How to get married in Japan?

Some people say marriage is gamble. Then international marriage is riskier one?  Maybe Yes.  There are cultural difference, difficulties in communication, different taste of food and so on. But if you feel happy with your partner, it’s blissful and connection to other country may broaden your world.  In addition to some challenges which international couples may have after marriage, some documentation are required for international marriage, but it is not difficult as we explain in this article.


Documents required for marriage

Kon-in Todoke

Firstly, you have to prepare a Kon-in Todoke, a notification of marriage, and submit it to Japanese municipal government office located where either party to a marriage live or where a family register of either party are kept. Only this notification constitute a legal marriage in Japan. Ceremonies performed by religious  bodies are not considered as legal marriage in Japan.

Kon-in Todoke need to be written in Japanese and signatures from 2 witnesses are required. Person of any nationality who is 20 years old or older can be a witness.

Other Documents

Together with Kon-in Todoke, you need to prepare following documents:

1.  Proof of identity of both party, such as passport or drivers license
2.  Koseki Tohon, a copy of family register of Japanese party
3.  Kon-in Yoken Gubi Shomeisho

Kon-in Yoken Gubi Shomeisho is an official letter which certifies the non-Japanese party’s legal capacity to marry under Japanese law issued by the embassy or the consulate of the country of non-Japanese party.

One of the main purpose of requirement for this documents is to avoid bigamy, like Puccini’s Madama Butterfly situation.


Some countries does not issue Kon-in Yoken Gubi Shomeisho. In such case, a sworn affidavit of competency to marry, affirming they are legally free to marry, in front of their own country’s embassy or consulate can be used instead. Kon-in Yoken Gubi Shomeisho or alternate affidavit need to be translated into Japanese, specifying the name of translator.

Kon-in Todoke Juri Shomeisho

Once the marriage procedures are completed, you may ask the municipal government office to issue a Kon-in Todoke Juri Shomeisho, a certificate of acceptance of notification of marriage. You need to keep Kon-in Todoke Juri Shomeisho because it is necessary to validate the marriage in the country of non-Japanese party and to change the status of residence.


Validity of marriage in other countries

When Kon-in Todoke is accepted by the municipal government office, the marriage become effective in Japan. But it does not mean your marriage is valid in the country of non-Japanese party.  So he or she needs to submit Kon-in Todoke Juri Shomeisho to his/her country’s embassy or other organization located in Japan.  It is advisable to check with the embassy or other organization what other documents or procedures required to validate the marriage in the country.


Changing surname

When Japanese couple marry, one party need to change its surname to the other’s. But international couple does not need to change their family name. However, if one party wants to change its surname to the other’s, he or she can do so by submitting the notification of surname change to the mayor of local municipality within 6 months from marriage.

Status of Residence

After getting married with Japanese, non-Japanese can apply for Spouse of Japanese Visa.

Spouse of Japanese visa has no limitation for activities.  So, basically, holders of the Visa can take any job.

The period of the status of residence is determined by Immigration from 6 months, 1 year, 3 years or 5 years.

Since there were many fake marriage to get the status of residence, Immigration carefully examines whether or not their marriage is real one. In this purpose, they look into how the couple met and started dating before marriage. They also check the common language between the parties. Furthermore, Immigration examines whether they have no major financial problem living in Japan.  So, you may be requested to submit many documents in addition to the documents required by laws.

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BY ATSURO TSUJINO (a Lawyer in Osaka)