The Family Registration Act dictates that notifications about the vital events of all Japanese nationals starting with their birth must be made to the municipal office. Family registry is the system used to record the births, deaths, marriages and divorces of Japanese nationals and comes under national affairs; however, mayors are delegated to administer these affairs on the government's behalf. Thus the vital records of every Japanese national are entered into a registry book called the Koseki or Family Register and kept at the local municipal office. As each family register covers all the members of one family identified by the name and permanent address of the person appearing first in the family register otherwise referred to as the head of the family or "Hittosha" in Japanese, and all the vital records thereof, people use the family register extensively for various purposes, including as a document to certify birth, marriage, death, divorce, adoption, etc. and as such there is a high demand for the translation thereof. An applicant can apply for a copy of his family's register for a nominal fee in one of the following two formats.
1. Koseki Tohon
A document containing the full details of an entire family's register including the records of all the members certified by mayor of the city is called a Koseki Tohon, or Certified Copy of Family Register. It is an exact duplicate of the original Koseki.
2. Koseki Shohon
A document containing part of a family register with a record of only one particular member of the family or with a particular status is called a Koseki Shohon or Certified Copy of Abridged Family Register.
Translation of Koseki
The Koseki or family register begins with the name of the head of the family and his legal domicile. The legal domicile is based on that notified by the applicant and remains the same until and unless notified otherwise, therefore, it may or may not have any connection with the place of a that person's actual domicile but this address determines what government office controls the Koseki. The columns for other family members follow, first with the spouse and then the children in the order they are born from eldest to youngest. By law, the family register may only contain up to two generations, therefore, when a child marries, he/she must be "removed" from that particular family register and form a new one with his/her spouse.
The status contained in the family register include his/her own birth, marriage, divorce if any, parental authority arrangement of a child, adoption if any, birth of his/her child, death and all these events must be notified of within certain time frame in order that these vital records may be recorded in the family register.
I personally enjoy "reading" Koseki Tohons. I find them to be very powerful and insightful stories into the lives of individuals compressed into a few lines, which makes me ponder about what sort of eventful lives these people must have lived.
Computerization of Koseki
In the past Koseki were hand written or later typed up onto paper and entered in a book on a shelf in the city office. However, nowadays by law, these records must be computerized and digitized under law. These new computerized or digitized formats are called Zenbujikoshomei or Certification for All Items, Kojinjikoshomei or Certification for Personal Items) or Ichibujikoshoumei (Certification for Partial Items). Translation of such computerized Koseki formats are far easier to translate.
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