From Cambodia to Japan

A Cambodian Student Looks at Life in Two Different Worlds

Your surname or my surname?

So if you are married to a Japanese citizen, by Japanese law, you have two options regarding your surname: (1) either change it or (2) have your spouse adopted yours.

That' s one fascinating fact about Japanese civil code. All legally married couples are required by law to share a surname. Siblings, likewise, have to share a single family name. Although the law grants equal rights to both spouses to decide whose surname to retain, in practice, it’s the wife who usually chooses to surrender her maiden name, and takes the husband’s.

In recent year, there have been calls from many Japanese women right groups to change the law so that married couples can assume separate family names. Critics of the law describe it as a discrimination against women, and that it interferes too much into citizen’s personal life.

Cambodia's case

Cambodian culture is strikingly different from Japan in term of family naming.
In Srok Khmer, there’s no law that forces married couples to have a single surname. Husband and wife generally retain their maiden names respectively after marriage, although it’s customary that children inherit surname from their father.

In certain cases, however, children adopt their mother’s surnames instead of their father’s. For example, when couples divorce, the mother who win children’s custody sometimes registers children with her surname.
Even when the couples are not divorced, children sometimes have different surnames. For example, an elder brother might take his father’s surname, while the younger brother will take his mother’s. This is because, unlike in Japan, there is no law that requires couples to decide the surname of their children when they marry, or law that requires all siblings to have the same surname.

There are also cases in which children share both parent’s surnames. For example, if the father’s surname if “Sok”, and the mother’s is “Chan”, then the children’s surname could either be “Sok Chan” or “Chan Sok”. The reason why such practice exists is mainly due to the fact that Cambodian culture, unlike Japanese, doesn’t place importance on a single family name.
Do you think Japan should change the law by allowing married couples to have separate family name? Or do you think Cambodia should create a law that require married couples to share a single surname?

***For articles related to the Family Name Issues in Japan, you can go here:

1. Keiko Watanabe, The “Double Surnames” Issue in Japan, September 17, 2006
2. Discussion forum: Japanese surname after marriage

Khmer Krom Recipe

I just came across this incredible website. It has excellent instructions on how to cook Khmer food. As of now, there are 561 recipes, ranging from appetizers( Mahope-Sra) to salad( Nhoam) to soup( samlor) to dessert and drinks. Each recipe is neatly written, and is accompanied with a picture of the sample dish.

The site's name is Khmer Krom Recipe. But as I dug through its contents, I realized most of the recipes are basically the same as Khmer Kandal's. Yet there are a lot of yummy-looking dish that I've never seen or tried. Since I'm a very bad cook, who knows only a few Khmer dish, I hope to learn a few recipes from this site. Big thank to the creators of this page.

If you're interested, you can go here : Khmer Krom Recipe. Scroll down to see the details of each recipe.

Postcards From Cambodia

Some photos of my family I took during my recent trip to Cambodia.

My three year-old niece Kosoma.

Sunrise in Kampong Speu, Cambodia

Butterfly and flower around my house.

My niece Kesor Seyhak and my cousin Thalim.

My niece Kesor Seyhak


Of Drinking and Altruism

“Sometimes when I reflect back on all the beer I drink I feel ashamed. Then I look into the glass and think about the workers in the brewery and all of their hopes and dreams. If I didn't drink this beer, they might be out of work and their dreams would be shattered. Then I say to myself, 'It is better that I drink this beer and let their dreams come true than to be selfish and worry about my liver.' ” ~ Jack Handy

A Song From the Past: " Batt Oun"

Dedicated to you. A Khmer song from the past. " Batt Oun". Written and sung by prince Sisovath Panara Sereyvuth in the 1960s, it quickly became a big hit in Cambodia( As well as in France, if the commentator in YouTube is correct). This song is arguably one of the greatest Khmer songs of all time.

Hour Lavy, another Cambodian singer who gained fame in the early 1990s, has his own version of this song. Same melody, same lyric, buth entirely different voice. Still nice, nonetheless.

Interestingly, Hang Meas production, a leading music production company in Cambodia, has recently released the same song ( sung by Preab Sovath) , though it's not as good as the previous two versions.