A Guide to Getting Married in Japan
While holding a traditional Japanese wedding ceremony at a Shinto shrine or exchanging marriage vows in a chapel in a western style may be popular, no religious ceremony can be a substitute for official marriage registration. Therefore, if you want your marriage to be legally recognized in Japan, you must register it at a city or ward office. Although foreign citizens need to submit some additional documentation, the whole process is rather straightforward. Our guide will go over the basic requirements as well as the necessary documents for marriage registration in Japan.
Japanese Civil Code
You can register your marriage in Japan regardless of your residency status as long as you meet the requirements set forth by Japanese Civil Code, follow the laws of your home country, and submit the necessary documents to a ward or city office.
First and foremost, let us go over some of the requirements outlined in the Japanese Civil Code. The minimum age for marriage used to be 18 for men, and 16 for women. However, following the change in the age of adulthood in Japan from April 1st, 2022, it has become 18 for both men and women. Here it is important to mention that women who have reached the age of 16 till April 1st, 2022, would still be able to marry as young as 16 years old if they have parental consent. Please keep in mind that foreign citizens must also meet the minimum legal age for marriage set by their home country. For more information on age restrictions in Japan, be sure to check this article.
There are many nuances to getting married in Japan. If you are already married, you will be unable to marry in Japan unless you divorce or annul your current marriage because you are not permitted to have more than one spouse. Women are not allowed to remarry within six months of divorce. However, there is an exception to this rule. A woman may remarry after giving birth to a child conceived prior to divorce. Lineal and close relatives are not permitted to marry, etc.
After you've confirmed that you meet the requirements stipulated in Japanese civil code, it's time to move on to the next step: gathering and filling out the necessary paperwork.
All documents must be written in Japanese or include a Japanese language translation. Among the documents to be submitted to a city office are “Kon-in Todoke,” “Koseki Tohon” (for Japanese citizens), a certificate of legal capacity to marry (for foreign citizens), and an official identification document recognized in Japan, such as your residency card, passport, etc.
There is always a possibility that additional documentation may be necessary. Therefore, it is best to check with a municipal office in advance. For instance, such documents as a proof of your citizenship or a birth certificate may be required.
What is "Kon-in Todoke?"
“Kon-in Todoke” is a form that must be filled out by anyone who wishes to register their marriage in Japan regardless of their citizenship. You may obtain this form from a city office or download it from the internet. The form must be completed in Japanese. Two witnesses' signatures are also required. A witness can be a Japanese citizen or a foreigner. Finally, you must either leave your signature or press your “hanko." Although Japanese people use “hanko” when completing “Kon-in Todoke,” a foreign citizen may not be required to do so. If you are not sure about whether a “hanko” is required, it is advisable to check with a city office. For more information about how to order and use a “hanko,” please read our guide to the world of Japanese seals.
After completing “Kon-in Todoke”, you must submit it to a city office. The date you submit this form will be the official date of your marriage registration; therefore, if you have a preference for a specific date, please plan accordingly. While “Kon-in Todoke” is required for marriage registration, you will also need a number of other documents.
"Koseki Tohon" and a Certificate of Legal Capacity to Marry
Japanese citizens are required to submit a “Koseki Tohon” as part of the marriage registration process, whereas foreign citizens must present a certificate of legal capacity to marry issued by their respective consulate or embassy.
A “Koseki Tohon” is a family register that is issued to all Japanese citizens. It is an important document that contains detailed information about a citizen's family, marital status, and other personal details.
Foreign citizens must submit a certificate of legal capacity to marry, which is a document that certifies that no impediments to marriage exist, such as marital status, age, or other factors, as defined by the laws of the respective country. Some countries may not issue this type of certificate. In this case, it might be possible to substitute it with another piece of documentation.
Family Name After Marriage in Japan
When it comes to changing one's name after marriage, some countries allow a great deal of flexibility while others may impose some restrictions. In Japan, people are legally required to have only one family name when they marry. Although it is common for a wife to adopt her husbands` family name, the opposite is also possible. However, these rules do not apply to international marriages.
In case of a marriage with a foreign citizen, both a husband and wife’s family names do not undergo any changes. A Japanese citizen may take on his/her foreign partner`s last name by performing registration at a city office within six months from the marriage date. Otherwise, a Japanese spouse will have to apply for a name change through the family court if more than 6 months have passed.
On the other hand, a foreigner cannot adopt his/her Japanese spouse's last name as part of the marriage registration process. Registering a legal alias is one of the available options in this case. Although registering a legal alias is not a name change, it will allow you to use your new “name” in daily life.
Marriage and Status of Residence (Visa) in Japan
You have submitted all the required documents and that's it! Now you are legally married in Japan. It's important to understand that changing your marital status does not automatically change your status of residence. If you wish to change your status or obtain a visa due to marriage, you must apply for it and submit required documents. Depending on your current status of residence (visa) and circumstances, you may be able to apply in Japan; otherwise, you may need to return to your home country and apply from there. The process can take 1-3 months or longer. The submission of an application does not guarantee that it will be approved. There are a lot of nuances when it comes to immigration related matters, therefore, it is advisable to consult the immigration bureau, an administrative scrivener, or a lawyer who specializes in immigration procedures.
Same-Sex Marriages in Japan
A same-sex marriage cannot be registered in Japan. However, in some cities and districts, a system known as a "same-sex partnership system" is available. A same-sex partnership is not the same as marriage in legal terms; however, it may be a useful certificate in certain situations.
We've provided some general information about the documents needed and the marriage registration process. If you plan to get married in Japan, it is advisable to consult a municipal office where you plan to register your marriage, as well as your consulate or embassy, for more information on the necessary documents and procedures in your specific case.
If you plan to hold or have a chance to participate in a wedding ceremony in Japan, be sure to check our guide to Japanese wedding etiquette.
■ A filled-out sample of "Kon-in Todoke" provided by Shinagawa-ku ward office.
■ You may download "Kon-in Todoke" for Shinagawa-ku ward office from the link below.
■ Q&A regarding international marriages, foreign birth registrations, etc. (The information provided by The Ministry of Justice) (Only in Japanese)
■ Marriage in Japan (Information provided by Embassy and Consulates of Belgium in Japan)
■ Affidavit/Affirmation of Marital Status in Japan (Information provided by the UK government)
■ Marriage in Japan (Information provided by US Embassy & Consulates in Japan)
■ Marriage and Divorce (Information provided by Australian Embassy in Tokyo)
■ For more information about cities that offer same-sex partnership certificates in Japan.
■ Immigration Information and One-Stop Consultation Centers