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Getting Married in Japan

This is for all you romantics out there that plan to marry your Japanese sweetheart in Japan.
I will try to answer all questions you may have concerning where to go, what to do, what you need, etc. by drawing on my own experience.

First of all, getting married in Japan is quite different from what we imagine back home (America in my case). Where in the US you must get a marriage license from the city hall and THEN have the marriage actually performed by a justice of the peace, priest, etc., in Japan the actual marriage takes place the second you submit all of your paperwork to the city office and it is accepted. No ceremonies are necessary (although most people opt to have a ceremony and a reception of some kind).

Said another way, you don't need a marriage license prior to having your ceremony, etc., however your wedding will not be considered official until all the proper paperwork is filed and approved at the city office.

So, what paperwork do you actually need to get married in Japan?
From the Japanese side, the main document you need is the Notification of Marriage (Konin Todoke) available at any city office. In addition to this you will need a copy of your Japanese spouses Family Register (Koseki Tohon) if you are getting married anywhere other than the city where there permanent domicile is registered (the Family Register can only be issued by the city office where the permanent domicile is located, however you can have it sent to you by regular mail if you are not close to your spouses hometown). Most cities also require a Japanese translation of your birth certificate. (Please check with the city you will register your marriage in to verify if this is needed or not.) You will also need your Alien Registration card. Finally, and perhaps most importantly you will need an Affidavit of Competency to Marry notarized by the embassy of your country. This document needs to be submitted in both English and Japanese to your embassy (consulate). They will notarize the English version and you will submit both to the city office. (Note: If you have been married before you will need to submit a copy of your divorce certificate to the embassy before they will notarize your Affidavit. This also needs to be in English so if you were divorced in Japan, a translation of the document is required.)

Once you have your Notification of Marriage, spouses Family Register and Affidavit of Competency to Marry completed, take them to the city office and submit them at the Citizen Services window. They will review all of the documents and usually within 30 minutes or so, your marriage will be registered. No fanfare, no congratulations or anything of the sort, just a call back to the window to return the things they don't need to keep.

It may be a good idea to request a certificate of acceptance for the marriage notification, which can be issued immediately for a nominal fee. In the case of the US, there is no need to register your marriage with the embassy (consulate). You will, however, need the certificate of acceptance in order to apply for a spouse visa to go to the US. (Note: Requirements for registration with your country's embassy (consulate) may be different for other countries so please check with your embassy to be sure.)


Authors Note: This information is based on the author's personal experience and is for informative purposes only and in no way should be construed as legal advice or as official policy of any governmental agency. Please be responsible and research what is needed in your individual case.
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