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Changing my surname in Japan

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  • Changing my surname in Japan

    yes yes, its the question a lot of foreigners would pose upon themselves when naturalizing to another country.

    Now as I am still a High school student, i have quite a few years before I can even make this decision, and there will be new people in my life that would have a lot of input in this at that point, but I'm a person that likes to plan way to far ahead in time, and I'm just curious to hear opinions and experiences from random strangers online.

    Now, normally, I would not consider changing my name just to fit in a bit in a new location, it doesn't seem right to me, to wear a name that isn't yours in any respect. If I went to live in, say, Korea, I would certianly not dub myself Kim Joseph and call it a day.

    Japan would be an exception to this way of thinking for just a few reasons. A few of my direct ancestors from a bit more than half a century ago were actually Japanese, so as part of my ancestral heritage, I have a Japanese surname I can rightfully call my own.

    My American name draws from the Puerto Rican line of heritage in my hectic family tree. Joseph Montanez.
    Now, as my last name is Spanish, and not German or Russian, etc., it should be easy to pronounce in Japanese, since the two langauges share similar vowel sounds. But I'd hate to pass up the chance to wear a different name than usual since I love change so much, and I'd certianly hate for my fututre children (If I am so lucky to have that in my future) to be called モンタニェズ by their teachers or peers or in their future work-life and day to day lives.

    My idea was to go by Joseph Montanez in America and whatever country its more convenient in, and then go by ジョセフ (insert Japanese surname here)* whilst in japan and any country where that would prove more convenient.

    I like the idea of carrying on a family name that faded out of the family tree after being smothered by a slew of spanish names, I'd like to imagine the faces of my japanese ancestors if they somehow discovered that a great-great grandchild of theres resureccected the Japanese heritage and kept the falme burning, hehe.

    Now I pose these questions.

    1. Would having two different surnames work well?
    2. I am my father's eldest son, and my younger brother had his name discarded by his spiteful mother. Would it be possible to have any children of mine have Montanez as their surname as an American citizen, and still keep their Japanese surname in Japan just as I would? Now that I think about it, it seems kind of silly, even if I did try to keep the Montanez name alive, it would fade out rather quickly unless a son of mine decided to move to America. But I don't like the idea of mashing two surnames together for a odd spanish-japanese hybrid that may cause more trouble in legal documentation, so two seperate surnames, at least in my case, seem more suitable.

    Well anyway, sorry for my ranting

    Basically, I'd just like to hear you opinions or if you could share any experiences of your own, that would be nice too.


    * I'm actually now in the process of digging up my Japanese ancestor's names

  • #2
    If you're not a Japanese citizen with a koseki, it will be much easier to change your name legally in the US rather than in Japan.

    Having two surnames, or a surname as your middle name, will be a mild headache. Headache gets worse if your degree or other qualifications are in one name and your resume is in another.

    If you look Latino & aren't fluent in Japanese but have a Japanese last name, people here will probably assume you're Japanese-Brazilian or Japanese-Peruvian and work in a car factory near Nagoya.

    Having a J-last name doesn't really do much to integrate you in Japan (I know, I have one). Appearance & language ability make that happen (or not).

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    • #3
      Just remember - whatever your name is, in its fullest extension as shown on your passport or other registration, becomes the name that will be used on all official and semi-official documents in Japan. So do you want this on your drivers license and bank accounts, and to have to write it all out every time a person asks for accuracy - such as on contracts, etc.?: SURNAME1 SURNAME2 Firstgivenname Secondgivenname It seems a bit akward to me.

      If I were to change my name it would be SURNAME Givenname (and only one of those).

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      • #4
        Originally posted by samuraiche View Post
        1. Would having two different surnames work well?
        Just as a practical point, Japanese dont have middle names and many official forms in Japan have only a certain number of boxes where a Kanji or a letter would go. Theres really not enough room in the box for three names and what will end up happening is half the last word will be cut off.

        2. Second, unless you are naturalised you probably wont be able to use Kanji for your name, even if its a Japanese name like Suzuki or Tanaka. Nikkeis usually write their names in hiragana or Romanji.

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        • #5
          well I would hope the naturalization process, which includes the option to change your name (you have to at least have it in Japanese Katakana anyway) would allow me to make any requests to have such things as my college degree printed in my name (I plan on attending a Japanese university)

          As for looking like a Peruvian or Brazlian, maybe. I actually am one of the few in my generation that retained Japanese genetic traits such as my almond shaped eyes, though of course I know I would not pass as a regular Japanese, but I'd rather not blend in to that extent anyway. My Japanese is very good in terms of my accent and pronounciation, I pride myself in my ability to immitate lingual phonetics accurately, though I suspect traces of an America accent may remain.
          But anyway, I don't look too latino, as I am mixed with a variety of other things too, including Western European and Native American. In the end, I'm American, but I'm also ethnically Japanese in some respect, and thats true no matter what I look like.

          The point of adopting a Japanese surname isn't to assimilate, its for convienance for myself when filling out forms, for fun, as I'd love to have a name in kanji, and for whatever children I may have in the future, so they don't have to deal with having a weird family name to be called by.

          But I agree with the point about having two surnames at once, it'd be quite a hassle, I'm rather fond of just being one in America and the other in Japan. And Just to be clear, I have absolutely no intention of changing my first name, there'd be no point really, thats more along the lines of assimialtion than convenience or paying tribute to ancestors.

          Keep the opinions coming, I love hearing what you guys have to say ^^

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by samuraiche View Post
            well I would hope the naturalization process, which includes the option to change your name (you have to at least have it in Japanese Katakana anyway) would allow me to make any requests to have such things as my college degree printed in my name (I plan on attending a Japanese university)

            As for looking like a Peruvian or Brazlian, maybe. I actually am one of the few in my generation that retained Japanese genetic traits such as my almond shaped eyes, though of course I know I would not pass as a regular Japanese, but I'd rather not blend in to that extent anyway. My Japanese is very good in terms of my accent and pronounciation, I pride myself in my ability to immitate lingual phonetics accurately, though I suspect traces of an America accent may remain.
            But anyway, I don't look too latino, as I am mixed with a variety of other things too, including Western European and Native American. In the end, I'm American, but I'm also ethnically Japanese in some respect, and thats true no matter what I look like.

            The point of adopting a Japanese surname isn't to assimilate, its for convienance for myself when filling out forms, for fun, as I'd love to have a name in kanji, and for whatever children I may have in the future, so they don't have to deal with having a weird family name to be called by.

            But I agree with the point about having two surnames at once, it'd be quite a hassle, I'm rather fond of just being one in America and the other in Japan. And Just to be clear, I have absolutely no intention of changing my first name, there'd be no point really, thats more along the lines of assimialtion than convenience or paying tribute to ancestors.

            Keep the opinions coming, I love hearing what you guys have to say ^^
            You can register a legal alias in Japan. This goes on the back of your foreign registration card. I registered mine as my first name in Katakana and last name with Kanji. (Also Spanish origin so it works better then something like Smith in Kanji) I was having tons of headaches with how long my name is with the middle names being included...now I have none. Anyhow, once you register the legal alias, you can use it to do anything in that name (open bank accounts, health insurance, employment etc etc.) I'd suggest that if you want to use an ancestral Japanese surname, you go the same route. You'd be able to keep your current surname in the US and use the Japanese surname in Japan.

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