A koseki (?) is a Japanese family registry. Japanese law requires all Japanese households (ie) to report births, acknowledgements of paternity, adoptions, disruptions of adoptions, deaths, marriages and divorces of Japanese citizens to their local authority, which compiles such records encompassing all Japanese citizens within their jurisdiction. Marriages, adoptions and acknowledgements of paternity become legally effective only when such events are recorded in the koseki. Births and deaths became legally effective as they happen, but such events must be filed by family members.


A typical koseki has one page for the household's parents and their first two children: additional children are recorded on additional pages. Any changes to this information have to be sealed by an official registrar.

The following items are recorded in the koseki. (Law of Family Register, (戸籍法), article 13.)

  • family name and given name
  • date of birth
  • date of records and causes (marriage, death, adoption, etc.)
  • names of the father and the mother and the relation to them
  • if adopted, names of the adoptive father and mother
  • if married, whether the person is a husband or a wife
  • if transferred from another koseki, the former koseki
  • registered residence honseki chi


Introduced in the 6th century, the original population census in Japan was called the kōgo no nen jaku (庚午年籍) or the kōin no nen jaku (庚寅年籍). This census was introduced under the ritsuryō system of governance.[1] While various systems have been employed in Japan since ancient times, the modern koseki, encompassing all of Japan's citizenry, appeared in 1872, immediately following the Meiji Restoration. This was the first time in history that all Japanese people were required to have family names as well as given names. Records were originally kept in lengthy paper volumes, but were translated to digital format in 2002 and are now entirely computerized.[citation needed]

In 2003, the "GID Law" was enacted, enabling people with Gender identity disorder (GID) to change their gender on their koseki provided they meet certain conditions. Persons diagnosed with GID must seek an official diagnosis with letters of support from two independent psychiatrists in order to change their koseki gender.[2]

Privacy concerns

The koseki simultaneously fills the function of birth certificates, death certificates, marriage licenses, and the census in other countries. It is also based on family rather than each individual. Information provided in koseki is detailed as well as sensitive and makes discrimination possible against such groups as burakumin or illegitimate children and unwed mothers, for example. As the burakumin liberation movement gained strength in postwar Japan some changes were made to family registries. In 1970 some details of one's birth address were deleted from the family registry.[citation needed] In 1974 a notice that prohibited employers from asking prospective employees to show their family registry was released by the Ministry of Health and Welfare. In 1975 one's lineage name was deleted and in 1976 access to family registries was restricted. As of April 2007, anyone interested was eligible to get a copy of someone else's koseki. However, on May 1, 2008, a new law was implemented to limit the persons eligible for a copy to the persons whose names are recorded in a given koseki and those who need such a copy to exercise their due rights (debt collectors, executors of wills).[3][4] Anyone who is listed on a koseki, even if their name has been crossed off by reason of divorce and even if they are not a Japanese citizen, is eligible to get a copy of that koseki.[3] One can obtain a copy in person or by mail. Lawyers can also obtain copies of any koseki if a person listed is involved in legal proceedings.[5]

Koseki and citizenship

Only Japanese citizens may be registered in a koseki, because koseki serve as certificates of citizenship. Non-Japanese may be noted where required, such as being the spouse of a Japanese citizen[6] or the parent of a Japanese offspring, however they are not listed in the same fashion as Japanese spouses or parents[7].

Note that the koseki system is different from the jūminhyō residency registration, which holds current address information.

Family registries in other nations

A similar registration system exists within the public administration structures of all East Asian states influenced by the ancient Chinese system of government. The local pronunciations of the name of the household register varies, but all are derived from the same Chinese characters as that for koseki (in traditional Chinese: 戶籍). These states include People's Republic of China (hukou), Republic of China (Taiwan) (hukou), Vietnam (ho khau), and North Korea (hoju, hojeok, hojok). In South Korea, the hoju system was abolished in 2008.

See also


  1. Chapman, D. (forthcoming), Sealing Japanese identity, Critical Asian Studies
  2. Abe, Teruo "Gender identity disorder", Juntendo Medical Journal, Vol.52, No.1 (20060331) p.55-61
  3. 3.0 3.1 Law on Family Registry, Article 10, 戸籍法第10条
  4. Law on Family Registry, Article 10-2, 戸籍法第10条の2
  5. Law on Family Registry, Article 10-2 Paragraph 3, 戸籍法第10条の2第3項
  6. [ "国際結婚,海外での出生等に関する戸籍Q&A 渉外戸籍のホームページ"] (Japanese) Answer 6. The name, date of birth and nationality of a foreign spouse of a Japanese citizen and the fact that they are married are recorded in the koseki of the Japanese citizen
  7. "THE JUUMINHYOU MONDAI" "as a foreigner, you are put down on your spouse's koseki not as a married couple, under the heading "wife" or "husband" like any Japanese, but as a "remark" (bikou, in kanji: 備考) on the form."

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