Japan and the United States are the leading nations in adoption rates, albeit with one big difference. Whereas the largest number of adoptees in the United States are children and youngsters, the largest number of adoptees in Japan is composed of men in their twenties and early thirties but there is a valid and convincing explanation for this inverse in practice.
According to the Japanese civil code, family inheritance is passed along male lines, and tradition decreed that it went to the eldest son. If a household had daughters only, it meant that there was no one whom the family wealth could be passed on to and this in turn necessitated the need to adopt sons who could then carry on the family name. This could also happen in instances where a biological son was deemed as unsuitable to inherit the family wealth. As a result, therefore, families with many younger sons would send them out to be adopted by those who needed potential heirs.
Though the practice of adult male adoption started during the Second World War, it’s still a rampant practice even in the present times, especially among the big family businesses. It is believed that business skills and acumen are not faithfully hereditary hence not just any male family member may automatically qualify as a possible heir. Again, the male adoption is further fueled by the declining birthrates being witnessed in Japan today. Top businesses, therefore, have made it a habit to adopt sons within their most promising managers. For example, Suzuki, Toyota, Kajima and Canon have all adopted sons from their best performing managers to manage the businesses.
When such adoptions take place in Japan, a daughter of the adopting family is usually given in marriage to the man, who then changes his name to the family name of the adopters. In this manner, the family name will remain alive for many more years to come.