Getting Married in Japan

Getting Married in Japan

Getting Married in Japan 結婚

Marriage in Japan

If you are thinking about getting married in Japan, your first thoughts probably veer towards the wedding ceremony. In addition, however, you will have to jump through the bureaucratic hoops to become legally registered. We will first look briefly at ceremony options, and then the all-important registration procedures.

Wedding ceremonies in Japan used to be traditional Shinto affairs. In the last 30 years, though, "chapel weddings" have become the norm.

Wedding Halls

These are all-in-one affairs arranged by wedding factories sprinkled throughout Japan. These wedding multiplexes offer "courses" that simplify and turn the entire event into a package deal: rental clothes, ceremony, dinner, MC, "priest" (often a foreign man with no religious training reading from a script), photographer. Start to finish. These weddings tend to have a bit of a Disneyesque feel, both architecturally and in the ceremony itself.

A second option is go old school: wed at a shrine. Because the traditional shrine ceremony has been supplanted in popularity by the wedding halls noted above, this option has become less expensive. Shrines also will offer the "courses": rental clothes, ceremony, formal meal.

For both, you can consult the Japanese site below (with which JapanVisitor.com has no relationship and towards which bears no responsibility).

Shrine Wedding

Marriage Registration

The easiest way to get married is to just register at the ward office (区役所, kuyakusho). It should be noted that getting married in Japan requires this civil marriage registration (結婚届け、kekkon todoke) by the couple at the Japanese municipal government office for the area in which they reside. This, and only this, constitutes legal matrimony. A ceremony performed by a religious organization - temple, shrine, church, synagogue, etc. - in Japan does not. A form for a non-contested divorce (rikon todoke 離婚届) is equally straight-forwarded.

How then to register?

First, at the ward office you need to get the appropriate form: To complete this the Japanese partner will need to show her/his family register (戸籍謄本, toseki tohon) as proof of identity. Third, both parties will now sign or affix their seal to prove they are who they claim to be. Now you are ready to fill in the actual form.

Last - or perhaps first - you should be aware of the conditions for who is eligible to marry. The Japanese Civil Code, articles 731 to 737, includes the following pre-conditions for marriage:

Conditions for Marriage

1. The male partner must be 18 years or older, the female partner must be 16 years or older. (For Americans, you must be able to legally marry in your home state. If, for example, the legal age of marriage at home is 18, you cannot marry before that in Japan.

2. People under 20 years of age cannot get married in Japan without a parent's approval.

3. A woman is not permitted to get married within six months of the dissolution of her previous marriage. (This is to avoid confusion as to paternity of children.)

4. People related by blood, by adoption, or through other marriages cannot get married in Japan.

5. All foreigners who marry in Japan must prepare a sworn Affidavit of Competency to Marry, affirming they are legally free to marry. This form can be obtained at their country's embassy or consulate in Japan.

6. If one partner is American, s/he must also complete a sworn Affidavit of Competency to Marry at the US Embassy. This form has two parts, one to be completed in English and the other to be completed in Japanese. (You will need to bring your valid U.S. passport and the $30 notarial fee payable in US dollars or yen.)

Same Sex Marriage in Japan

Japan does not yet permit same-sex marriage between gay, lesbian or transgender couples, but since 2009 it has facilitated the marriage overseas of Japanese nationals to foreign nationals of the same sex. In this case, the Japanese national requires a kon'in yoken gubi shomei sho (婚姻要件具備証明), or "certificate of legal capacity to contract marriage." This certificate is also known by the shorter, simpler name of dokushin shomei (独身証明), or "single-status certificate." This certificate is issued by the local authority, i.e. the city, ward, or town hall, and is legal proof that the applicant is of currently unmarried status. Read more about gay Japan.

Useful Links for Getting Married in Japan

US Embassy Page - Marriage Information
Japanese Wedding Information - Kekkon.com


Books on Living in Japan