Koseki

Koseki

Introduction to the Koseki Family Registration System in Japanese Law

The Koseki plays a central role in Japanese Family Law — it is your birth certificate, death certificate, marriage license, and census information all rolled into one.

What is the Koseki?

The koseki is the Japanese system of Family Registration, by which births, deaths, marriages and divorces of Japanese nationals are recorded.  Since a koseki is only for those with Japanese citizenship, non-nationals will not have their own koseki, but will only be added to a Japanese citizen’s koseki where appropriate, such as in the case of a Japanese national marrying a foreigner. However, foreign nationals living in Japan are required to register births and deaths of family members with the local city office.

The koseki has its roots in the ancient Chinese system of government, and has been used in Japan for over 100 years. This single document is nothing less than a system of national identity registration, marking any and all changes in family composition and identity, and it thus plays a central role in matters of family law and other interactions with the government. Specifically, the koseki will be used to record the birth of children, marriage and divorce, and the death of a family member. Such events are legally effective only when recorded in the koseki.

Information recorded in the koseki

  • family name and given name
  • date of birth
  • parents’ names and relationship
  • date key events such as marriage, death, adoption, etc.
  • links to any prior koseki
  • official residence (honseki chi)

(Law of Family Register, (???), article 13.)

The koseki contains many important aspects of family identity. For example, the koseki will indicate a head of household (in the right hand column of the document), as well as the family’s official “home” (honseki chi). When a Japanese family member included on a koseki marries, they will secede from that koseki and start a new koseki where they are listed as head of household (or partner). The new koseki will reference the name of the parent family koseki from which they seceded, as well as the honseki chi where the koseki is located. These two pieces of information are usually what’s necessary when wishing to locate a particular koseki, as officially the koseki document resides with the local government offices in the family’s honseki chi.

When a Japanese marries a citizen of another country, the Japanese family member will always be listed as the head of household, and the spouse will be listed as an addition to the family. Traditionally everyone listed on the koseki has to have the same family name, but Japan does allow for either partner to change their last name to that of the other partner.

Koseki and Child Custody Issues

Until the time at which they are ready to start their own family, a child does not have their own koseki, but is instead listed on that of his or her parents. However, if the parents get divorced, the child’s register will move to the koseki of the person with shinken (legal child custody in a divorce). Of course, since a non-Japanese does not have a koseki, if the non-Japanese partner is able to obtain legal custody of a Japanese child, they will need to secede the child from the koseki of the Japanese parent, and start a new koseki just for the child. Although it may seem like a formality to take care of documents if the courts have already granted custody, because of the centrality of the koseki in Japanese family law, it is very important to take these steps. Should the Japanese parent later violate the custody agreement and abduct the child, pursuing the proper legal channels necessary to demonstrate that the Japanese parent does not have custody will be greatly facilitated by the child having seceded from the Japanese parent’s koseki.

Koseki Related Laws and Regulations

See our Japanese Family Law section.

Due to the sensitive nature of the information in a koseki, one of the primary concerns of related law has been the privacy of the koseki information, and discrimination based upon information contained in the koseki. Traditionally the koseki has been treated with a high degree of respect and confidentiality. It is generally not required in order to obtain government services or used as identification or in order to verify residency.

As a result of problems with discrimination based upon the sensitive information contained in the koseki, Japan since the 1970s has moved to protect against such abuses. For example, since 1970 some details of each koseki member’s birth address is no longer included on the koseki. Later regulations forbid employers from asking job applicants to share their koseki document. More recently, a law enacted in May, 2008 restricted access to the koseki to the persons listed on the koseki, as well as anyone who requires the information on the koseki in order to exercise their due legal rights. Individuals who have seceded from a koseki (eg, as in the case of divorce) are also eligible to obtain a copy of the koseki.

In order to obtain a copy, you will need the name of the koseki as well as the honseki-chi where the koseki is located. You can appear at the local government offices to request a copy in person, or contact the authorities to request one by mail. Your lawyer can also obtain a koseki on your behalf if the legal proceedings involve someone listed on the koseki.

More information on the restrictions on who can access the kosekican be found in this article.

Glossary of Terms

Jyuminhyou

The koseki is often confused with the jyuminhyou. However, the jyuminhyou is Japan’s system of residency registration, whereas the Koseki pertains to family-related information.

Hittousya

The head of household, listed on the far right of the koseki.

Honseki-chi

The honseki-chi or honseki is the official “family home”, which confusingly is not necessarily the same as the family’s current residence. Rather the honseki-chi is thought of as the traditional home of the family, often it is one’s birth place or where one’s family maintains the strongest roots– often ties going back hundreds of years. The honseki-chi is particularly important as it dictates which municipal office stores the koseki. City officials often have the last say in determining who has a right to access the koseki. However, it is possible to move the koseki to a new city, and some families will choose to do so. The koseki will include a list of the cities where the koseki was previously held, so you can still track down the current location of a koseki if you know the prior honseki, although doing so will take more than a little bit of bureacratic wrangling, and therefore may be better handled by a competent child custody lawyer.

Koseki touhon

Koseki shouhon

These two terms refer to two different formats for the koseki. The koseki shouhon is like an executive summary of the koseki, and lists only the key facts such as date of birth, parents, place of birth etc. The Koseki touhon is a copy of the entire koseki.

Koseki Fuhyou

Jyouseki touhon

These terms refer to a previous koseki which is no longer valid because it has been superseded by a new koseki. Sometimes you will need to obtain the koseki fuyhou to get information not included on the new koseki.

24 responses to “Koseki”

  1. Fumiko Miyamoto

    Looking for koseki for : (1) Matsusuke Miyamoto Family from Showa Hiroshima Japan
    (2) Otokichi Nakamura family from Fukawa Hiroshima Japan

    Can you help?

  2. Arlene

    hello my name is arlene henson im looking for koseki of my child can you help me?
    im here at philippines i want to know if my child father registered them in koseki
    my child name is 1. samantha nicole murayama and 2. sophia nicole murayama
    father name of my child is koichi murayama he live in tokyo japan can you help me for this?

    thanks
    your trully arlene

  3. queen lopez

    i want to know if my child, maki yoshito, son of maki yoshitaka and queen lopez already registered?
    please help me about my situation. thanks.

  4. babylyn hernando

    i want to know about my mother and my sister there name Hilda Hernando and Aiko Akamae.i miss them so much

    thanks….

    babylyn

  5. sharon donesa

    im the mother of ayumi shaira takeuchi im looking for his father atsushi agari takeuchi
    it was 12 years since the last time i talk to him.coz i heard he past away.i just wnt to
    knw if he registered in tomioka,futabagun fukushima-shi japan
    can u help me for my daughter?

  6. Global Voices Online » Inheritance tax and children in limbo: adoption in Japan.

    [...] has established a mindset through which adopting a child is an option looked down upon by many. The family koseki (??), official documentation recording family progression (marriage, birth, death, etc.)  over [...]

  7. Inheritance tax and children in limbo: adoption in Japan. :: Elites TV

    [...] has established a mindset through which adopting a child is an option looked down upon by many. The family koseki (??), official documentation recording family progression (marriage, birth, death, etc.) over [...]

  8. nathan

    hello..my name is nathan..i am a nikkeijin..my husband is in japan..he wants to request a koseki tohon of my grandfather…how many days will it release..i need it soon to my..visa.please reply..thank you…

  9. Guyjin » Blog Archive » Heartbreaking Account of a Foreign Father in Japan

    [...] CRN Japan also have a very informative article about koseki. [...]

  10. Tomaz

    Can you provide any information regarding the non-relative (or non-citizen) access to koseki of a deceased person ? I am looking for information on one Kondo-Kawase Tsuneko, daughter of Kondo-Kawase Kagijiro who was born in Gifu on March 1st 1893. The research is of personal nature, and all and any information will be retained in personal collection.

  11. Vincent KONDO Santos Diaz

    Please help. My great grand father is KAKUCHi KONDO from Karamura-Machi, Japan. He was married here to TOMASA APURA KONDO, they have a son (deceased) THOMAS KONDO, and had Rosalinda KONDO who is my mother. Could someone help us if were elligible to stay in JApan. Thank you

  12. Erna Kamibayashi

    I am looking for koseki for Ichitaro Kamibayashiyama. He was born on 2 March 1867 in Kagoshima-Ken, Japan. he arrived in Hawaii on 25 June 1892 and eventually settled on the island of Kauai. He is the great grandfather of my husband Robin and we are trying to search the family line. Anyone with information willing to share please email me at the email address listed above.

  13. angelica garcia

    i’m angelica
    i’m looking for koseki of hiura family especially michihiro hiura at hiroshima, japan..i’m taking care of his children : eiji hiura, jueri hiura, and riona hiura,. here at the philippines..please send me info regarding his koseki..

    thank you and God bless

  14. Serena Jones

    My name is Serena. I am looking for Koseki for the Tanaka Family from Nagoya, Japan. My grandmother (Kimiko Tanaka) recently passed and I would like to find the rest of my family. My grandmother is from Nagoya, Japan. I have a letter from her brother (KIHA TANAKA) with the address of Wanouchi-Cho 2-Chome Nisiku Nagoya, Japan. My grandmother married an american soldier by the name of James Jones and took his last name. My father was born in Japan and his name is Daniel Jones. I am currently stationed in Seoul, Korea for a year…. and while I am here, I would love to see if I can reunite with the japanese side of my family. Please help me. Thank You.

  15. John Elemans

    Hello,
    I am curious about the rights of adult children to obtain a Koseki. I was told that male children were given their own koseki when they married or their father died. Women do not get a koseki since they are registered on their father’s koseki until they marry and are then moved to their husband’s. If women do not marry they get a koseki when they turn 31 or when their father dies.

    Is this still the case?

    Thank you.

    John Elemans

  16. Tanya

    Hello,
    I am looking for a friends of mine. 13 years ago I lived in Japan (1995-1997) and we have great relationships with one family, Time passed by and we lost, now I am coming back to Japan for 1 month in January, would like to find them very much. This is all info I know: father-Norio Suzuki, birth. 4.10.~1950 or a bit early, mother – Tamiyo Suzuki, birth. 31.07.~ 1953, children: Akihiro Suzuki, birth. 07.10 ~1974, Mieko Suzuki birth. 01.05.~ 1978. From 1995-1997 they defenitily lived on this address: 3-30-14-608 Takaido-higashi, Suginami-ku, Tokyo, Japan
    Please, if someone know something about this family!!!!!!!! Please let me know!!!

  17. tanya

    Hello,
    I am looking for a friends of mine. 13 years ago I lived in Japan (1995-1997) and we have great relationships with one family, Time passed by and we lost, now I am coming back to Japan for 1 month in January, would like to find them very much. This is all info I know: father-Norio Suzuki, birth. 4.10.~1950 or a bit early, mother – Tamiyo Suzuki, birth. 31.07.~ 1953, children: Akihiro Suzuki, birth. 07.10 ~1974, Mieko Suzuki birth. 01.05.~ 1978. From 1995-1997 they defenitily lived on this address: 3-30-14-608 Takaido-higashi, Suginami-ku, Tokyo, Japan
    Please, if someone know something about this family!!!!!!!! Please let me know!

  18. tayfun turhan

    after 2 over two years still looking for someone who was my lovely girlfriend yukino nishida live in yokohama….i sent more than 400 e-mail but didnt replay…i just need to know how and where can i get legally information about her when i arrive to japan…when subjects comes to love i m the one….with her i was live in wonderful world and dreamable.. i have huge respects for japanese people and culture.
    .i hope that someone believe there how much strong feeling i have about her and give their hand……nothing impossible in this world…i will keep follow my dreams and find to her hopefully……………….. just dont give up

  19. Tai Harper

    I am looking for FUKAWA family. my grandmothers name is SHIZUYO FUKAWA she emmigrated to america around 1941. She lost all contact with her family. She currently suffers from dementia and alzheimers disease. Im trying to contact anyone in her family. Please help me succeed in doing so.

  20. Warren Sypteras

    Does anyone know where I can get an English translation of the Koseki law?

    Thanks

  21. Meeting Irish Embassy in Tokyo: 15th July 2011 « For Sean & Renee

    [...] fathers in Japan are not allowed to have their own family register (koseki), and upon marriage must join their Japanese spouse’s koseki. When divorced, the foreign father is [...]

  22. net

    Regarding to obtain a koseki of a japanese national. The thing that you must is to request it. For you to be able to request it you must have the request form from the city hall where you currently living in if were living in japan.And in that request form you must also fill up your relation to the person. But for those cases who actually outside japan better ask some advice from a lawyer (japanese) or an international lawyer from your respective coountry.

  23. Reiji Okawara

    Hello,

    Im Reiji Okawara. I would like to request for the koseki of my father, Yuji Okawara. I have never seen him since the year after i was born. So far, the only information i have is that he resides in Chibaken, Japan and he was born on June,1943. My parents were not married by the time of my birth but an affidavit of acknowledgement/ admission of paternity (which declares me as his son) is attached on my birth certificate. Am i eligible to access his koseki?

    Thanks and God bless.

  24. Oldest koseki record unearthed in Fukuoka (Jun.14) | Heritage of Japan

    [...] Koseki: Introduction to the Koseki Family Registration System in Japanese Law (CRN Japan -Child Resource Network Japan website) [...]

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