My husband and I decided to get married sometime in 2015. Or it may even have been 2014, I’m not entirely sure. Us deciding to get married and him actually proposing were separate events; the proposal came later. Anyway, once this decision was reached we started researching the various different requirements, because Japan is the Land of the Rising Levels of Paperwork, and we had a feeling it wasn’t going to be easy.
To start with, if you’re looking to change the status of your visa (or apply for a visa as a spouse of a Japanese national) and your spouse is your guarantor/sponsor, there are certain financial requirements that need to be met. We were not in that situation (my work visa was still valid for another few years) so that was okay. Still, other things needed to be done.
- A copy of the foreign national’s birth certificate is required. So, since Her Majesty’s Passport Office had managed to lose my birth certificate several years ago, in April 2015 I requested and paid for an official copy of said certificate. This should be translated into Japanese, but the local office to which we went allowed the translation to be done by us as opposed to being performed by an official translation company. This translation was carried out by simply photocopying the certificate and writing the Japanese translation on the copy, next to the English. I raised an eyebrow somewhat at that, but apparently it was all legit.
- An Affidavit or Affirmation of Marital Status form is required. This is equivalent to the 婚姻要件具備証明書 (kon-in-youken-gubi-shoumeisho, certificate of legal capacity to be married) requested by some places/on some websites. As you might guess from the long name, this one is a bit more complicated than the birth certificate. An Affidavit is worded for more religious purposes and an Affirmation is for non-religious types (like us), but they amount to the same thing. They can be found on the British Embassy website, together with a helpful example. Please take care to print either document double-sided! Additionally, my own advice: it is okay to be slightly vague about exactly when and where you will get married if this has not been 100% decided (or even if it has, to be honest, since you never know what might happen)! After that, you need to book an appointment at the British Embassy (either in Tokyo or Osaka; I went to Tokyo) and go there yourself (Japanese partner not technically necessary) along with your British passport, birth certificate, proof of current address (your 在留カード (zairyuu kaado, Residence Card) will suffice if you are already living in Japan), the documents to sign and the money to pay for said signing. At the time I went, it cost about fifty pounds which, according to the exchange rate at the time was a little over ¥10,000 but is now only about ¥7000 thanks to the crash in the value of the pound following the EU referendum! If you have been widowed, divorced or changed your name by Deed Poll, you’ll need to take the documents relating to those events too. In fact, this information and more can be found in this pdf from the British Embassy website. Don’t forget NOT to sign the Affirmation or Affidavit finally until you are in the presence of an Embassy official! Furthermore, you should get this Affidavit or Affirmation officially signed within three months of your intended marriage date. We had some minor issues with both that and the date I had written on the form (since life happened and our marriage date actually moved several times), so take care on that front. It is largely down to how picky your registrar person is at the local government office, but better safe than sorry, right?
- You need your fiancé’s 戸籍謄本 (koseki touhon, an official copy of the family register). He will have to request it from the office where his family’s register is kept, so make sure you also allow enough time for that.
- You absolutely must have a 婚姻届 (kon-in-todoke, marriage registration) form!! This can be obtained from any local government office, not necessarily the one at which you will register your marriage. It can also be obtained way beforehand. It can also be filled in beforehand, which I strongly recommend! It is undoubtedly the most complicated document of the whole process, and unless you are completely fluent and confident in Japanese I wholly advise that your get your fiancé to check everything before putting ink to paper. What we actually did was (with reference to helpful Japanese guides online) to write everything out in pencil first, take it to a local government office first to get everything checked, and then write everything in pen the night before we actually went to submit the paperwork. To my knowledge you should write the 妻 (tsuma, wife) part of the form in your own hand, but I guess your fiancé can help you out there as much as you feel comfortable with. As for the two witnesses necessary; we actually got two of my husband’s friends to fill out their part of the marriage registration form before we’d actually written anything ourselves, lol. Furthermore, we got them to sign two copies just in case we made an awful mess of one copy and had to start over. That would never fly in England! Another eyebrow raised on my part, but so far so good.
- Your fiancé needs to use his 印鑑 (inkan, personal seal), but you don’t have to. This was fab for me, since mine was made for me by my old company and I don’t like it very much because it was just my first name written in katakana, not even my family name like all other Japanese people (sigh).
- You should take your passport with you when you register the marriage, too. I took my residence card with me as well since that’s what the Internet told me to do, but the guy didn’t ask to look at that at all, although he did photocopy every single page(!) of my passport instead.
- If I remember correctly, your fiancé should also take some other form of identification, such as a passport or driver’s license.
If you have all of these bits and pieces together, then you’re good! From what I have been informed by many Japanese friends, you can register your marriage 24/7, 365 days a year, more or less anywhere in Japan. Some places and websites tell you that you should go to the office near your or your partner’s home, but as far as I am aware that is not strictly true* (*please don’t sue me over this, I don’t know for sure). We went to the place near my apartment because it is what I had written on the Affirmation (see what I mean about being careful about what you write on there?) on a public holiday in May, on the basis that our anniversary will always be a day off work, yay. The only issue about going on a public holiday is that the office will not have the full complement of staff, so if there is any problem with the paperwork you will not find out until after the fact! Thus, if your marriage date is important to you, you should (as we did, like I mentioned above) go to your government office beforehand and get the documents checked by officials on a non-holiday day.
I have read online that you do not both need to go, and that may well be true. However we did go together, it being a public holiday and all, and after no wait whatsoever this old man came out, took all of our documents, checked all of the supporting documents, squinted at my birth certificate and Affirmation while lamenting the fact that he didn’t know a lick of English, photocopied my passport and then timed, dated and signed our marriage registration form. Congratulations, you’re married! As simple and boring as that. He took a photo of us holding the completed certificate – several photos, actually, since my now-husband’s hair was a disaster in the first one, lol. When a friend of mine got married they were able to pay for a more fancy-looking actual certificate but we didn’t do any of that: no certificate, no actual paperwork on the day, just submitting documents! Thoroughly unromantic, but easy enough on the actual day once you get all the other bits organised beforehand.
After we got married we went on a nice date, because otherwise the day would have been nothing but boring paperwork, lol.
One important thing to note! Although your name will be added to your husband’s family register, because you are a foreigner your surname will not automatically officially change according to Japanese law! That is a whole different process which, at the time of this post, I have not yet completed and which requires further dealings with paperwork in the UK.
I hope this post is informative and/or useful to someone in the future. Any questions or comments are entirely welcome! – although I do hasten to remind you that I only have my personal experience to go by, and will not guarantee that other experiences will be 100% the same as mine.