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American or Japanese last name in Japan?

Japan With Kids - Forums: Education in Japan: American or Japanese last name in Japan?
By Pauldarian on Wednesday, June 18, 2008 - 6:19 pm:

I have a possible "odd" question.
I am a divorced United States citzen, My ex-wife is a Japanese citezen we have a 5 year child.
She is "attempting" or rather REALLY wanted to return to Japan. However she tells me that OUR son MUST use HER last name in Japan, beacuse your NOT able to REGISTER an American last name.
Is this true?
If she relocates there and he goes to school in Kawasaki City, does he REALLY have to change his last name from Burns to Sumitani?


By Edlyn on Wednesday, June 18, 2008 - 7:33 pm:

Well I hope that some of the parents with nightmare stories will respond because what is going to happen is that you will most likely lose visitation and custody rights if your wife comes here. Really a messy scenario. There are plenty of links on this board.

But the simple answer is No, your son does not have to have a Japanese name to go to school here. Katakana (foreign) names are fine. But really, seek legal advice. I'm pretty sure there are some links on this site for foreign parents who have lost custody. Joint custody does not exist in Japan and if she brings him back she can keep you from seeing him again until he is 18 and comes looking for you. You should use the US courts to keep him and her in your country. Even a simple "visit to see the Grandparents" has turned into a permanent stay with the foreign parent not being able to see the child


By Pauldarian on Wednesday, June 18, 2008 - 8:03 pm:

I've been reading about that.
I know. However I am trying to avoid "upsetting" her more. I guess it comes down to, we've been seperated 6 years I'm only 30 (she turned 44 today, well yesterday actually but I have yet to sleep so it's still tuesday to me) I would rather avoid court, however I would not want to be in the situation that I have been reading about either.
You can't win them all I suppose.
It's a hard call. Beacuse the thought of not having my son terrifies me, so much I would be irrational. Never violet but *thinks*
example.
If it ment seeing my son i would remarry someone and relocate to japan, however it would seem that even if I did that I would have no chance in(hell) of seeing him, if she deemed so.


By Bunny on Wednesday, June 18, 2008 - 8:39 pm:

Edlyn is spot on.

Your ex-wife no longer has YOUR interests on her agenda. Already you are getting the line. Part of turning your son against you.

If you want to keep him, don't let her take him with her. That is what is commonly called a "game over" situation.

Use the US courts to keep control over the situation, because if it ends up over here, forget it.


By Noahmail on Wednesday, June 18, 2008 - 10:28 pm:

I am married to a Japanese woman and it is true you can not use ENG letters to register names and when we got married she didn't change her name to mine so our son had to have her last name in japan maybe it is because she didnt change her name to mine, he has my name on his us passport and birth abroad cert. There are many Americans going to public school in japan and they don't change their names but maybe since ur wife is Japanese and is regestered maybe its easier if he had the last name. If it isn't going to be forever like one year he could be there as an American citizen living in japan. It sounds like he isn't regestered in japan now which means he isn't a citizen in japan I think. So he is an American, but she can change any thing she wants while in japan I assume, but you shouldn't change his name in the US.


By Edlyn on Wednesday, June 18, 2008 - 10:49 pm:

Yes, sorry but you are right. The courts will not grant you visitation or joint custody. The Japanese system thinks that it is actually better that the child be with one parent...usually the father but in Japan, the Japanese parent. Of course if you could work it out, great, but if you have been reading the stories then you know that there are support groups for the hundreds, maybe thousands, of foreign parents who have lost all legal rights to even see their children. Really very sad, so I would proceed cautiously.

You most definitely can register for school with katakana. If she wants to put him on her family register then he becomes a Sumitani. That is different than registering for school and is a very serious establishment of her rights to sole custody. You might read about the former PM Koizumi and his three children after his divorce. Very interesting and I think you will find that even between Japanese parents denying visitation is very common and thought to be "in the best interest of the child".

Of course she could let you see him and that would be great but there are no guarantees. It really depends if she thinks your son is better off having you in his life.


By Cwhite on Wednesday, June 18, 2008 - 11:51 pm:

Your in a bit of a pickle. Chances are that you will lose the right to contact your son ever again. Whatever you decide make sure you have everything on paper, signed and passed on to the proper authorities.

I recommend reading from the following URLs:

www.debito.org/?p=9

www.crnjapan.com/en/issues.html

Good Luck


By Cwhite on Wednesday, June 18, 2008 - 11:59 pm:

Actually if your smart you will go over all this now rather than later with your ex-wife. Hopefully she will see both sides of this and understand how she would feel if the circumstances were reversed. Give her something to think about before she does something she might regret after all your son does have two parents and the opportunities to explore two cultures. www.crnjapan.com/ja/index.html


By Cwhite on Wednesday, June 18, 2008 - 11:59 pm:

Actually if your smart you will go over all this now rather than later with your ex-wife. Hopefully she will see both sides of this and understand how she would feel if the circumstances were reversed. Give her something to think about before she does something she might regret after all your son does have two parents and the opportunities to explore two cultures. www.crnjapan.com/ja/index.html


By Abbasdaughter on Thursday, June 19, 2008 - 1:03 am:

I know a man who is dealing with a situation where his wife left Canada and took their children with her. Her parents are excessively controlling, making it an even more difficult situation. He'd love to get back together with her and his daughters, but her parents are one of the major factors holding them back (there's some really WEIRD and psychotic stuff in some Japanese families and this is one of them) along with whatever fear she has that causes her to continue to allow their control of her.
When he comes to Japan for a visit, he sends letters or whatever ahead of time and goes through a mediator sometimes to try to get a hold of his wife and it varies if and when he gets a response re: whether or not they can meet (and his wife goes and sits elsewhere in the restaurant quite often). Both girls were under 12 (and prob'ly still are) when they were brought back to Japan, so they're too young to access various free email accounts that would allow them to secretly be in contact with their dad from school or whatever.
Parents, grandparents and other relatives are among the more common kidnappers of young children. Name changes are a common method of hiding the children from the previous parent... Moving around is another method. (moving around from state to state is how an aunt and uncle kept 2 girls away from their mother for an extended period of time... I know the mum and daughters kind of... changing states was how they prevented the mother from being able to take them to court because it had to be in the same state or something... sometimes bureaucracy is really stupid).

These things being said, it would be advisable to keep your child in your own country until he is old enough to reason things out for himself and learn where the American embassy and consulates are in Japan in case he(the child) ever has any troubles with wanting to get back and not having the means to do so if he feels stuck. He should also be old enough to maintain his own private net-based email account that his mother does not have access to to interfere with the relationship. I know that sounds harsh, but with some of the weird stuff that goes on in Japan, it's probably best if you're wanting to maintain a long-term relationship with the child. At 5, he's too young to understand and the Japanese school system will programme him to go with the flow rather than thinking things out for himself... Rather abunai in a situation where his only higher influences will pull him away from you any chance they get. It's one thing for her to leave the country, but she shouldn't be doing so with him when he's this young and you're divorced. (It's different when parents are still together on friendly terms and one just takes children back for a visit from time to time). Until that time, the grandparents and other relatives can go to the States to visit him.
May be worth looking into whether it's possible to get a 7 to 9 year "no fly" list qualification for a child in that situation so the other parent cannot leave the country with him.
Just some thoughts... Then next part is figuring out how to do this in the most tactful and considerate way possible. Possibly encouraging him to be involved in some Japanese cultural groups/clubs until he's old enough to go and experience Japan for himself.


By Yuko_k on Thursday, June 19, 2008 - 1:50 am:

At schools in Japan, at least at public schools, you are to use the name of your official registeration.

If the child has a Japanese nationality, the name on the koseki will be used. If the child only has a foreign nationality, the foreign name will be used but apparently in katakana since you read and write Japanese in Japanese schools.

Typically, a child born from a mixed marriage has dual nationality, and long story short, it is possible to have either a Japanese surname or a foreign surname for the Japanese nationality.

Also, even though the official papers used at school will all be in the child's official surname, most schools give the child the freedom to be called by a by-name in the classrooms.

Btw, a Japanese wife has the choice to either change or not change her surname to her foreign husband's surname upon marriage. Plus, the procedure of surname change upon international marriage has been simplified greatly over the years. Also, (although I personally don't think so) some parents seem to think that having a "local" name for the child makes things easier, especially when it comes to making friends.

This is all I have to say to the original question. Now, ignore me if you'd like, but I feel that this discussion has completely left the child behind dispite the forum being called "Japan with KIDS".


By Pauldarian on Thursday, June 19, 2008 - 1:49 pm:

I would like to thank everyone for taking the time to reply to my post. You have all given me so much information. Thank you!
I guess the first action I should take is the 3 of us seeing a Japanese/American theripist that specializes in children. Someone one that is Japanese and can maybe see both sides, if that doesn't work, I will then escatale the issue.
Thank all of you.


By Abbasdaughter on Thursday, June 19, 2008 - 1:59 pm:

Actually, the matter of kidnapping is about the child(ren) because it can really mess the kids up psychologically. Hopefully, that won't be the case this time, but it's happened enough times that it's important to be aware of.


By Abbasdaughter on Thursday, June 19, 2008 - 2:32 pm:

Actually, the matter of kidnapping is about the child(ren) because it can really mess the kids up psychologically. Hopefully, that won't be the case this time, but it's happened enough times that it's important to be aware of.


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