So You Want to Get Married in Japan

IMG_3417So no posts for two weeks. Trust me, there were good reasons. Reason one was that my mother made her first international trip and came to visit. If you saw the TV show I was on you will have seen that my brothers and I gave her the tickets for her 65th birthday. On a related note…

You’ll be able to see more about what happened on TBS’s Motemote 99 show in a few weeks. Make sure you’re following on twitter or Facebook if you want updates on when the show will air.. It’s bound to be an interesting ride. For those of you not in Japan you’ll just have to deal with my pictures rather than see it in all its HD glory.

Rather than get into the details (I’ll do that after the show airs), I thought I would share my experience with the legal side preparing to get married in Japan while it’s still fresh in my mind. I’ve yet to endure/experience/enjoy the ceremony and party side of things as we *hope* to tackle that later this year.


Like most people, I had no idea what I was getting into but figured it would 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 cant 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 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. 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.



On a completely different note, we passed over 100,000 views while I was away. I know it’s not a lot compared to some sites out there, but I really do appreciate all the support and your comments. Here’s to another great year of posts on MoreThingsJapanese!

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!