Adopting Men in Japan

In Japan, over 90% of people who are adopted are what age?

And the answer: adults.

Japan has the world's second highest adoption rate, but most of the people adopted are adult men in their 20s and 30s. The strategy goes back thousands of years, when business owners without sons needed a successor to keep the business in the family.

This unique, Japanese-style style adoption is commonly referred to as Mukoyoshi. It is an ancient practice that is believed to have started the first generational business practice. Some 1300 years ago, it is said that the god of Mount Haku visited Buddhist monk Taicho Daishi in a dream and told him to find a hot spring in nearby village. When Daishi discovered the spring, he ordered his pupil Garyo Hoshi to build a guest house. Garyo Hoshi, in turn, preached Buddhism to his visitors and adopted a son as his successor who took his childhood name Zengoro. According to Guinness World Records, this is the first known instance of family business inheritance.

Today, the practice remains popular. Many large companies are still considered to be family-run businesses through this system of adoption. When it comes time to pass the torch, company owners will adopt their daughter's husband or another young, capable man. The young man will then change his name to that of the business.

Did you know?

Only 150 years ago, people did not have family names unless they came from a significant social class of Samurai. Often, when people added or changed their family names, it was an honor or award for an accomplishment or aspiration.

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