Legal procedures may vary from country to country, and marriage is no different. A marriage certificate is often a major step for many in settling down; in Japan, the process might be time-saving, even for foreigners. The basics of securing a marriage document in Japan is actually quite easy.
What it’s like to get married in Japan
Civil Wedding versus Traditional Wedding
Japan is among the top countries people of foreign nationals love to travel to, and now, it’s even becoming an ideal place to get married and settle down. As per the 2017 survey, more than 20,000 couples or 3.5% of marriages were between a Japanese person and a foreign national in the country.
※ Japan in Statistics, "Demographic Survey Demographic Statistics Confirmed Number Marriage"
One reason behind this could be the uncomplicated process in getting married. In Japan, the legality of the marriage under the law holds more considerable significance over traditional rites. First and foremost, the marriage needs to be registered in the municipal office of their residence. It’s plainly done in a city ward or office. In terms of legality of marriage, that’s it! You could be legally married through a piece of paper and skip all the conventional practices.
Couples who wish to hold religious celebrations or cultural traditions have weddings in shrines, hotels, or wedding halls, which are deemed bigger and grander. Additionally, unlike civil weddings, traditional ceremonies follow particular standards in clothing, rituals, and formal meals. Looking at this considerable contrast, we can say Japanese weddings are dominantly authorized by law and government but are still partly grounded in their customs and traditions.
What to expect in registering your marriage
At the registration office, secure a copy and fill up Registration of Marriage form (婚姻届 Kon-in Todoke). This form contains necessary information such as your names, date of birth, nationalities, and date of marriage. You will need at least two witnesses to sign the registration document. For Japanese witnesses, their personalized seals (inkan) are used to recognize the validity of their signatures. As soon as you acquire a copy of the proof of marriage, the “Certificate of Acceptance of Notification of Marriage” form (Kon-in Todoke Juri Shomeisho), and without further ado, you may now be declared as legally married in Japan! It’s as fast as a couple of minutes; sometimes, including the wait, it won’t take up even an hour! The single piece of paper is written in Japanese, and if there’s a need for other uses, you will be responsible for processing its translation to your desired language.
Legal Benefits of Getting Married in Japan
There are a significant number of perks on why couples would prefer to get married in Japan. One benefit is that it guarantees your freedom to stay in the country which is valid for life. If you marry a permanent resident in the country, you will now also be eligible to attain a permanent resident visa. It automatically abstains you from any restrictions in your activities、such as in terms of types of jobs and transactions.
Another major benefit is the attainment of a spousal visa. A spousal visa expands your partner’s bounds in the type of job he/she could apply for. It entails more freedom and an increase in career opportunities while in Japan. Lastly, there could be a dependent visa grant. This visa merely allows the spouse to stay in the country if he/she is financially dependent on his/her partner that is professionally deployed in Japan.
Requirements needed to get married in Japan
Just like any other country, Japan constitutes a set of requirements for foreign marriages in their land. Complying with these is pivotal in acknowledging the legality of the wedding.
Age is mainly a critical requirement to comply with. A male partner must not be younger than 18, and a female partner must not be younger than 16. Take note that if the foreign country of your partner requires a higher minimum age, that would still apply.
Those below 20 years old may still be considered minors, thus needing to secure an approval letter from one or both of their parents.
Women who had divorced in the last six months cannot proceed to marriage to avoid possible paternal issues if she is pregnant.
Marriage between two people who are related by blood (consanguinity), other marriage (affinity), and even adoption are strongly prohibited.
※ Japanese Law Translation, "Civil Code (Part IV and Part V (Tentative translation)"
Important Documents Needed
Any proof of identification like passport, resident card, or even driver’s license should be presented.
You need to secure a Certificate of No Impediment to Marriage. It’s one of the first documents you need to procure on your visit to the home country’s consulate or embassy office in Japan that supports you are both legally free to get married.
Certificate of Marriage Notification must be completely filled out. This is available at the municipal office of the couple’s residence in Japan.
Original copy of Birth Certificate is not always required, but it’s best to bring one as it’s a supplemental document for identification.
Lastly, all documents to be submitted must have Japanese translations.
Spending will mostly be associated with the documents needed to be processed. Prepare around 5,000 JPY for the “Affidavit of Competency to Marry” and around 500 JPY to 1500 JPY for the “Certificate of Marriage Notification.” If you wish to hire English to-Japanese translation services, expect to pay approximately 2500 JPY on an hourly basis. There shouldn’t be additional expenses unless the couple wants to hold further events after the registration of marriage.
※ U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Japan, U.S. Citizen Services, "Marriage"
Other things to know
Japan legally does not recognize same-sex marriage. But over the years, it started welcoming same-sex partnerships in certain areas. It was back in 2015 when same-sex “Partnership Certificates” were first issued in Shibuya, as a motion to support marriage equality and protection against discrimination. This document grants rights to couples in applying for public housing, hospital visitation, child custody, or even signing surgical consent for their partners. Not long after, other cities like Setagaya, Iga in Mie Prefecture, Takarazuka in Hyogo Prefecture, and Naha in Okinawa adopted the system.
Since then, a growing list of cities and regions in Japan recognizes same-sex partnership certificates that are increasingly booming in L.G.B.T. awareness. Nevertheless, after being considered as a huge leap in Japan’s growing recognition of same-sex unions, it remains legally unbinding. That signifies the document does not bear power on institutionalizing inheritance, taxes, family discounts, and other legal benefits between the couple, just as how heterosexual marriages do. While change is arguably slow in Japan, it remains to see if Japan will join other Asian countries in recognizing same-sex couples, especially since a growing majority of the population seems to be for it.
※ The Guardian, World, "Same-sex couple receives Japan's first 'partnership' certificate"
Requirements for specific nationalities
Some specific nationalities have to comply with special stipulations, for example, if the legal age in their home country is 18, you have to abide by the stated legal age before getting married even if you are in Japan. For US citizens, the US passport, together with the sworn “Affidavit of Competency to Marry” from the US Embassy, is needed. The form contains both English and Japanese portions. Processing the affidavit usually costs less than $50 for a notarial fee and is valid for three months. Prepare these with the other standard requirements and you can get your marriage registered in the municipal office in Japan.
※ U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Japan, U.S. Citizen Services, "Marriage"
For UK citizens, the processing is not simple. First, they must also get the same affidavit, which is only available at the British Embassy in Tokyo. Print a copy of an affirmation form from the British Embassy website, and sign it before the consular staff at your appointment day at the embassy. Please note that you can only appoint the date of your wedding once you have a certified copy of your full form birth certificate. A 50-pound admin fee will be asked to complete the affirmation. You will also receive the document in English, so it’s a must to have it translated to Japanese before going to the registration office.
※ Gov.UK, Japan – Consular Fees, "Consular Fees"
Most procedures are the same for other foreign nationalities like Australia and Canada, which start with requesting the form of “No Impediment” from their respective embassies and following the rest of the procedures. Still, keep in mind that each state has varying rules, so it is best to inquire with their designated consular offices.
International marriage is gladly welcomed in Japan, to tie the knot at the courthouse or the church, or anywhere literally, as long as you prepare the necessary documents, submit and acquire the marriage certificate - fast and easy, the piece of paper confirms you are legally married. Getting married might not be exhausting at all in Japan. If you are working and do not have personal time, and not enough work leaves, choosing to get married in this country is more convenient, right? And keep in mind the privileges such as residency and occupational opportunities it offers.