Marriage in Japan

By Naha

What constitutes a legal marriage?

Like in the U.S., legal marriage in Japan consists of a civil registration through a municipal government office. The marriage must be between men 18 years of age or older and women 16 years of age or older. Marriage in a religious ceremony is just that, a ceremony that is non-legally binding. Therefore, the couple must go through the civil registration to legally recognize the marriage.

Average Marrying Age

The average age that people get married in Japan has increased over the last sixty years. Men typically marry at age 30 and women at 28, mostly due to an increased number of young people working. Many people also opt not to marry at all for various reasons. Women are able to secure higher paying jobs that allow them to support themselves without the support of a husband and thus do not need to rely on a man for financial support. One income is no longer feasible for those who wish to have a family. Men are able to take care of their own homes and cook for themselves, due to the growth of technology. Also, family pressure to marry has decreased and without that pressure, many people do not feel the need to support a family.

Living Situation After Marriage

After marrying, the couple lives alone in a house or an apartment. In some circumstances, the couple will live with either the groom’s or the bride’s parents, but this is rare. Some couples will live in a ni setai jyutaku style house, or a split level house. There are two entrances to this type of house and one entrance leads to one side where one family lives and the second entrance leads to the part where the second family lives. The style is much like a row house.

Expectations After Marriage

So what do Japanese men expect of their wives after marriage and vice versa? Nearly 25 years ago, approximately 37% of married women were solely housewives, while 37% worked and 10% worked and took care of the home. Those numbers have shifted, with more nearly triple the percentage of women working and taking care of the home and the number of housewives falling significantly. Women expect their husbands to support them both financially and within the home, taking on an equal number of household chores.

Marrying a Japanese National

You’ve met that special Japanese someone and you want to get married, yet you’re a citizen of another country. What to do?! Well, before registering at the municipal office in Japan, the Japanese citizen must comply with Japanese marriage laws, including:

-The groom is 18 years of age or older, the bride 16 or older

-Women may only remarry six months from the date of the dissolution of their previous marriage

-Those who are related by blood or adoption cannot marry

-Minors must obtain permission from their parents to marry

The foreign national must obtain a notarized copy of an “Affidavit of Competency to Marry.” This ensures the foreign national is competent and legally free to marry within their home country. The person must also have proof of nationality, including a birth certificate, passport, alien registration card, etc. If the person is a minor, they will need a notarized consent form from their parents allowing them to marry. These documents will need to be translated into Japanese. Once all of the paperwork is gathered, submit it to the local municipal office, which will then review the documents. If all is satisfactory, you will be issued a marriage certificate.

Now you’re married and you want to live in Japan. The foreign spouse must obtain a spouse visa. To do so, the foreign spouse must fill out an application form, obtain a letter of guarantee from a person living in Japan, have a copy of an alien registration card/passport, the Japanese spouse’s resident certificate and the family registration, obtain a guarantor’s certificate of employment and income-tax payment certificate. The visa application process can take up to three months to process.

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