The major system for the identification of individuals in modem Japanese
society is the koseki (family registration) system. This can be contrasted with
Anglophone countries where the basic document of identification is the individual
birth certificate, which lists date and place of birth and the names of parents (if
known): and with separate documents to certify marriage, divorce or death.
In Japan, on birth, each individual is listed in a family register which sets out
the relarionship between family members, and records births. deaths, marriages,
divorces and adoptions. The koseki is based on a particular view of the family,
centered on a heterosexual couple with children, and placing importance on
birth order. The koseki system can also, however. accommodate some other
ways of making families such as adoption. The current system assumes a two-generation
nuclear family of two parents and children, unlike the pre-1945
system which assumed a stem family with a patriachal head who passed on
property and authoriry according to rules of patrilineality and primogeniture.