1. What is a koseki?
A koseki is also known as an Official Family Registry. Koseki are maintained at municipal offices in the town, city or village that a family considers their home. The head of household, usually the oldest son, periodically records updates to koseki.
Koseki are considered extremely private in nature and protected by the Japanese government. Koseki are only maintained for 80 years after the most recent entry. After 80 years, the koseki are set aside and most likely destroyed.
2. What is an Official Family Registry?
An Official Family Registry is also known as a koseki.
3. Will the Official Family Registry or koseki contain a complete family history?
Not necessarily. Koseki will only reflect the information updated by the head of
household. There may be information on cousins, extended family and others, plus
significant dates and events not recorded. In addition, some koseki may not have any
entries for years or decades and as a result, dates may vary slightly from personal
family or oral history recollections.
4. How can I order a Family Tree Project?
Please contact The Rafu Shimpo offices during working hours at (213) 629-2231 or
email to [email protected] to schedule an appointment.
5. What information do you need to start a Family Tree Project?
In order for The Rafu Shimpo to undertake a Family Tree Project, we need the name
of the first generation ancestor or Issei member of the family, how that name is written
in kanji, the hometown of the first generation ancestor and Power of Attorney to
research on behalf of the descendant.
We will request the birth certificate of the person requesting the Family Tree Project
and information showing the relationship to the first generation ancestor. This may
include birth certificates of other family members or a hand-drawn family tree with
6. I do not know how to write my ancestor’s name in Japanese characters. Can I
still request a Family Tree Project?
Yes, we will research to determine the kanji for your ancestor.
7. I do not know where my ancestor grew up or was born. Can I still request a
Family Tree Project?
Yes, we will research to determine the hometown of your ancestor.
8. How long will a Family Tree Project take?
Our project will last approximately three months. However, we will try to expedite
most projects for a slightly shorter delivery time.
When a particular Family Tree Project becomes extremely complex or encounters
research problems, the delivery date may have to be extended beyond the original
9. What will I receive if I order a Family Tree Project?
You will receive a family tree showing your ancestry in Japan as described in the
koseki. This family tree will come in either a book cover or framed. In addition, you
will receive paperwork describing your family history (when available), a timeline of
Japanese history, a copy of the family tree, a summary of the koseki in English and
Japanese and a copy of the koseki obtained by Rafu Shimpo agents in Japan.
10. Will my Family Tree Project reflect my entire family?
The Family Tree Project will list family members and significant events as described
through entries in your koseki. The Project will not detail names, dates or events
known by the family but not entered into the koseki . You will need to provide family
tree information about your family living in the United States (outside of Japan).
11. Am I allowed to cancel a Family Tree Project after ordering?
You will be allowed to cancel your Family Tree Project within five working days after
the order and receive a full refund. Cancellation requests after five working days can
be accepted and you may receive a partial refund, depending on the costs incurred
and how much work has been completed on your Family Tree Project.
12. Can I obtain my koseki or Official Family Registry on my own?
You may apply directly to the town which maintains your family koseki. Responses
from the towns will vary—many may require an in-person application. Also remember
that koseki are written in Japanese. There are resources available on the internet to
help guide you or get you started if you wish to apply directly.
13.Who can request a koseki or Official Family Registry?
Only a descendant of the family in question or an agent with the Power of Attorney
representing the descendant may request and receive a koseki, given the very private
nature of koseki.
14. What will a Power of Attorney be used for?
The Power of Attorney will allow the named representative to request and receive
documents, including this particular family’s koseki. The Power of Attorney will be
limited to the Family Tree Project and related research and have a limited period of
15. What is a Family Crest?
Also known as a kamon or mon is a symbol used to identify an individual clan or family
dating back to the 11th or 12th century. There are around 12,000 different kamon,
including those used by some modern corporations.