"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."
— "Romeo and Juliet"
Sure, this oft-quoted Shakespeare line is sweet and sentimental. Juliet is trying to convince her lover, Romeo, that a name is an artificial convention that it does not define a person.
But in Japan, where women don't have the luxury of choice when it comes to their names, the name itself is incredibly important. Japanese law dictates that married Japanese women must have the same last name as their husband, regardless of any other considerations. Custom generally requires that the last name be the husband's.
This may change soon, as Japanese woman are rising up around the country to fight for their maiden names. In a lawsuit filed in Tokyo this week, four Japanese women are challenging the 19th-century law that prevents married Japanese women from legally using their maden names.
Kyoko Tsukamoto, 75, is one of the women fighting for change. She has been using her maiden name at work, but for the last 50 years, she has had to use her husband's name on all legal documents. As she grows older, Tsukamato wants to legally return to her maiden name. "...I was born as Kyoko Tsukamoto, and I want to die as Kyoko Tsukamoto," she says. "That's my wish," Tsukamoto said in an interview with Time magazine.
Japan is the only country in the Group of Eight major industrialized nations to restrict names for married women.