Mar 5

Getting Married in Japan

Posted by Benjamin Martin, a JET from 2008-2013 in Okinawa, publisher of the blog and author of Revenge of the Akuma Clan

This post is an excerpt from the original on my blog, here to help anyone in Japan who might be considering settling down. Like most people, I had no idea what I was getting into but figured the process might not be quite as straight forward as going to a local court and signing some papers… I don’t think Kume Island even has a court…

I did what most would do and googled it. The American Embassy site explains the process quite clearly for US citizens. I’m sure most other countries have similar information available for their expats. It gives all the basic information, and I went to my local town hall to confirm. Since I live in such a small community it was rather easy and quick to get everything I need, but unlike large cities the offices are not open 24/7.

The first step for Americans is filling out the Affidavit of Competency to Marry and having it translated (or translate it yourself). On a side note, the legal marriage is called nyuseki (入籍) in Japan. For me this was easy as I followed the example provided on the site above. One thing to watch out for is the part where you write your passport number and issuing local. For me it turned out to be the Department of State and not a city so I had to rewrite the form at the last-minute.

To get the forms notarized you have to make an appointment with the embassy, which are limited and cost $50.  It was a pain (though the staff were very nice) and I had to make a special trip into the mainland to do it. With the added security you’ll want to give yourself plenty of time. You can’t even get to the gate without your appointment slip so don’t forget it. With the form in hand your work is done as far as preparations go.

Getting Married

IMG_2541All you should need at the town (city) hall is your passport and the competency form (notarized English and Japanese translation). Then you can fill out the form and have your partner do the same. If your partner is Japanese they’ll need their own forms (such as family register) which they can get at their own local town or city hall. You’ll also want to decide if your partner will be changing their honseki (permanent residence) at that time or at a later date. For foreigners you just write your nationality (in Japanese).

One good piece of advice I received and will pass on here is to go a day before you actually marry to have your forms checked over (you can get them in advance). Since the day you marry is often important in Japan, you can avoid having the date of marriage delayed due to a typo and re-entered form. As a foreigner, I filled in my name in Katakana and the rest in Japanese (be careful here, especially if you have a middle name. They originally tried to talk me into writing my middle and family name together, which would mean my wife would have to go by that rather than just Martin!). My significant other filled out the form in Japanese and had to fill out a separate form to take my name. Both forms are straight forward, though there’s a section about household work. For those of us who lived alone, it’s whatever work we were doing. For my partner it was the primary work of her father and mother. It’s something the person in charge can help you answer.

You’ll need two witnesses as well (remind them to bring their seals!). If everything is in order they’ll announce everything is alright and you’ll be legally married. You will also be able to get your notice of marriage certificates sometime after that (I got mine later that day).

All in all it was not a difficult process.. but you’ll see that (or read about it in a later post). It helped that we planned ahead and communicated with the town hall.

One thing to note is that when a Japanese person marries a foreigner they are removed from their family register and become a family of one. Until they have a child they are legally their own family (unless you become a Japanese citizen which does not happen automatically). That’s a big deal in Japan.

Also, if you’re reading this and you happen to be a wedding planner/cake maker/do everything so we don’t have to er/ in Japan willing to donate (cough cough) your services… let me know!

P.S. You might note this post is a bit lacking in any info on what happened around the form signing.  Keep an eye on TBS’s Motemote99 TV show in Japan to see what really happened.

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