Japanese government panel proposes acceptable ways to read unusual names ahead of legal change

A sub-committee session of an advisory group to the Minister of Justice which has compiled a draft proposal for legal revisions to include reading aids next to names on the family register takes place on May 17, 2022 (Mainichi/Masakatsu Yamamoto)

TOKYO — A subcommittee of an advisory body to Japan’s justice minister, which discussed rules for a new system to incorporate phonetic characters to make it easier to read kanji names in Japan’s family records Japan, presented three proposals regarding the extent of the acceptable range of unusual names.

The Justice Department’s Legislative Council panel on May 17 drafted a draft draft proposal for a Family Registry Amendment Bill and aims to submit a report to the Justice Minister in the fiscal year. 2022. It will also seek public comment shortly. based on the proposal.

The Family Register Act currently does not contain any provisions regarding name reading aids, and phonetic characters indicating how to pronounce names are not included in the family register. Since organizing names by phonetic symbols, which correspond to about 50 sounds, is more convenient than managing names in kanji characters – complex with a varied range – in the context of the digitization of administrative processes, the sub- committee led discussions on the new system to include reading aids in phonetic characters next to names on the family register.

The recent proposal stipulated that reading aids would be indicated in hiragana or katakana, the two types of phonetic Japanese syllabaries. He outlined three plans for the types of reading aids that will be allowed, including for so-called “kira-kira names”, whose kanji characters are read differently from their conventional pronunciation.

Among them, the most flexible proposal was “not to establish rules in the Family Registry Law” and to allow unusual names, excluding cases like “Akuma” (meaning “devil”) ) who may be suspected of violating public order and moral standards, as well as the welfare of the child.

The strictest proposal laid out a plan to limit names to those that had “usual or customary readings of kanji characters” or “a pronunciation that can be recognized as being associated with kanji characters”. For example, according to this proposal, the Chinese character for “sea” or “navy” can be read as “Marin”, while a name combining a kanji character meaning “light” or “glitter” and a character conventionally read as ” chu” can be read as “Pikachu”, since these cases can be seen as having connections between the kanji and their readings. However, name readings that deviate from kanji characters may not be allowed.

The remaining proposal outlined a plan to allow cases where the reading of names has connections to kanji characters or there is a valid reason for the reading, even if it is not the usual or customary pronunciation.

The subcommittee suggested a plan to make it mandatory for the public to submit names with reading aids, and for municipalities to list readings at their discretion if they are not reported within a certain time frame.

(Japanese original by Masakatsu Yamamoto, Tokyo City News Department)

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