How does an American Citizen get Married in Japan?

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I’m an American and wife is not Japanese, but she’s a permanent resident of Japan. She moved to Japan when she was in middle school and has been living in Japan since. She has the option of naturalization, but just hasn’t found the time to do so. We recently got married and I’ll explain how we did it below. But first, I think you should know that getting married in Japan is a little different from what you might be expecting. Usually getting married means having the ceremony and saying “I do” and have a party where you invite all your guests. However, the Japanese government doesn’t officially recognizes this as getting married. Actually, it’s a lot more easier to get married in Japan. All you have to do is fill out a paper and that’s it, you’re married. So how does an American citizen get married in Japan?

Steps for an American Citizen

  1. Download and print a blank affidavit form from the U.S. Embassy in Japan website. This form declares that you’re single and allowed to get married.
  2. After filling out the affidavit, you need to get it notarized. To get it notarized, make an appointment at the U.S. Embassy.
  3. Obtain a marriage form from your local city hall and fill it out. You’ll need 2 witnesses and their seals if they’ve got one. We ended up getting our form and had it stamped by our 2 witnesses before coming a second time.
  4. Go to your local city hall and get married with the filled-out application. Or you can go there with 2 witnesses and sign the form there. My local city hall was the Shibuya one. I went in and made a left and there was an attendant asking me what we were here for. My girlfriend, who can speak Japanese, told her and she was given a ticket with a number. We got called right away. The lady helping us pretty much just double-checked the papers to make sure everything was filled out. It took about 10-20 minutes. We were told it’d take about 2 hours for it the proof of marriage certificate to be finished. Yes, that certificate is what getting married pretty much means. We didn’t want to wait 2 hours so we paid to have it sent to our home. We were told it’ll take about a week. And that’s it!

    Shibuya City Hall

    Shibuya City Hall

Keep in mind that after receiving the proof of marriage certificate, you might want to get a translated version of it notarized. Download it from the U.S. Embassy in Japan website, print and fill it out, and make an appointment again to have it notarized. This translated version is important if you decide to one day return to the states and have apply for a spouse-visa for your spouse.

Steps for a Permanent Resident

So my wife is a Chinese citizen with permanent residency in Japan. What she had to do was similar to what I had to do. She went to the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo and had to obtain a document that declared she was single and able to marry. Unfortunately, this process took a week. And that’s it for her part. The rest was just going to the city hall, fill out the form, and get married. I’m assuming that a permanent resident would have to do the same thing by going to their own embassy. Every country has their own rules, so be sure to call to ask to be sure.

Steps for a Japanese Citizen

Visit the U.S. Embassy in Japan website for information what a Japanese citizen needs to do to get married.

And that’s pretty much how to get married in Japan. I was talking a to Japanese friend of mines, and apparently it’s common for Japanese people to get “married” and wait a year or two before having the wedding.

My main source for getting information on how to get married for American Citizens came from the U.S. Embassy in Japan website. So if you need more information, then please take a look at their website as I found it very helpful.