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Marriage in Japan between 2 Gaikokujins

If, like myself, you find your soul mate in Japan and s/he is also a foreigner in Japan, you may, as I did wonder how your marriage fits into the Japan system and what to do. In fact it is not all that complicated, well what I mean is that it is not much more complicated than an international marriage between a Japanese and a foreigner. All the same paperwork and procedures apply barring ones relating to a Japanese spouse. If both of you are from countries which have well established ties with Japan and who have embassies and consulates which are used to handling marriages in Japan of its citizens and the related paperwork (i.e. the U.S.A., the U.K., most EU countries, etc.) then the procedure is much swifter and organized and the staff at the ward office will also be used to dealing with the paperwork even in English.
However; if you marry a person from a country with weaker ties with Japan and if there are not so many of its citizens living in Japan, you may find that the marriage procedure becomes a little more complicated and embassy staff as well as ward office staff are unsure of what documents are actually required.
In my case I am from the U.K. and my husband is from a country called Albania. Documents for my marriage on the U.K. side were relatively simple to acquire and the procedure was well explained on the embassy website and the embassy staff were able to advise me on every step. Also when I went to the ward office all my paperwork went through without a hitch as everybody seemed to know what was going on. Unfortunately, my husband’s paperwork turned into a bit of a nightmare.
As it seems to be rarer for Albanians to marry in Japan no one really knew what the system was and therefore we spent a lot of time waiting while the ward office staff rang around trying to find out what was required. In the end we ended up having to do a lot more work than the average couple marrying in Japan. In addition to the normal paperwork (outlined in a previous blog entitled, “Getting Married in Japan”) we were also required to find an original copy of the Albanian Family Code (which we did not have to do for my side) and then translate the relevant clauses of the code into Japanese and submit the original copy along with the translation. This meant that we had to have a copy of the Albanian Family Code sent to us from Albanian with a copy of the page proving that it was in fact the actual Family Code and this made our marriage take a long time to get through. Also because Japanese staff at the ward office were not used to seeing documents from Albania such as Birth Certificates it took us a long time to explain and convince staff that they really were what we said they were. The first day at the ward office took us 5 hours after which we were sent away again to get the Family Code and when we returned a week later we spent another 3 hours at the ward office. Talk about killing the romance.
I wasn’t so much annoyed at the fact that we were required to submit more items but rather with the fact that it was all so pointless as we were allowed to translate the Family Code and other documents by ourselves so we could have written anything we wanted in order to speed along our marriage and no one would have noticed anyway. So if there is no vertication of the Family Code, etc. what exactly is the point of the ward office relying on the hearsay of two foreigners.
My final words of advice to any foreigners wishing to marry in Japan; if you are two foreigners from countries like the U.S.A. or the U.K., etc. your embassy or consulate should be able to tell you exactly what you need to do and in what order. If you find yourself in my situation it will be better for you to bring as many documents as you can with you to the ward office and let the ward office staff advise you. You may have to come more than once but I believe this is unavoidable.
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