Japan’s Family Registry System

The following information was provided to the U.S. Embassy by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Neither the U.S. Government or the State Department assumes any legal liability for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information disclosed herein, or represents that use of such information would not infringe on privately owned rights.

Overview of Japan’s Family Registry System

1. Definition

Japan’s family registry system serves to record and certify an individual’s identity and family relationships on the basis of family law. Because this system is closely connected to the lives of the citizens of Japan, it is administered by local governments (municipalities) in accordance with the relevant legal provisions, with involvement by the central government as necessary in the form of directives and other measures.

2. Significance of the Family Registry System

A family register (koseki) is an official document that records and certifies the identity and family relationships of Japanese citizens on the basis of family law. The principal items recorded and certified in a family register are (1) an individual’s full name; (2) gender; (3) birth date and birthplace; (4) parental relations (names of parents, relations to them, etc.); (5) spousal relations (name of spouse, date of marriage, date of divorce, etc.); (6) data related to the death of an individual (date, time, place of death); (7) name of legal custodian or legal guardian; and (8) data related to inheritance, such as the disinheritance of a presumed heir. The information recorded in each family register is based on formal declarations made by citizens to their local government (municipality) at the time of a child’s birth, marriage, etc. Such registers are maintained only for Japanese citizens; as they are not established for foreigners, they also serve to certify Japanese citizenship.

3. Validity of Entries in a Family Register

A family register lists information about key life events including birth, death, marriage, and divorce. It is an official document certifying this information, and as such the entries are presumed to be true and valid. Making a false declaration resulting in an entry in family register not in accordance with true facts is punishable as a criminal act under Article 157 (1) of Japan’s Penal Code (“False Entries in the Original of Notarized Deeds”).

However, because the entries in a family register are in principle based on formal declarations made by citizens to their local government (municipality) -and because local governments (municipalities) generally adjudicate the documentation submitted on a pro forma basis -there are cases in which an individual intentionally or negligently makes a false declaration’ that is subsequently incorporated as an entry in a family register. If an entry in a family register is not in accordance with true facts, there is a procedure for correcting it by having the information in question certified (Family Registration Act Articles 24, 113, 114, 116).

4. Administrative Authority for the Family Registry System

The family registry system is administered by local governments (municipalities), and as such the mayors of those local governments (municipalities) are invested with administrative authority as the executive agent (Family Registration Act, Paragraph 1 of Article 1 and Article 4).

The following information was provided to the U.S. Embassy by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Neither the U.S. Government or the State Department assumes any legal liability for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information disclosed herein, or represents that use of such information would not infringe on privately owned rights.