), we have almot 1100 billions ancestors on our genealogic tree, so each of us should be related to all the people (including kings and queens) of our region of origin at that time (for people with mixed origins, that even more interesting to imagine). That makes it even more pointless to want to always preserve the father's name, as we may not carry a single common element of DNA with our paternal ancestors 500 years ago or more. Who knows how many times the same ancestor comes back aroudn generation 24 with the 16 millions. We might possibly have only 1 person with our present name, but 10.000 times another same person, giving this ancestor 10.000 more likeliness to have similar DNA with us now, though the name might be lost. That's why I don't care about names. A name should be customizable and reflects someone's personality.

    BTW, my g-tree goes back to the 13th century, but only one branch (which isn't my last name, but my grand-mother's) .
    Last edited by kirei_na_me; Sep 16, 2004 at 00:41.

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    Konnichiwa Minasan!

    Why are Japanese people so attached to their surnames?
    Because the Japanese think that family name is very important. It has very deep relation to Japanese family and Japanese religion(custom). An instance, person contract the God individually in Christianity. But the Japanese believe in the ancestor as a god. This is Japanese original(ancient) religion and most of all Japanese believe this religion even now. If you have doubts about my saying, please ask your Japanese friends "Do you believe the existence of REI?". I think that most of your friends say "Yes" or affirmative answer. Most of all Japanese don't believe the God, but they believe the existence of REI(REI is a spirit, ghost and god in Japan). And this god(the ancestor of them) is connected with us(the Japanese) by Family line. Family name is a symbol of this Family line. And the Japanese think that family name is very important. But the most important things is the Family line(or connection with the ancestor).

    In old days, Samurai could fight bravely without the fear of death. Because if they died bravely in the battle field, their son rose to more high position. And their name was succeeded as bravely ancestor by descendant. This is very honorable things in Japan. And the most fear things(more than death) is a "Haji" in Japan. "Haji" is a disgrace in English. If Samurai disgrace himself, he lost his position and honor. And all Daimyou(feudal lord) never employ him by reason of "Haji". Of course his descendant don't succeed his name and he lost his family name. It is very "Haji". But if he choose a "Seppuku", he regain his reputation by "Seppuku". And his son get the same position as father's.

    Sorry, I make a digression. But family name is very important in Japan. If you study about Family and Home in Japan, you can know the structure of Japanese mind.

    That surprises me because Japanese family names are far from unique. How many completely unrelated Yamada, Yamamoto, Suzuki, Satou, Tanaka or Watanabe o you know ?
    Hahaha... Yes, there are a lot of same name in Japan. Why? Because most of all Japanese were farmer in old days, and they could not have family name. In old days, only Samurai, noble and merchant had family name in Japan. But farmer could get their family name in the Meiji Restoration. And they chose their family name from their village name or the lay of the land. An instance, the people who lived at Watanabe village chose their family name "Watanabe" in the Meiji Restoration. If there were 100 people at Watanabe village, all villagers are Watanabe.
    And Tanaka means "in the rice field", their ancestor lived in the rice field. Yamamoto means "the foot of mountain", their ancestor lived at the foot of mountain. Nakamura means "in the village".
    If you go down to the rural country, sometimes you get the village that all villagers has the same family name. And Nomura means "a plain village".

    I guess the Japanese administration can't cope with people like that.
    I agree with you. Japan is time honored(rust eaten) country.

    I have never understood the whole "mukoyoushi" process myself. I understand how it works, of course, but I don't understand all the thoughts behind it. Maybe that's for another thread...
    I said that the most important things is the Family line, and Family name is only a symbol of this Family line. Usually Family line is succeeded by the first born son, and the other son is not important. But if they had not son, and has only daughter, they will get "Mukoyoushi". If they has not any child, they will get "Youshi". They need to the son who succeed their Family line.

    NANGI

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    Where I'm Supposed to Be kirei_na_me's Avatar
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    I said that the most important things is the Family line, and Family name is only a symbol of this Family line. Usually Family line is succeeded by the first born son, and the other son is not important. But if they had not son, and has only daughter, they will get "Mukoyoushi". If they has not any child, they will get "Youshi". They need to the son who succeed their Family line.
    Yes, Nangi, I know this very well. That is not what I don't understand about it, though. I understand the process and why it is done. What I don't understand is the feelings toward adoption in Japan. The Japanese, in general and as far as I'm aware, usually never adopt a newborn baby into their home when they can't have one of their own, but yet they will adopt a daughter's husband for the sake of their name. That is what I don't understand. That is why I said it might be for another thread because it's getting off topic a bit.

    Oh, yeah, that's true. Your husband's name is Nomura as well, isn't it.
    And Nomura means "a plain village".

    Yes, my husband's family name is Nomura, but we're anything but plain...

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    Konnichiwa kirei_na_me-san!

    What I don't understand is the feelings toward adoption in Japan.
    In Japan, the Japanese think affirmatively that "Mukoyoushi" is indispensable system to leave their family name. Because leaving their family name is very important.
    But now, a lot of Japanese don't consider the family name as importance. Because a lot of young Japanese hate "Mukoyoushi", and get "Mukoyoushi" is very difficult. If girl's parents demand boyfriend to "Mukoyoushi", a lot of boyfriends part from girlfriend. Even if boyfriend comply with demands, boyfriend's parents will oppose. In Japan, marriage is a combination of two families but not two individuals. And parent's approve of marriage is very difficult. If boyfriend's parents will oppose, girl's parents can not get "Mukoyoushi".
    Girl's parents wish daughter's happiness more than leaving family name, and they give up to get "Mukoyoushi".

    Japanese Family System is very complex.

    NANGI

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    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Originally posted by NANGI

    Because the Japanese think that family name is very important. It has very deep relation to Japanese family and Japanese religion(custom).
    Let's not mix everything up. Custom and religion are clearly different things. As most Japanese didn't have a family name before Meiji, this custom is quite new and has nothing to do with religion.

    But the Japanese believe in the ancestor as a god. This is Japanese original(ancient) religion and most of all Japanese believe this religion even now. ....
    That's the same as Chinese people. It's call the cult of ancestor and that is not unique to Japan at all. Lot's of cuture still have it.
    However, I don't understand why the name is important, for 2 reasons :
    1) most people didn't have a family name 130 years ago, but they could believe in the "rei" (spirit, soul, which Christians also believe in and they also think that their ancestors can watch them).
    2) Your ancestors are not only those who have the same name as you. As I said earlier, if you go back 24 generation, you have 16million ancestor at this level + 8 million at level 23, + 4 m at 22 + 4m at 21, etc till you parents. Let's take a noble family that already had a family name 600 years ago ; out of these 30 million + ancestors, only 24 have the same name as you now. So even if you can please this small number of "rei", you blatantly forget 30 millions others (and they'll be very angry : ).


    In old days, Samurai could fight bravely without the fear of death. Because if they died bravely in the battle field, their son rose to more high position. And their name was succeeded as bravely ancestor by descendant. This is very honorable things in Japan. And the most fear things(more than death) is a "Haji" in Japan. "Haji" is a disgrace in English. If Samurai disgrace himself, he lost his position and honor. And all Daimyou(feudal lord) never employ him by reason of "Haji". Of course his descendant don't succeed his name and he lost his family name. It is very "Haji". But if he choose a "Seppuku", he regain his reputation by "Seppuku". And his son get the same position as father's.
    Yes, but as you say that was old days... "Haji" just mean "shame" (there is no other word as strong as the English word "shame" in Japanese, I think). Some people also commit suicide in Western countries because of shame. "seppuku" was the very ritual way of the samurai, but how many Japanese would commit it nowadays ? Almost nobody, bar a few nostalgic or nationalist like Mishima.

    My wife doesn't care about her family name.

    As it's apparently common practice for men to take their wife's name, I guess they don't really care about losing their own name.

    I don't think we can compare Japanese mentality 200 or 500 years ago with that of modern Japanese. Society has changed too much.

    An instance, the people who lived at Watanabe village chose their family name "Watanabe" in the Meiji Restoration. If there were 100 people at Watanabe village, all villagers are Watanabe.
    And Tanaka means "in the rice field", their ancestor lived in the rice field. Yamamoto means "the foot of mountain", their ancestor lived at the foot of mountain. Nakamura means "in the village".
    What if someone lived in the middle of Watanabe village ? Was he/she Watanabe or Nakamura-san ?

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    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Originally posted by NANGI

    In Japan, marriage is a combination of two families but not two individuals. And parent's approve of marriage is very difficult.
    You are still talking about traditional mentality. I know so many Japanese that don't care about their parents' opinion to get married. My wife didn't ask and anyway, her family didn't have much to say. When we got married, my parents had never met hers, but that was no problem, even for her grandmother who has the authority in her family.

    In half the international marriages with Japanese I have heard of, the parents didn't have anything to say, or didn't consider it was a family alliance, since they maybe couldn't even communicate together, due to the language difference.

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    My husband is chonan and he never got his parents' approval for our relationship/marriage. They didn't even know we were married until after the fact. As far as I know, they have openly accepted us and the marriage. Luckily for us, his parents seem to only care about his happiness and not the traditional obligations of the only son.

    Of course, we're talking about mukoyoushi here, not chonan.

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    Konnichiwa Minasan!

    Let's not mix everything up. Custom and religion are clearly different things. As most Japanese didn't have a family name before Meiji, this custom is quite new and has nothing to do with religion.
    Hahaha... Yes, as most Japanese didn't have a family name before Meiji and this custom is quite new. And I said "It has very deep relation to Japanese family and Japanese religion(custom)". I never said "It has very deep relation to Japanese family name and Japanese religion(custom)" because, you already said, most Japanese don't have their family name before Meiji.

    The Japanese worship their ancestor as god came from ancient times. And the Japanese thought that Family line is important even if they had not their family name. This is a religion. But now, all Japanese get their family name. And this religion change into custom that leaving family name. But family name is only a symbol of Family line. I said, "the most important things is the Family line(or connection with the ancestor)". Worshiping their ancestor and leaving family name is the same meaning originally, and having family name or not is not important. Worshiping their ancestor is a religion, but leaving family name is a custom. I never mix up religion and custom. I want to express that the religion changed into custom.

    However, I don't understand why the name is important, for 2 reasons :
    1) most people didn't have a family name 130 years ago, but they could believe in the "rei" (spirit, soul, which Christians also believe in and they also think that their ancestors can watch them).
    I said, "Family name is a symbol of this Family line. And the Japanese think that family name is very important. But the most important things is the Family line(or connection with the ancestor) ". Family name is important, but the most important things is the Family line . And all people have their ancestors even if they had not family name.

    But, to put it more precisely, the Family line is only a symbol too. I want to talk simply, and I gave examples "family name" and "the Family line". But those examples are not perfect, and there are a lot of contradictions in my talk. Your point out "most Japanese didn't have a family name before Meiji and this custom is quite new" is one of them. Of course I can explain those contradictions, but I can not talk my all knowledge in English, Sorry. And the point of this post is not religion.

    2) Your ancestors are not only those who have the same name as you. As I said earlier, if you go back 24 generation, you have 16million ancestor at this level + 8 million at level 23, + 4 m at 22 + 4m at 21, etc till you parents. Let's take a noble family that already had a family name 600 years ago ; out of these 30 million + ancestors, only 24 have the same name as you now. So even if you can please this small number of "rei", you blatantly forget 30 millions others (and they'll be very angry).
    Yes, we have a lot of ancestors. If we succeed to all ancestor's name... oh, I don't want to imagine my long, long, looooooong family name.
    But I must not write my looooong family name because I have only one family name. Already you proved how difficult to leave their family name. All Japanese have a lot of ancestors, but leaving family name is only one. And leaving family name is difficult and is important. If they can leave their family name, they will be worshiped as god by descendant. But if they can not leave their family name, their family name is lost eternally. And it is not their individual matter because all people carry their own ancestors. If they can not leave their family name, their ancestor are lost. And leaving family name or not is very important with Japanese.

    Yes, but as you say that was old days... "Haji" just mean "shame" (there is no other word as strong as the English word "shame" in Japanese, I think). Some people also commit suicide in Western countries because of shame. "seppuku" was the very ritual way of the samurai, but how many Japanese would commit it nowadays ? Almost nobody, bar a few nostalgic or nationalist like Mishima.
    At first, I thought that Japanese "Haji" is "shame" but not "disgrace" in English. But my dictionary's explanation is "Haji is near a disgrace more than shame". And I wrote ""Haji" is a disgrace in English". But I believe, you are right, "Haji" is "shame" in English.

    to return to our subject...

    Of course nobody play "Seppuku" now days. Because the age of Samurai was ended and one's values change with the times.
    The point of this part is not suicide but is that family name(line) is more important than one's life. Samurai chose "Seppuku" to keep their family name(line) but not cause of Haji. Haji is only a cause, but their aim is a keeping their family name(line). And "Seppuku" is a means(way).

    I don't think we can compare Japanese mentality 200 or 500 years ago with that of modern Japanese. Society has changed too much.
    Yes, society has changed too much. The Japanese religion changed into a custom. But a lot of Japanese people chose "Seppuku" or "Banzai Totsugeki" on World War II. "Kamikaze attack" is one of them. And WWII is only half century past, and this generation's people still liveing now days. The Japanese religion changed into a custom. But Japanese religion don't go to ruin even now, especially rural district.

    What if someone lived in the middle of Watanabe village ? Was he/she Watanabe or Nakamura-san?
    Ummmm, I believe that he/she choose both name to his/her two sons. If he/she had not his/her sons? Ummmm, it is a crisis of divorce!

    I know so many Japanese that don't care about their parents' opinion to get married.
    You are very lucky! But international marriage is an exception because borth parents don't live in the same region. If borth parents live in the same region, it is the cause of trouble, especially high status families marriage. This is my experience.
    And I know some of my acquaintances are opposed to marriage from their parents. But marriage is not difficult. Keeping marriage life with good relation between both parents is more difficult. And divorce is the most difficult.

    But I acknowledge that my opinion is a generalization and it is not realistically in all cases.

    Luckily for us, his parents seem to only care about his happiness and not the traditional obligations of the only son.
    Now days, leaving family name is very difficult, and most of all parents wish to child's happiness more than leaving family name. In fact, my name "Nangi" is on the verge of extinction. Nangi family has not heir now and I think that Nangi's family line will be lost.

    NANGI

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    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Originally posted by NANGI
    Now days, leaving family name is very difficult, and most of all parents wish to child's happiness more than leaving family name. In fact, my name "Nangi" is on the verge of extinction. Nangi family has not heir now and I think that Nangi's family line will be lost.
    If that is the family line that is important and the name is only a symbol, then why not use the mother's name ? I know that almost everywhere in the world children get their father's name, not the mothers - or sometimes both or the mother's if the parents aren't married, the father is unknown or deceased. I believe that everywhere on earth the reason is the same : to keep the family line and preserve the ancestors' name. Japan is not an exception.

    But if you consider my logic that you have so many ancestors and the father's name is not very representative of all our millions of ancestors (let's stop at the time names were invented), why not care about the mother's name or another ancestor's name instead ?

    People usually think this way : if a man takes his wife's name, he loses his name and with that all his ancestors' symbol. That is true if they don't have children, but then both lose their name. However, if they have children and take the mother's name, it's only an arbitrary choice among millions of ancestors' names. Anyway children can't have both parents names in Japan, so the one they keep will stay the symbol of all their ancestors with different names, including the father's of course. So even if a name dies out, it will surely be included in another family's name. The only exception is if nobody of that name has any children at all. Then the family line dies out, not just the name itself.

    But if you had a perfect family tree with the name of thousands or millions of ancestors, you'd notice that the same name appears almost certainly several times. That is normal, as a long time ago people didn't move much from their village or region, so that they ended up marrying always in the same restricted circle of people (sometimes they were even 1st cousins).

    With this in mind, it's probably very acceptable for our ancestors to choose another name in the family tree to act as the symbol of the family line.

    What do you think, Nangi-san ?

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    Konnichiwa Maciamo-san!

    Why not use the mother's name? Your question is quite right. I think that a lot of people has the same question with you.

    I think the ancient times, prehistoric era of Japanese history, Japanese people had not family name because they didn't need to get family name. They lived in small hamlet and most of all had a blood relationship each other. This hamlet were a big one family. And they were possibly a matrilineal society. Because there is a lot of reason to matrilineal society. But it is not important to matrilineal society or not in this case, because they were a big one family.

    But since the dawn of history, Japan is a father's family line society. Why not the mother's family line? Of course there is a lot of reason.

    An instance, a feudal lord fight to keep his fief and to protect his property. But if his wife demand half of his fief and property? His fief and property will be reduced to half. If his children demand his fief and property? His fief and property will be subdivided. Small feudal lords, of course this is his children, lost the power to keep their fief and property. And they will be annexed to other feudal lord.

    What kind of means does he has to keep his fief and property? One of means is a representation management. He leave a property to only one son. He never subdivide his fief and property and his son inherit his all property. And his successor is only son but not daughter, because the successor need to fight against enemy. And this son is only the first born son because to prevent conflict in family.

    But this fief and property will become family's property but not individual. The successor, the first born son, is only a representative of family. If donor, his father, give all fortune to only one son individually, other children hate their father and first born brother. But if donor leave his property to representative of family, all children has a chance to become a successor. And all members of family cooperate with the representative, of course he is the first born son.

    The successor succeed to father's fief and property. But it is not his individual fief and property. It is family's fief and property. And he give his family name as the place(fief) name. This family name is a symbol of family and their fief(property).

    And feudal lord introduce himself by family name. And he never introduce himself by wife's name because he succeed to fief and property from his father. His wife(and wife's ancestor) has not any kind of relation to get this fief and property. His family name is a symbol of family and their fief(property), and he can not introduce himself by wife's name.

    I explained about why Japanese succeed to only father's name by a simple instance. Of course this is an instance, I didn't answer perfectly by religious reason. But if I answer more concretely, I only say "because it is a worship to family line". In monotheism, all people has own original soul in themselfs. But in polytheism, all people has not always own original soul in themselfs. There are various thought in the world. The concept of European soul and Japanese soul are the same word on the language. But the concept of European soul and Japanese soul are quite different in the religion. I think the concept of Japanese family line is different from European. Of course I never say that you can not understand Japanese family. But my ability of explanation in English is a limit, sorry.

    I wish that my poor explanation help you.

    NANGI

    P.S I have a cold now and I can not get my ideas in shape. Sorry if I write strange sentence.

  16. #16
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Hello Nangi-san,

    What you explain about feudal societies and the first son inheriting the property is exactly the same as in Europe in the Middle Ages and even after. It's still like that in lots of farmer's families. One son (usually the eldest) inherits the whole property so as not to divide the land.

    But this is the mentality of the "old society". Nowadays there is no need not to partition the parents' properties between children. I don't know if it's also like that in Japan, but in several European countries it's illegal to disinherit your own children nowadays (I don't know since when, but this law is probably les than 60 years old).

    Besides, the mother/wife really holds the purse strings in Japan. She is the head of the family, cares about the house and the children, and in so many households the kids hardly know their father at all. In case of divorce, contrarily to Western countries, the mother gets almost automatically the charge of the children. In this new context (not feudal times !), wouldn't it be more logical for children to take on their mother's name ? What's more we are only sure of who our mother is. In the UK, recent DNA test have revealed that up to 10% of the people have a father that is not their genetical father. For these people, they completely lose their real ancestors' name, as their father's name is in fact not their real father's name. I'm sure that has happened quite a lot in Japan or any other country as well. Japanese men are famous for their little loyalty to thir wife. I wonder if the reverse is true (women are more careful to be seen and men are less good at finding out if a woman lies, so that...).

    I can't trust my ancestors as their might very well be one of them in my genealogy that is not my genetical ancestor and whose name I should not have inherited. Who knows how many times it has happened with so many million ancestors...

    Nowadays, it sometimes happens for babies to be confused or exchanged at the hospial right after birth. It's more likely to happen if 2 new mothers have the same last name in the same maternity, which is even more likely to happen in Japan as so many family name are the same and if the first name also happens to be the same ("Yuuko" for instance), their is no other given names to distinguish them and babies could be mistaken. There are lots of such stories and even films were made on this subjects. I guess as Japanese all have black hair and brown eyes, it's even more easy to mistakenly exchange babies in a hospital. Only a DNA test would prove if you are really your parents' child. But who has ever taken the trouble of doing one ?

  17. #17
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    Konnichiwa Maciamo-san!

    Yes, that is the mentality of the "old society". But the point is a family principle in Japan(of course European is a individual principle) and is a male dominant position in family.
    If Japan was a individual principle, Japanese succeeded to both family name. Because having both family name is good way to show himself/herself(individual). Of course having all ancestor's name is the best, but it is impossible.
    But Japan is a family principle, and having all ancestor's family name is impossible(if anything, Japanese don't need all ancestor's family name), and Japanese succeeded to father's family name. Why is Japan a family principle? I ask the same question, Why is European a individual principle? Because it is a influence of religion.
    In individual principle, having two family name is good way. But in family principle, having two family name is a cause of confusion. It is the same as serving two God. One can not serve two God. Especially Japanese believe the ancestor as god(Of course I know that my explanation is a monotheistic logic but Japanese are a polytheist. But it is more difficult to me if I explain by polytheistic logic, sorry).

    In old days, male had a dominant position in family. Of course it was the same as in the general public. But now, woman's place in society is improved. And new argument is set in Japan, it is a continuation of maiden name. Japanese woman are changed their family name in marriage. But Japanese woman assert thier rights that they must not lost their maiden name. But it is not meaning to get two family name as European. Japanese woman assert continuation of their maiden name even after the marriage. It is the same rights as male that getting the first(their own) family name after their marriage. The Japanese is under the control of family principle even now.

    Of course there is some possibility of blood extinction by the divorce, adopted child, adultery, be confused or exchanged babies. But Japanese family line has flexibility, to put it more precisely,Japanese religion has flexibility. Real blood lineage is very important undoubtedly, but continuation of family line is the best, even if there is a different blood. Usually, a married couple who has not their child will adopt a child from their blood relation's children. But if they can not find good child from their blood relations, they will adopt a child who has not blood relation. It is the same in Japan. The Japanese regards family line as important, but it does not means real blood line. If Japanese regard real blood line(especially father's blood) as important, Japanese can not adopt a "Mukoyoushi"(son in law).

    When a child has not their father by various reason, most of all child has their mother's name(but some of them has father's name). Of course the child succeed mother's name when the child has not his father. But if his father has not any other child, the child has possibility to succeed father's name. It is as the case may be.

    The Japanese and family is not only a institutional relation, it is a religious relation originally. But the world(society) turn into new always, of course Japanese too.

    NANGI

  18. #18
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Originally posted by NANGI
    Why is Japan a family principle? I ask the same question, Why is European a individual principle? Because it is a influence of religion.
    When you write such things, I really feel you have no knowledge of Europe at all. I should have specified that I am not a "typical European" on this issue. What's more, there isn't a typical European as each culture inside Europe is so different. Except in Spain or Portugal where maybe 1 person out of 5 or 10 as both parents name, the example I mentioned are pretty rare in other European countries and usually limited to the high society in some countries (France is a good example, the UK is not).

    I don't see any problem in changing name, but my family would. I've already discussed it with other people who are completely against it, maybe more than Japanese. But I have a very liberal and free mind. I wouldn't take my mother's name or an ancestor's name either. I was just giving an alternative for people like you who care about the blood line or the family line.
    In my case, it's unimportant, but I am an exception and you should certainly not think the average European think like me (big mistake).

    I don't know why you want to mix religion with that. There is absolutely no connection. Nothing is said about names in Christian religion. Everyone is free and it's mainly a personnal or cultural matter.

    In individual principle, having two family name is good way. But in family principle, having two family name is a cause of confusion. It is the same as serving two God. One can not serve two God. Especially Japanese believe the ancestor as god(Of course I know that my explanation is a monotheistic logic but Japanese are a polytheist. But it is more difficult to me if I explain by polytheistic logic, sorry).
    I remind you that European were originally polytheistic, though the last were the Vikings till about the 11th century, Catholicism is a still a kind of mix of mono- and polytheism because of the worships of the saints (some of them are actually copied on ancient Greco-Roman or Celtic gods). There are also more Catholic than Protestant in Europe.

    Then, you don't make sense when you say that Japanese cannot serve 2 gods (=2 names of ancestors) because they are polytheist. That should obviously be the opposite. Better proo that religion has nothing to do with names.

    But it is not meaning to get two family name as European. Japanese woman assert continuation of their maiden name even after the marriage.
    That depends again on the country and people in Europe, but it is becoming more common in Northern Europe for a woman to keep using her maiden name too. For example, my mother uses either her maiden name or my father's name depending on the situation.


    The Japanese regards family line as important, but it does not means real blood line.
    That's interesting ; so why are Japanese so reluctant to adopt children ? I think about 2/3 of Westerners would not want to adopt a child, but there is surely 1/3 that doesn't see any problem. Personally I wouldn't, but I have an uncle and an aunt who did. If the family line is more important than blood in Japan, Japanese should not see any problem in adopting children, but that's extremely rare. That again is contradictory, and don't tell me it's because I can't understand the complexity of Japanese thinking. IMHO, Japanese way of thinking is very straightforward and almost stereotypical, because justly people all pretend to think the same way to prove some kind of harmony.

  19. #19
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    Konnichiwa Maciamo-san!

    I talk about an abstract argument or a generalization now. It is not problem that you think it is a stereotype or not. Because if we stick to minimum case, all people can not grasp the point. Of course I don't have all knowledge of the world, I'm not the god. And I talk a generalization with out expert knowledge. You should not expect other person to the same knowledge as you. And I know religion related to various things, thought, custom, language, culture and etc. Do you think about religion? Is it a only faith? learning? It has no related to human history? And I don't connect name problem with Christianity, I connect name problem with difference of faith between Japanese and Christian.
    But if you believe that religion is only a religion, but religion has not any influence with thought, custom, language, culture and etc, I think that you can not understand my said.
    But it is not important with us, people has own though, and it is all different from each other.

    Then, you don't make sense when you say that Japanese cannot serve 2 gods (=2 names of ancestors) because they are polytheist. That should obviously be the opposite. Better proo that religion has nothing to do with names.
    You misunderstand about polytheism. Polytheism doesn't means having faith in a lot of gods. Polytheism means accepting a lot of god's existence. Polytheist don't believe in all gods. Generally polytheist has main god to believe. It is the same as Japanese, Japanese accept the existence of other gods, but Japanese believe in their ancestor mainly.

    But sorry, that explanation is my short of talking(explanation). Oh, my all explanation is shorter.

    so why are Japanese so reluctant to adopt children?
    The Japanese regards family line as important, but it does not means real blood line certainly. But if you has your son now, do you adopt a child? I think that you don't adopt. It is same as the Japanese. All people wish their own child. Especially Japanese regards family line as important, own true child is better than adopting. But this is a comparison of true child or adopting. And this is not relation to family line. Japanese wish their own true son, but if they can not get own true son, when they adopt a child.
    I think that the problem of adopting child is more related to "Haji". Because Japanese think adopting child is "Haji".

    NANGI

  20. #20
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Originally posted by NANGI
    Konnichiwa Maciamo-san!
    You misunderstand about polytheism. Polytheism doesn't means having faith in a lot of gods. Polytheism means accepting a lot of god's existence. Polytheist don't believe in all gods. Generally polytheist has main god to believe. It is the same as Japanese, Japanese accept the existence of other gods, but Japanese believe in their ancestor mainly.
    I don't agree with that. First, I know lots of liberal Christians (that is monotheists) who accept the validity of other religions. It is called tolerance, not polytheism.

    Secondly, in most polytheism, people actually believe in several gods, though they don't necessarily worship them at the same time. Ancient Romans, Greeks or Egyptians turned to the appropriate god in function of what their problem was. If they needed children, they'd venerate the fertility or love god(ess). If they were setting on a long journey, they'd give offering to the traveller's god (Mercury, Hermes...). It has stayed a bit the same with Catholic Christians who worship Saints. So the patron or protector of the travellers is St Julian, who is the equivalent of the Roman god Mercury, or Greek god Hermes. But of course, most people would change god or saint in function of their needs and worries.

    The same is true of Hinduism nowadays. Nobody worships Brahman, the Creator, as his role his just that of creator and doesn't help people in their daily lives. If you want money, you'll pray Laxmi, if you need good luck Ganesh, if it's love Krishna might help and if you want to make a revolution or change your life, it's definitely Shiva. Mahayana Buddhism (in Japan, China, etc.) works the same way. Shintoism is a bit different as gods are mostly "kami" of the nature and rarely have a function or even a name. But Hachiman, the god of war, is asked to protect newly wed couples and Inari to help the rice grow. Do you mean that you only worship or believe in one Shinto or Buddhist god ? Which one is it ?

  21. #21
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    Konnichiwa Maciamo-san!

    Don't think by All or Nothing. Of course traveler pray to traveller's god. But it don't means main worship to traveller's god. If traveler is hunter, his main god is Artemis. Even he pray to traveller's god, it don't means give up his faith to Artemis.
    If one change his main god frequently, it is not religious faith. It is a magic worship. All people can pray to god even one is not believer.

    NANGI

  22. #22
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    You didn't answer my question. What god do you worship ?

  23. #23
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    Konnichiwa Maciamo-san!

    I already answered, "All people can pray to god even one is not believer". This is my answer. If you can not understand my saying, please look the next sentence.

    You regard a religion as a tool. You choose a religion, god and denomination by the state of affairs, just like a selecting TV channels. Of course it is not a mistake. Actually, a lot of young Japanese has the same idea as you. They celebrate the childbirth in Shinto, celebrate the wedding in Christianity, and hold a funeral in Buddhism. I can understand your idea very well. But you have a simple mistake. To put it more precisely, a lot of people falling into the same mistake.

    This idea that religion as a tool is a very new idea. And this idea don't apply to old days. The reason of the idea that religion as a tool is a social rapid progress and value's diversity. There is a various one's values and religious sense of values is very low now. But it is a relative depreciation against the new various values. If go back to older days, religious sense of values become bigger than now. And in prehistoric times, it was almost the same that one's values and religious sense of values. But the point of this part is not a difference of religious sense between now days and old days. The point of this part is a influence of religion against the human race.

    Originally, religion was born before the history of man. And religion influenced a lot of matter, customs, thought, language, law, learning, science and etc. In this case, religion means a primitive religion but not modern religion. And the religion was related to the history of man(especially racial history) and culture deeply. Believing religion means a getting(taking?) culture strictly, especially religious sense of values. If you learn other religion, it does not means believing religion, it means a getting knowledge of religion. Even if you pray to god on other religion, it means only a holding religious ceremony. Even if you pray to god with knowledge of divine grace, it is just a magic worship but not believing religion.

    If I pray to Hindu god, it doesn't means a believer in Hinduism. Because I don't know cultural matters(religious background) in Hinduism. And my cultural values(thought, morals, custom, knowledge, political awareness, law and those religious background) is very typical Japanese values because I was born and bred in Japan. Of course I know Hindu myth and I like Hindu gods, but it does't means believer in Hinduism too. If I want to be believer in Hinduism, I must get Hindu culture and renounce all Japanese values. But one who born and bred in Hindu society(culture) is a believer in Hinduism even if he/she don't pray to Hindu god. Praying Hindu god or not, visiting temple or not, visiting sacred place or not, keeping religious precepts or not, those behavior means a degree of one's devotion for religion. Of course if one give up his/her faith, or convert to other religion perfectly, when he/she is not a believer in Hinduism. But one can not throw one's values away easeily.

    Now days, advanced nations has the principle of separation of government and religion. The religion was separated from culture, and was sent away into one of academic discipline. And people who live in advanced nations think that believing religion and knowing religion is the same, or praying god is a religion. But religion is not only a knowledge, of course it is not a tool too.

    Now, we talk about Japanese family name. The Japanese ideas about family(family name) is related to the traditional values of Japanese culture deeply. And you must know the Japanese traditional values(thought) about family if you want to understand Japanese family. The knowing Japanese religious values is a shorter way to understand Japanese family, because religious values was born very old days and religion influenced culture deeply. And I tried to explain about Japanese family by the relation of Japanese religious values(ideas). But religious values(ideas) is not the same in all age,values change with the times. We can not understand old days values(ideas) by now days sense. Of course it is the best if I can explain the changing of values in all age. But it is a impossible because it means the same as to explain Japanese history. Even if I select only a Japanese religious history, I can still not explain.
    An instance, do you know that the Japanese had not Shinto and Buddhism in ancient times? What was the Japanese religion in ancient times? Why Shinto was made by the noble artificially? Why Buddhism was spreaded and protected by the Emperor of Japan(of course the Emperor of Japan is god of Shinto)? Why the Buddha and Shinto god was deified in the same shrines and temples? Why Shinto and Buddhism spreaded in the people? Those mutter are a religious mutter but those mutter influenced Japanese culture deeply. I can not explain the influence of all mutter.
    But you need knowledge of Japanese religious values(ideas) if you want to know Japanese family. And I explained Japanese family by abstract generalization because you don't need special knowledge of Japanese religious values(ideas). There is the lowest knowledge of Japanese religious values(ideas), and I gave to popularize preference. Of course there is a lot of small mistake because my saying is a rough generalization. But I want to read the big principal object but not a side issue. I think that you don't need to understand religious details, you only have to know an outline. Because we talk about Japanese family now, and Japanese religious values(ideas) is only a tool of knowing Japanese family. In this case, "you" means all person who reading this thread. I always keep the existence of reader who don't join discussion in mind. I just hope, a lot of people know about Japan.

    return to the first subject in this post...

    I answered, "All people can pray to god even one is not believer". It dose not means saying my religion(religious faith) if I say what god worship or believe. And even if I answer what god worship or believe, you can not understand my religion(religious faith). Because you judge my answer by your religious values without my religious background. Of course if you know Japanese religious background, when you can understand my religion(religious faith) correctly. But you regard Shinto and Buddhism as quite different religion. Your knowledge is not mistake, Shinto and Buddhism is quite different religion now. But both religions can not separate each other in Japanese religion(religious faith). You only know a religion as knowledge, and you don't understand the true nature of religion, Maciamo-san.

    One can not understand the true nature of religion from only a religious information(knowledge). And knowing and understanding is different matter.

    But don't forget, our main subject is "Japanese family name" in this thread.
    Sorry, if my English expression is not good.

    NANGI

  24. #24
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    If I pray to Hindu god, it doesn't means a believer in Hinduism. Because I don't know cultural matters(religious background) in Hinduism. And my cultural values(thought, morals, custom, knowledge, political awareness, law and those religious background) is very typical Japanese values because I was born and bred in Japan. Of course I know Hindu myth and I like Hindu gods, but it does't means believer in Hinduism too. If I want to be believer in Hinduism, I must get Hindu culture and renounce all Japanese values. But one who born and bred in Hindu society(culture) is a believer in Hinduism even if he/she don't pray to Hindu god.
    You are still mixing religion and culture. These are however clearly different things. You probably know that almost all major religion (not Shinto, though) are represented in India. So Indians can be Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Jainist, Zoroastrian, Buddhist, but they are still Indian. It's not a racial or linguistic thing like in Japan, as there are more than 800 languages and hundreds of ethnic groups in India. But still, everybody feels Indian and has some common Indian values, which aren't related to religion.

    If you take Muslim countries, you'll realise that the culture is quite different in Morocco, Egypt, Turkey, Iran, Bangladesh or Indonesia. They have the same religion, but their values and perception of religion can be very different. Of course, there are different sects, but they coexist in the same country. There are both Sunni and Shiite in different proportion in several Middle Eastern countries, but Iraqi Shiite might feel closer to Irani Shiite than from Iraqi Sunni, even though culturally, linguistically and racially they are more similar to their fellow Iraqi. That clearly show that race or culture is different of religion.

    Japan may be quite unique in its mixture of Buddhism and Shintoism though. Balinese mix of Hinduim and Animism is strikingly similar, maybe logically as Buddhism is close and compatible with Hinduism. In Southern India, Buddha is an avatar of Vishnu, and that is a fact that Buddha was Hindu. Buddhist and Hindu temples have often been present at the same time in the same country (Angkor, India, Java...). Shintoism is a form of Animism. Anyway,, they aren't the same but the similarity in temples, music, festivals, wall around the house, beliefs, etc. is interesting.

    And people who live in advanced nations think that believing religion and knowing religion is the same, or praying god is a religion.
    Really ? I don't think so personally. I have some knowledge of several religion (and like learning more about each of them), but I don't believe in any of them. It's not because you are interested in politics than you should believe all politicians say. At the contrary, the interesting is understanding the lies and what they are trying to do and why.

    So for family names. Do you really think the average Japanese have any knowledge of what you've been talking about ? I've tested a few people, but their knowledge of their own culture, history and religion is very limited. If I ask them why they care about keeping their name, they don't really know (same as anywhere else in the world actually). It's like the sentimental attachment to one's childhood house, it's purely emotional and that's why you think it's too "deep" or "cultural" to explain.

  25. #25
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    Konnichiwa Maciamo-san!

    Do you really think the average Japanese have any knowledge of what you've been talking about?
    Of course! most of all Japanese have not any knowledge!

    You want to know about Japanese family name. I think that you have a lot of question. Of course I can reply only "It is a custom!". But you can not learn anything from it. And I tryed to explain from Japanese folklore.

    NANGI

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