(yōshi). Unlike American or European adoption practice, which is aimed at providing homes for orphans and at providing childless couples with children, Japanese adoption is concerned with providing for the continuity of a household (ie) over time; adoption may also be used for elite families to create political or economic alliances. Japanese adoptees are almost always adult or adolescent relatives of the adopting house; thus, their natal families and social history are known, and relations between the houses continue. The adoption of an infant or older child whose background cannot be traced is rare in Japan. The most prevalent form of Japanese adoption today involves the adoption of a son-in-law (muko yōshi) by his in-laws. Here, the husband of a daughter of a house takes his wife's surname and becomes the successor to his wife's father as head of the household. A man who consents to be adopted as a son-in-law usually has at least one brother to ensure the continuity of his own house. Also, the adoption of a married couple, though rare, is still legally possible. Japanese infants and children who are orphaned through accident or illness are almost always adopted and brought up by their relatives. (adapted from Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. Tokyo: Kodansha, 1993)
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