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Under a Japanese law that dates back to the Meiji era, more than a century ago, all married couples must use one surname. In theory, a couple may choose either the husband’s or the wife’s last name, but in practice, 96 percent of women assume their husband’s.

Advocates for women, including lawmakers across the political spectrum, say they simply want women to make their own choices about their names. But recent court rulings indicate that the law is unlikely to be softened anytime soon, despite rising criticism.

More Japanese women are fighting to keep their surnames